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Education Google

Google-Funded Project Envisions Nation's Librarians Teaching Kids to Code (ala.org) 197

"We're excited to double down on the findings of Ready to Code 1," says one Google program manager, "by equipping librarians with the knowledge and skills to cultivate computational thinking and coding skills in our youth." theodp writes: Citing the need to fill "500,000 current job openings in the field of computer science," the American Library Association argues in a new whitepaper that "all 115,000 of the nation's school and public libraries are crucial community partners to guarantee youth have skills essential to future employment and civic participation"... The ALA's Google-funded "Libraries Ready to Code" project has entered Phase II, which aims to "equip Master's in Library Science students to deliver coding programs through public and school libraries and foster computational thinking skills among the nation's youth."

"Libraries play a vital role in our communities, and Google is proud to build on our partnership with ALA," added Hai Hong, who leads US outreach on Google's K-12 Education team... "Given the ubiquity of technology and the half-a-million unfilled tech jobs in the country, we need to ensure that all youth understand the world around them and have the opportunity to develop the essential skills that employers -- and our nation's economy -- require."

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Google-Funded Project Envisions Nation's Librarians Teaching Kids to Code

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 15, 2017 @03:01PM (#53672941)

    Corporate America sees a problem: not enough computer programmers, and a solution: teach people programming.

    If salaries went up, along with job security, many self-starting adults would seek out the education they need to make that money. But we can't have THAT!

    But without that, it doesn't matter how much education you do...once people learn the reality of the industry they will jump right out of it.

    Them's the facts.

    • by Nephandus ( 2953269 ) on Sunday January 15, 2017 @03:21PM (#53673043)
      There ARE enough. They just don't want to hire, pay, or train (as in standard practices or specific house standards for full pro projects, NOT base coding abilities/knowledge we actually DO know) us. Instead, they hire false credentialed jargon spouters (who don't even own their own computers prior, much less are remotely computer geeks ever) from body shops called consultancies (an inserted, ironically costly layer to setup a racket), pay them less (paying through the consultancy has little to no rules, paying "consultants" junior level for intermediate or beyond level work is never prevented, captive labor doesn't want to get thrown back for rocking the boat), and half-assedly train them (Hell, have a local, with years of experience, train their own inexperienced replacements for his own higher level position in a few WEEKS) because they think it's a bargain to get shitty code on the cheap and don't comprehend how net costs actual work over time in the software industry, much less care about quality or security.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 15, 2017 @03:47PM (#53673121)

        I have at this point in my life worked on about 10 large projects. Thousands of man hours poured into them. All did decently and made the companies millions. Well over 300k people were using it at one point. Not one line of code is still in use. The only things that are still being used is by me because I do not need to re-write them at this time. But they probably will be at some point.

        Code is eferial. It is transient. It leaves like a ghost never to be seen again. I can see why companies want to minimize the cost of that.

        They will find however that just because everyone knows how to program does not mean everyone can do it. I am a very experienced at it and even I still have trouble with it. It takes time and solitude to do correctly. Instead we are trying to force creative art style bullpit design into it. So you get in the zone and are yanked out quickly because the dude 2 tables over has decided to have a conversation with 3 other people. Most people can do 1 thing at a time pretty well. Give them 2 things and they will do 2 things very badly. One thing that struck me when I first started doing this was how quiet most programming environments were. Its not like that anymore.

        Companies also think if we just put them all together and add in rock stars good code magically happens. Half the time you have to spend a year just to get them to commit on whatever stupid idea they are thinking of. I can not read your mind and come up with 'good things' when you can not even describe what you want. Its little wonder they do not even know what to pay someone. As they are not even sure what the job should be. They think they want to 'improve' things but sometimes adding in a overcomplex bit of software can make things even worse. So they want a bargain on top of it all. I can understand it. Do not like it much but understand it.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Code is eferial

          Eferial is my favorite packet sniffer, you cockney bastard!

        • Code is transient, in part, because it's badly written in the first place. If code was written to higher standards, less of it would have to be replaced over time.

          Not true of all things, but definitely true of many.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Even the highest quality code will be abandoned if the person commissioning it didn't know what they really wanted, or failed to adequately predict future requirements. A lot of new code is written just because the old code doesn't work quite the way it needs to or there is some new technology that needs to be supported and starting from scratch is easier.

