Everyone should learn to code

Code.org has released a video of some big names in the programming world talking about their first experiences in computer programming, and why they think everyone should learn to code.

The reasons they give are that programming teaches you to think (via a quote from Steve Jobs), it helps you learn how to decompose problems into smaller steps, that learning how to program gives you power, and that it is a fundamental literacy in an age of ubiquitous computing.

I don’t see the "there will be lots of jobs available for you" reason that this video presents as a particularly good reason to learn how to program. What if the jobs that were required were jobs that did not give you power, or did not make you think? If everyone did know how to program, do you think that those offices would still look as cool?

Compare this first video to this video of Seymour Papert talking about computers and learning.

Notice that this video also presents the same reasons as in the first video (aside from future potential for jobs) but it gives agency for learning and presenting these reasons to children. I think that the second video is a more powerful as a result.

The video of Seymour Papert is from about 30 years ago and has a little over 9000 views on YouTube. The Code.org video is from a few days ago and already has more than 3 million views. It would be amazing if we could make this idea of Seymour’s – that computers give students agency in learning – a reality, and if we could give it as much coverage as the first video.


* If you are reading this in your email, you can view the videos online here.



  • Darcy Mullin wrote:

    David, great post. In fact, after watching the Code.org video a few days ago I started thinking about a post as well, but now you have said it so well you have saved me the trouble ;-). I agree with you – should kids learn to code, or should they learn to problem solve and persevere? All of those successful coders wouldn’t have been successful without those abilities.

  • David Wees wrote:

    Learning how to program is a way to learn problem solving and perservence. I wonder how well students are able to transfer this understanding they gain from programming of decomposing a challenging problem into smaller steps to other problems they face in life.

  • Since getting into programming personally in my own learning I’ve decided to try and teach math content in ways that will develop that sense of thinking in my students. Providing opportunities for students to apply skills important in coding such as concept flowcharts, and writing my daily math agenda in pseudo code using if and else conditions on differentiated days of activities. Still developing my plan with what that looks like but gettin students to consider more outcomes than just the correct answer is hugely important in my opinion.

  • David Wees wrote:

    I think that this is a reoccurring theme in math education – people who actively learn something challenging and mathematical in nature almost always end up looking at their own practice in a different way. This is part of why I include challenging problems for people to solve as part of my math workshops when I can. One of my goals of any of my math workshops is to have people think about their own practice in a different way.

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