How Learning To Code Reached Critical Mass In 2014

ReadWriteReflect offers a look back at major technology trends, products and companies of the past year.

In December 2014, Barack Obama became the first president to write a line of code. Obama’s contribution was a line of JavaScript as part of the “Hour of Code” event to promote the global Computer Science Education Week.

The President was just one of many who made a statement about tech education this year. In 2014, companies, schools, and individuals had much to say about learning to code.

Finding A Place To Learn Got Easier


Today’s would-be coders have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choosing how they would like to learn. They can take traditional college courses, enroll in a programmer bootcamp like Hackbright Academy, or teach themselves with tools online like Code School, Treehouse, Codecademy and many more.

This year introduced plenty of new tools at their disposal. Lynda.com a technological skill training site that instructs through video, acquired Compilr in April. Compilr, a code instruction suite for learning by doing, ensures that Lynda.com now serves both haptic and visual learners. In October, social coding site GitHub lowered the bar to entry by offering 14 different programmer tools to students for free through its Student Developer Pack.

See also: See What The Code Behind An App Does With Just One Click

Perhaps the most useful but least covered new tool in 2014 was the Heroku Button, a new GitHub add-on created by the eponymous app-deployment company. GitHub repositories only host text files, and beginning programmers can have trouble putting the pieces together in a functional app on their local computer. Click the Heroku Button, however, and preview any completed app while also examining the GitHub repo to learn how it was made. Check out ReadWrite’s tutorial on adding a Heroku Button to any repo.

Diversity Among Coders Became A Top Priority

As it got easier to learn to code, it should come as no surprise that it got more popular. Men and women, children and adults, found programs for them this year. It also didn’t hurt that companies like Apple and Google began releasing “transparency reports” to indicate their commitment to diversity in technology, following the lead of Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou.

Even as a diverse group of people decided learning to code was important to them, however, schools weren’t ready to handle the load. Each year, U.S. companies need to fill almost 150,000 jobs related to computer science and mathematics, but colleges and universities only graduate about 100,000 students with degrees in those fields. So 2014 saw companies and code nonprofits working together to ensure that said companies ensure their workforces of engineers far into the future. November saw two major partnerships: between financial company Bloomberg with CodeNow, and between Disney and Code.org.

See also: Companies Team Up With Nonprofits To Fill The Learn-To-Code Gap

With a landscape of resources blown wide, 2014 was the year that anyone with enough time and energy could become a coder. One of the most inspiring stories we saw was that of Tywan Wade, a teenage college freshman who built his first app in three days, and passed Apple’s quality checks to make it available on iTunes. You can get his app, Shortly, here.


Digital Literacy Became A Prerequisite 

2014 made it easier than ever for people of all stripes to learn to code, but the idea that everyone should learn to code is not this year’s idea alone. In fact, there was also a movement of people who believed that our emphasis on learning to code is too strong.

In September, GitHub hosted a session on “coding as the new literacy” in which presenters observed that it’s digital literacy, not coding, that everyone can really benefit from.

“Nine in 10 jobs that we’re creating right now require some form of digital literacy, even if they’re not in computer science related fields,” said Carol Smith, manager of Google’s Summer of Code open source programs. “Coding is the next step—literacy is the basic understanding of how to interact with a computer, how to interact with applications on that computer, how to make it do what you want.”

See also: Kids Need To Learn Digital Literacy—Not How To Code

Not everyone needs to learn to code, but coding can teach you the basics of how to communicate with a developer, Code School CEO Gregg Pollack said. He recommended learning just one language based on a specific task you’re interested in. No time for that? Online website builder Wix wants you to build your own site with a graphical user interface designer for non-developers—and leave the coding to the pros.

In other words, you’ve got options. No matter who you are, whether you want to learn a little or a lot, 2014 was a great year for people learning to code.

Lead image by Todd Kulesza; secondary photos by HackNY, Kalani Hausman.

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