      • There ARE enough. They just don't want to hire, pay

        The unemployment rate among programmers is at about 3%, well below the overall average of about 5%. I don't think there is any evidence for a vast untapped reserve of programmers sitting on the sidelines waiting for higher salaries.

    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday January 15, 2017 @03:23PM (#53673049)

      You are equating 'computer programmers' with 'people that can program'. A huge number of professions would benefit from people being able to script up something to reduce their work load.

      There are companies still doing books in Excel by hand (not relying on any of Excel's built in functions). I helped someone in the mid 2000s that didn't know you could Sort or Uniquify a list in Excel.

      It's not about making computer programmers it's about graduating engineers that can program, accountants that can program, MBAs that can program.

      A long time ago not everyone learned to type. There were typists that were employed to type in what someone else came up with. Along the way someone got the idea that you could teach people to type and that typists would no longer be needed outside of some specific jobs. The same thing is happening right now with coding.

      Source: I'm a Mechanical Engineer that mashes the keyboard to get my job done.

      • > A huge number of professions would benefit from people being able to script up something to reduce their work load.
        > There are companies still doing books in Excel by hand (not relying on any of Excel's built in functions).

        That is a great example. In 1990-2000, VBA scripting was something that could be very useful to a lot of people. These days, the spreadsheet is probably in the cloud (on the internet), pulling data from some source on the internet. Having people who can almost barely code crea

        • Being able to write scripts to automate bits of work is a great thing, having the average computer user familiar with using the command line rather than relying on dumbed down GUIs would be hugely beneficial. Not to mention the skills are much more portable, you can write bash scripts on just about any platform for example.
          • > having the average computer user familiar with using the command line

            Perhaps. Having the average computer user exposing their scripts to internet is very dangerous. Which made it much easier when I learned, before the www was a thing.

            • Perhaps. Having the average computer user exposing their scripts to internet is very dangerous. Which made it much easier when I learned, before the www was a thing.

              I'm talking about command line as an alternative to GUI. What sort of scripts are you talking about?

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          These days, the spreadsheet is probably in the cloud (on the internet), pulling data from some source on the internet. Having people who can almost barely code creating code for your business, including those web-enabled spreadsheets, will very likely end up with one of them making all your data from your spreadsheets available online.

          I'd have thought the opposite. Files on Windows rarely make use of permissions and it's really easy to attach one to an email or throw it on a USB drive. Few organisations have much control over all the random files their employees use. On the other hand web services always require a log-in and the better ones enforce per user permissions by default too. They are still vulnerable to copy/paste leaks but at least emailing a link will still require the recipient to have viewing/editing rights.

    • They'll have a family, so they'll want to get paid more and work less hours. Also by 40 they'll start having health problems that'll cut into their hours even more.

      And we've already established they're not more experienced. In your scenario they just got trained up (probably on the cheap, my kid's in college and it's gonna take about $160k to get her through if I count food/transportation/etc. That's a nursing degree. Double that if she decides to switch to pre-med).
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 15, 2017 @04:12PM (#53673177)

      The "500,000 job openings" is a lie. A complete, absolute lie whose sole purpose is to serve as an excuse to push for hiring more foreign workers.

      If there is a shortage of workers, then why are you firing hundreds of your employees and replacing them with the same number of foreign workers? At lower wages, of course. Because that's the only shortage that actually exists -- a shortage of people willing to be treated like shit and be paid the lowest possible wages.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      AC thats the issue. The "teach people programming" only works if a lack of education, scholarships, access to higher education exists.
      People who are smart have the option to enter law, medicine, engineering or an other area and know of the conditions and wages in such professions.
      Lots of people can do math, science but might enter medicine or law given their ability to study and access to loans or scholarships.
      If the "unfilled tech jobs" exist that is an issue of wage. Start paying more and people wi
      • Tech's problem is that it doesn't have strong unions and advocacy groups. Medicine does, law does, and as a result conditions are much better.

        Having more people trained in programming will help, if only by removing some of the drudge work from the more talented ones so they can make better use of their skills. What we need to ensure is that they are unionized, otherwise they will be exploited and discarded just like the rest of us.

