Thoughts on Code Year, Codecademy, and Learning to Code (with C5 Side Note)

January 18, 2012 at 7:06 am 8 comments

The blog piece below is the most biting criticism I’ve read of Codecademy.  (And of course, I’m always glad to read someone else pushing context as important for computing education!)  The author has a very good point quote below.  I’m not sure that we know how to achieve the goals of Code Year.  It’s amazing that Codecademy has raised $2.5M to support Code Year, but I do wonder if there’s a better use for that money–one that moves us closer to the goal of ubiquitous computing literacy.

Learning anything without context is hardly learning. I wish that Code Year was 2013 and 2012 was “some smart people with good ideas and a lot of money built took the time to build great pedagogically-driven tool to really solve an existing problem for folks who want and need training in this area.”

via Thoughts on Code Year, Codecademy, and Learning to Code |

Side note: I should be visiting with Alan Kay in 4 or 5 hours.  He’s introducing my keynote at the C5 Conference (, which I’m excited about.  Two of the C’s of C5 is “creating” and “computing,” and my talk is going to be about the challenges of supporting everyone in creating (for me, including “programming”) with computing.  I’m going to tell the MediaComp story, talk about Brian Dorn’s work with graphics designers, and with Klara Benda’s and Lijun Ni’s work that tells us about teachers’ needs to learn computer science.

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Response to Joanne–Wanted: Less Excuses And More Competitive Women A conference on primary and secondary computing education research

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Barry Brown  |  January 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    I went through the first few examples on Codecademy (about five minutes). I like the interactivity and hints, but it’s quite apparent that JavaScript was chosen as the language because it’s easy to implement the tool in a browser, not necessarily because it was a good pedagogical choice.

    The website claims “Learning with Codecademy will put you on the path to building great websites, games, and apps.” At the end of their lessons I’ll be on the path, surely, but where would I go from there? As many of us know, the user experience of programming in JavaScript “for real” is about as awful as it gets.

  • 2. Zach, Codecademy Co-Founder  |  January 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks for the note. I’d love to hear what your thoughts on Codecademy are – I’m the company’s cofounder. Feel free to shoot me an email at contact (at) codecademy (dot) com.

  • 3. Andy J. Ko  |  January 18, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    I agree with the author. There’s a huge difference between simply making learning materials available and the kind of teaching necessary for learning. CodeAcademy does a fantastic job of making the materials accessible and usable, but it’s unclear how much anyone can learn from them, who can learn from them most effectively, what conditions are necessary for learning, how interactive tutorials should explain computing concepts to best facilitate learning, etc. These are great research questions (some of which I’m actively investigating), but it’ll be awhile before we have clear evidence about their efficacy or clear guidance about how to design them.

    I think the author’s reaction can also be viewed as a distaste for the increasing sentiment in society that all people need in order to learn is access to information. Access is a necessary but insufficient condition for learning; the information has to be good, engaging, and effective and the learner has to be interested, engaged, and motivated. Most of the press on these learning materials overlooks all of these other factors.

  • 4. Julie Meloni  |  January 18, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Andy — your last paragraph is spot on, and I didn’t really have an articulation for that sentiment until you said so. Thanks!

    • 5. Andy J. Ko  |  January 18, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      It kind of makes me wonder why people are so excited about access to learning materials. Maybe it’s simply because educators make education so inaccessible to anyone not their student? I’m certainly guilty of that.

  • 6. Beth  |  January 18, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Beginners need a to start somewhere and offers a good starting point! Also see and People learn and teach differently so seems others are following Codecademy.

    Though it’s good to see this type of stuff get funded and find popularity (its not ur next social network)! Everyone as time goes on will need to know and will have some form of coding skill. I think Andeersen said the world is going to be eaten by software; couldn’t agree more! From Waiters (E La Carte), admin assistants (Siri) and other blue collar jobs – all are going to replaced by software.

    Currently, there isn’t enough coders to fill jobs, so these sites that teach coding in a fun and visceral way are only a positive for society and our country. Not sure why people don’t see the positive and talk about that?

    • 7. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  January 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Beth wondered Not sure why people don’t see the positive and talk about that?

      Two reasons: 1) many of the attempts to teach coding seem to be doomed to failure by bad pedagogy—they may be wasting people’s time rather than teaching anything useful. 2) High inertia of people in academia—it takes some convincing before people change what they have been doing, whether it works or not.

  • […] There is no support for complexity.  I gave a panel talk at the C5 Conference (slides available here) on Friday about needing an infrastructure for building complex electronic […]


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