‘Flappy birthday’ to Code.org

To mark its one-year anniversary, Code.org, the nonprofit that has created free lessons to get kids from K-12 to write computer code, has released a new drag-and-drop tutorial that lets anyone build a version of the Flappy Bird game.

Flappy Bird is a simple game, and the Code.org version lets users create their own rules and choose their own level of difficulty. It’s designed to be shared with one click and can be played over any computer and phone, and inside Facebook and Twitter.

A year ago, two tech entrepreneurs, Hadi and Ali Partovi, wanted to call attention to a problem they see in U.S. education: only about one in 10 schools teach computer science.

The Partovi brothers made a video to inspire students to learn computer science. “What Most Schools Don’t Teach,” starring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and other tech moguls, went viral on YouTube, and the brothers fielded requests from 10,000 school districts asking how to incorporate computer coding into their classrooms.

The result was “Hour of Code,” a Web site and campaign that offers free hour-long tutorials in computer coding for students in kindergarten through high school. Celebrities, including President Obama to NBA star Chris Bosh to Ashton Kutcher, promoted “Hour of Code” in December, giving it a glamorous sheen that’s absent from most education initiatives.

The results exceeded Hadi Partovi’s dreams.

In less than three months, more than 27 million users have written 1 billion lines of computer code using tutorials from Code.org. Most are in the United States, but other participants have come from 170 countries and have coded in 34 languages, according to Code.org.

Now, Code.org is trying to change policy on the federal, state and local levels to expand access to computer science in K-12. The organization has raised $10 million for this effort, and has been joined by a range of partners, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon, the College Board and the Computer Science Teachers Association.

One of Code.org’s goals is to attack the dearth of female and minority students in computing classes, Hadi Partovi has said.

According to the College Board, of the 29,555 students who took the Advanced Placement Computer Science test in 2013, about 19 percent were female, 8 percent were Hispanic and 4 percent were black. No females took the exam in Mississippi, Montana and Wyoming. And no blacks took the exam in Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Disclosure: Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Lyndsey Layton has been covering national education since 2011, writing about everything from parent trigger laws to poverty’s impact on education to the shifting politics of school reform.
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