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          Re 'What we need to ensure is that they are unionised, otherwise they will be exploited and discarded just like the rest of us."
          Law, medicine, engineering and even some trades needing to be bonded, insured, licensed can keep wages up and ensure normal working hours.
          So a smart person will not be swayed by gui code learning and access to new computers. The know for the same student loan and years of work computing is often not worth the debt, lower wages and hours. Set your own hours, better wages after y
        • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

          "Tech's problem is that it doesn't have strong unions and advocacy groups" /yawn. If you're in tech, and having trouble finding a job, then GTFO because you're clearly not capable. Show me someone in tech that's having trouble finding a decent paying job, and I'll show you an incompetent "tech". I've been in the industry for 40+ years, and hire plenty of good techs at good wages. Want to "fix" tech?...

          We need lawmakers to stop companies from the H1B madness.
          We need to put an end to the huge debt load we

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Studying law is even sillier than tech. Most people that graduate in law are under employed or doing a job that doesn't require a law degree. Medicine is okay, but the profession artificially limits the supply to keep wages up but the industry simply turns to ARNPs and decimated the nursing profession with medical techs to make up for it.

    • by DeVilla ( 4563 )

      There's a similar shortage in construction. I can't find someone to rebuild my from porch (for $1k total), to redo my baths rooms (for under $500 each) or to put a few good size rooms in my attic (what, $1.5k should be reasonable, right?). I also have a 2 story carrage house that need to be rebuilt and modernized with better wiring and wider stairs. (That should $3k tops, right?)

      We clearly need more people trained in construction in this country.

  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Sunday January 15, 2017 @03:07PM (#53672971) Homepage Journal

    Who will teach the librarians to code well enough so that they can pass on that knowledge to the kids?

    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday January 15, 2017 @03:28PM (#53673073)

      Why do the librarians need to know how to code? Librarians have never been a jack of all trades but were instead a knowledgeable source as to where to find the information. They didn't have every book memorized but could assist people in finding the book so they could learn on their own.

      My local library has a 3D printer and while the librarians can answer basic questions they (in a much politer way) tell you to RTFM. "Equipping librarians" can be nothing more than introducing them to the fact that Code Academy exists.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        All they really need to know is the very basics of how to get started and point people at Google's course material. Most people literally wouldn't know where to start, but given the right IDE and the right beginners' course they can learn by themselves.

        That's how most people of my generation learned. Our computers came with some kind of development environment, even if it was just a BASIC prompt, and a manual. Modern computers don't come with either of those things.

      • Why do the librarians need to know how to code?

        They don't. But they do need to know enough to point kids at scratch.mit.edu [mit.edu] and show them how to open the first Youtube tutorial. The kids can take it from there, with the brighter kids helping the dumb kids.

        I teach programming in an after school program for 4-6th graders, and by the 2nd week, the kids are mostly on autopilot, learning at the own rates ... and some learn WAY faster than others ... doing 3D graphics and trying to write a Minecraft clone while the dumb kids are still trying to figure out h

        • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday January 15, 2017 @08:13PM (#53674125)

          I wish my local librarian understood this. I wanted to donate $200 in Arduino stuff to the Library and she kept on bothering me about how would I come and train the kids on it. Could I have classes etc.

          I was the 14 year old kid that lived at the library (Only place with Internet in my county). You don't need to teach them anything other than point them in the direction of reading material.

      • by wwphx ( 225607 )
        I interviewed last week for a Library Aid position at a local K-5 school, functionally I would be the one and only school librarian. It pays $9 an hour and I'd be happy to take it because it helps the local community, money isn't the objective here. I was informed that I would have the kids for 30 minutes per week per class to help them find books and material for their homework assignments. THIRTY MINUTES PER WEEK PER CLASS. Now, I've been doing programming and relational database since the mid 1980s.
    • Worse, who will check all the library books back in when the librarians are busy teaching kids to code?
    • by c ( 8461 )

      Who will teach the librarians to code well enough so that they can pass on that knowledge to the kids?

      ... and pay them for what their extra teaching and IT skills would then be worth over just being a regular librarian.

    • Who will teach the librarians to code well enough so that they can pass on that knowledge to the kids?

      That should have been happening decades ago when the librarians were in school. To prevent the same problem occurring in the future, we should start teaching our children now.

  • Wrong skill set (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Sunday January 15, 2017 @03:10PM (#53672991)

    ..."by equipping librarians with the knowledge and skills to cultivate computational thinking and coding skills in our youth."...

