In Defense of Codecademy
I recently had a long conversation with a college roommate of mine (an Art History major) who expressed interest in learning a bit of coding to help organize some artwork-related data. Not really sure how serious she was about it, I pointed her to CodeYear (run by Codecademy), and was thrilled to receive this email from her the next day:
“Thank you for sending this! I signed up and have already completed the lessons for week one. It was exciting and challenging, but the emotional reward of discovering where I had left out a semicolon or parenthesis was extraordinary.”
I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts lately about how Codecademy is not going to make serious coders, and how it’s flawed in this way and that, but honestly, it’s a start, and more importantly, it’s something that was accessible enough that she actually started doing it. I know and she knows and you all know that Codecademy by itself is not going to make her a software engineer. But maybe she’ll finish a bunch of exercises in Codecademy and feel confident enough to learn more herself or take a class. Maybe she’ll learn Python and be able to write some simple scripts to help automate some tasks. Hopefully she’ll even build the artwork-related webapp she envisions so clearly (I think this is actually the greatest motivation for learning how to code).
Instead of picking apart Codecademy because it’s not a silver bullet that teaches everyone how to code, I’d like to thank the people who made it for making programming (however basic) accessible to people who I would have called completely non-technical. It has also brought a lot of much-needed exposure to what programming is and what amazing things you can do with it, especially to people outside of Silicon Valley and other tech communities. People are learning that programming is not tech support or typing in binary all day. In fact, according to CNN, “Mayor Bloomberg tweeted his intent to learn computer code by the end of the year.” Hey, it’s a start.
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