The question of whether people should learn to code comes up regularly, and sprung up again recently on BBC’s Newsnight programme1 with Jeremy Paxman asking,
"It's not essential to learn how to code... is it?"
When teaching English, students aren’t just taught to read words and phrases, but are also taught how to write. Being able to both read and write means someone can take part in a dialogue and express themselves. In a world in which everyone can read, but only a certain minority could write, there would be little to no free speech, democracy or creativity.
But this is similar to the world in which we currently live. In schools, it has typically been the approach to teach pupils how to use applications like word processors and spreadsheets, but not create an application themselves. In a world full of tablets and smart-phones, saying that you shouldn’t code is like saying that you shouldn’t write, only consume the media and tools created by others.
And learning to code is easier than you might think. There are lots of free resources to get going, and places where you can go to get the help of others. You may never become the Shakespeare of code, but even learning the basics will open up a world of fun, technology and opportunity.
The Year of Code was also mentioned in the programme, which is a government funded scheme to train teachers in software programming. Interestingly, part of the video on their website focusses on Jermaine Hagan from Revision App, who taught himself how to code and started his own business, and was filmed in Google Campus, exactly where Sixth Domain are based right now!
And, if you were still wondering about some of the other questions raised in the programme, it will take about six weeks to get to the point of being able to build a bespoke web-app (that’s how long it took our co-founder John Roberts to build the first version of Reward System with no experience), it will probably take about the same amount of time to learn to teach a programming language at a basic to intermediate level, and you can create a web-page in an hour from scratch, not a whole web site. I’m also self-taught, and it took me just under three months to get good enough to get my first job as a junior web developer.
1. 5th February 2014 http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03trtr2/Newsnight_05_02_2014/