    Do librarians really have the appropriate innate skill set, and desires, to teach kids how to code? This sounds like Google was looking around for someone to do the teaching, and someone at the meeting said, "librarians!," to which everyone agreed (in typical meeting style).

    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • and you're bound to hit something. Especially with the occasional kid from a poor neighborhood who wins the genetic lottery and is naturally good at math.
    • Most librarians are government "workers". I doubt if they'll take on any other challenges without a pay raise. The city next to me charges developers a fee for building libraries. However, that doesn't pay for the librarians so they shut the library down most of the time.

      They won't allow volunteers to staff it because of union regulations.

  • As somebody who works with kids & technology, I'm convinced that things would go a lot more efficiently if kids could use a keyboard effectively along with knowing how to use a mouse.

    Most kids are quite adept at working with touchscreen on a phone or a tablet, but put them in front of a keyboard and anything you are trying to teach them is lost as they search out basic letters and then try to figure out how the shift key works.

    • Also, don't call it "keyboarding", call it "typing". When you use your oven, it's not called "ovening".
      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        Also, don't call it "keyboarding", call it "typing". When you use your oven, it's not called "ovening".

        Well, it used to be done on typewriters, and now it's done on keyboards. I'm not a fan of "keyboarding", but maybe "keying" would have been appropriate, except that word was already taken for marking up someone's car.

    • I took freshman high school typing. I was the only male in the class way back when. I found it was one of the most-useful classes I ever attended.

      I agree that in the computer age, typing is a necessity. Also, I used to type a lot of technical reports. It's obviously necessary for the same reason.

      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        Ditto except there was one other male in the class with me and about 25 girls around tenth grade...probably around '72-3. Never thought I'd use that skill, but glad I learned, and had a blast competing with the other guy for speed, and impressing the girls.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 15, 2017 @03:25PM (#53673057)

    I'm in my 50s, with 30 years of programming experience in many languages and fields. Can't get hired because of age and I guess I want too much money. This is reality in this field.

    So I suppose Google is really saying let's get kids to code so we can hire them at 20 and pay them peanuts. Then let them go when it's too expensive and do it all over again.

    • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

      I was just on the market (new job started Monday). I told every company who asked me I was looking for 180+. I ended up with offers coming on over that. So it isn't the money. And while I'm not in my 50s, many of my new coworkers are. SO it isn't the age. Right now in this market if you can't find a job programming, PEBKAC.

    • Debugging skills are where the hot action will be; with all these librarian-trained programmer turning out spaghetti-loads of crap. Someone will need to clean up the mess, and get it working. Speaking off the Flying Spaghetti Monster, lots of folks go to church and Sunday school . . . why don't we have ministers, priests and the like teach coding? It makes as much sense as having librarian programming teachers.

      I learned how to learn how to use a power drill and furniture spackle at carpentry school . .

    • In the same boat, most positions have me competing with 20+ much younger applicants and I dont think I'm asking for all that much money: $40K as a network/systems admin, I'd even take a slot as an entry level Java programmer.
    • I have seen very few companies that were making a profit not hire someone because of their age. What I have seen is companies not hire someone because they just didn't add anything. What I have seen in all ages, but more in older people, is a rejection of things that have passed beyond "fad" and into best practices. Things like unit testing, modular code, modern OS usage, modern mixes of data stores that include things like nosql alongside relational.

      Being able to program many languages is fine, quickly p
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday January 15, 2017 @03:42PM (#53673101) Homepage Journal

    Who knows what jobs will be available in twenty years, between AI and offshoring? Coding doesn't look like a sure thing at all.

    If you are going to focus on a skill, focus on ones that serve in that kind of future environment: being able to pick up on human context and nuance; to decode, no just the literal level of communication, but implicit levels of communication. Because even if AI and foreigners take our coding jobs, somebody is going to have to lay out specifications, and that take imagination and subtlety.

    And you know what would be really, really good for developing those kinds of skills? Reading and discussing books.

  • by cshotton ( 46965 ) on Sunday January 15, 2017 @04:04PM (#53673157) Homepage

    This is silly. It's like saying the nation's librarians need to teach kids to perform appendectomies, or how to fly a jet airplane, or how to speak Swahili. There's no way that the majority of librarians are qualified to teach programming. If they were, they probably would be doing something related to writing software and not related to library science. And learning to code is no different than learning to engineer a bridge or learning to perform brain surgery. It requires aptitude in the student and competency in the teacher and years of hard work. Trivializing "coding" as if it were something like "typing" or "burger flipping" shows how out of touch the people proposing this actually are. Shame on them for wasting our time and money.

