Obama, Celebrities, Politicians And Tech Co’s Come Together To Launch Coding Education Push

Back in January, brothers Ali Partovi and Hadi Partovi launched a new non-profit organization called Code.org with a simple mission: Change the perception America has of coding and computer science and make those subjects accessible to the masses.

There’s no better indication of just how far Code.org has come in less than a year — and how much America now supports the need to make STEM a greater part of our national priority — than what you will witness over the coming week. Tonight, in celebration of the arrival of Computer Science Education Week (December 9th – 15th), President Barack Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor both separately issued video statements today asking every student in the U.S. to learn to code.

This week also marks the official launch of a campaign that the Partovis and Code.org have been planning for the last few months, called “Hour of Code,” which is timed in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week. During the week of December 9th, Code.org is asking every teacher in the U.S. to dedicate one hour of class time to education their students on Computer Science and programming. Even if they’re English teachers or History teachers.

The problem, of course, and part of the reason that the Partovis set Code.org on its mission is that 9 out of 10 schools in the U.S. don’t offer Computer Science classes. While that has begun to change, most schools only offer Computer Science and programming classes as electives — not as subjects that can be taken for credit. The Partovis and Code.org have spent months campaigning and lobbying for change at the state level, and it’s beginning to work.

Their first mission, Hadi Partovi (formerly of Microsoft, MySpace and iLike, among others) told us this week, is to ask states to offer Computer Science classes for credit. And while cutting through the red tape, the bureaucracy and changing the mind of states might seem like a Herculean task, Partovi said that states are getting on board. “It’s probably the easiest lobbying job anyone’s ever had to do,” he says.

The country is starting to get on board. And not just the ole U.S. of A. This week, Partovi tells us, he expects over five million students in 33,000 classrooms, across 167 countries to participate in the “Hour of Code.” Of course, five million would be nice, but he’s hoping for 10 million.

To help Code.org get there, both Apple and Microsoft have signed on and will be hosting an “Hour of Code” at every single one of their retail outlets. Apple has a listing on its website advertising the one hour course, which we’re told is a one-hour intro to computer science that aims to emphasize that anyone can learn the basics of code and which will be ‘very interactive’. Not only that, but at least 100 other partners have signed on as well, with a healthy showing from technology companies, of course, but the list extends beyond that.

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 5.01.08 AMGoogle search tonight celebrates the kick off of Computer Science Education Week with a Google Doodle that remembers Grace Hopper, an American computer scientist and creator of the Cobol programming language. (Google is also now linking to “Hour of Code” beneath its doodle.) Not only that, but Code.org expects the campaign to be featured on the home pages of Yahoo, Youtube, Apple, MSN, Bing and Disney throughout the week, and a bevy of politicians, stars and athletes will also be pitching in to draw attention to the campaign.

Among the recognizable names are actors and musicians like Shakira, Ashton Kutcher, Angela Bassett and athletes like Chris Bosh, Warren Sapp and Dwight Howard, along with tech leaders like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Susan Wojcicki. It’s also refreshing to see politicians from both sides of the aisle come together to support one nation, under code. Obama, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senator Cory Booker, Newt Gingrich and Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan are among those releasing videos tonight in support of the “Hour of Code.”

Code.org has curated online tutorials from a laundry list of companies, universities and non-profits to help support the “Hour of Code” campaign, with video tutorials from Zuck, Chris Bosh and Bill Gates, among others. Colleen covered the first appearance of Code.org’s “Learn to Code” video, which you can check out here. It went on to attract 12 million views in just two weeks.

In October, Greg Ferenstein caught up with Reid Hoffman at the Code.org event which announced the Hour of Code to talk about the potential outcomes of getting every American to learn to code. Check out his ideas here.

Below you’ll find the message from President Obama as well as the “Hour of Code” launch video from Code.org, which features a number of the notables mentioned above.

So, how ’bout it America? Want to learn to code? Find Code.org here to learn more.