    • And learning to code is no different than learning to engineer a bridge or learning to perform brain surgery.

      Rubbish. Learning software development maybe but not just learning to code. The idea that computer users would be comfortable controlling their machines by writing scripts and using the command line rather than always having to rely on a dumbed down GUI is a good thing!

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      Doesn't it really depend upon if we're talking about software engineering, or we're just talking about basic coding? There's a huge difference between the two that the majority of people outside the industry just don't understand. And I know, coders need to be properly trained to avoid insecure code, and they should also be trained to write reusable, maintainable, well commented code. But, if a designer (I'm talking about large project work) hands off some pseudo-code to a coder, it should be trivial for

    • There's no way that the majority of librarians are qualified to teach programming.

      Apparently rationale behind this is librarians are boring and computer programmers are also boring.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But someone at google is completely out of touch with reality. Perhaps they are living in la-la lonad, or in some sort of drug-induced fog.

  • The truth of the matter is that the public school teachers of the USA (and Canada!) collectively lack the ability to teach basic reading comprehension, basic arithmetic and basic interpersonal communication. We know this because the victims of their incompetence turn up in university year after year, unable to read, count or speak coherently.

    Google is probably seeking an "arrangement" with the national teacher's union. Slide them some money, make another front in the Anti-Trump Crusade.

    If the Republicans ar

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      I'm not so sure it's the teachers so much as the lawyers, union, school board, etc. that prohibit them from having any actual discipline in their classrooms.

  • Does it apply now, or after everyone learns to program?

  • by shmorhay ( 781528 ) <bo@shmorhay.com> on Sunday January 15, 2017 @06:06PM (#53673601) Homepage
    Librarians have enough to do. Libraries have become homeless shelters, and librarians have to deal with the demented and the despairing. In San Diego, the beautiful new downtown library now has roving security guards rousting the poor, especially those who dare to nod off. Same problem in the smaller branch libraries. Maybe a trip to visit and chat with some librarians would be in order. With all the cuts in hours and salaries, listen to them tell you what they need. Making them adjunct faculty could be a non-starter, given their already onerous workload.
    • I agree with you, libraries have bigger challenges.

      However, this is a story about a Google-funded project. I can't imagine Google funding libraries to do things which are not related somehow to computers. While perhaps not every library has the time/interest to participate in this, if some do, more power to them.

  • by high_rolla ( 1068540 ) on Sunday January 15, 2017 @06:11PM (#53673617) Homepage

    This seems to me like it was designed to look good PR wise but never actually succeed. Which seems to be the case with a lot of these "teach the kids to code" schemes.

  • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Sunday January 15, 2017 @08:03PM (#53674091)

    The biggest problem with expensive professional services is in health care. So, instead of having librarians teach kids how to code, why don't we have them teach kids how to treat patients? Librarians are smart, aren't they? Surely the could teach anything from GP diagnosis to pathology, radiology, and brain surgery, right? They are librarians! And by increasing the supply of medically trained kids, we could then better satisfy the demand for doctors!

  • I do not want my kids learning to code. I want for them to learn mathematics, physics, etc. and to develop their critical thinking schemes. I do not want for them to be trained to become code monkeys.
    • Ok, so they've learned Mathematics, Physics and Engineering.

      How exactly do you think they're going to get work done? I'm a Mechanical Engineer that uses code as a tool to get the job done. Coding is not a profession any more than hammering is. It's a tool to get another job done.

  • ... shhhhell scripting.

  • Include a Raspberry Pi with an opensuse tumbleweed (rolling updates to stay secure) server with privoxy and hosting a TOR exit node. It could double or triple the number of nodes for a measly $580,000.
    # of public libraries:
    Central Buildings* 8,895
    Branch Buildings 7,641
    Total Buildings 16,536
  • Looking back at my very early start as a coder I would say that it was solving real world problems for people and then being rewarded for doing so. Given the incentive to code, I learned, I did, and I kept getting better.

    But just sitting me down with double linked lists would have bored the crap out of me and I would have probably resented coding and dumped it.

    So what could help kids today? I would say a combination of making sure they have the resources, the ability to get mentorship when they need it

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