The days of the stereotypical “IT guy” are numbered if ByronAcademy.org, which was launched this past July in Madison, has its way.
It’s likely more future tech professionals will be IT girls, given the popularity of the site’s first online class in web coding: Code4Charity.
As it turns out, the U.S. needs them. According to Code.org, there will be 1.4 million computer coding jobs available by 2020 but only 400,000 students equipped to fill them. And the current field of programmers also isn’t particularly gender balanced: more than 75 percent of computer programmers are men, due in part to cultural dictates in the U.S. that stymie young women’s interest in math and science at a young age despite their inherent facility with those subjects at the high school level.
A lack of computer science in the American classroom isn’t helping. Code.org, a nonprofit computer programming education advocate, says nine out of 10 schools don’t offer computer programming classes, and less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science—that’s a lower percentage than 10 years ago.
Luckily, the next generation of educators at Byron Academy, Headquartered in New York and run from Madison, is working to fill this gap.
Launched Feb. 25, Byron Academy’s newest course, Code4Charity covers intermediate HTML coding and website design from start to finish—typical fare for this online destination for young women interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Byron Academy offers professional academic support, online STEM-related courses, a popular speaker series, tutoring, college-advising services and test-prep classes—all in an effort to guide girls in middle through high school to successful careers in science and technology. Success in computer science not only offers a dynamic work environment, but also financial benefits. Code.org notes that computer science is among the highest paid college degrees and the pool of available jobs in the field is expanding at two times the national average.
Approximately twenty girls from around the world and the United States, including two girls from Madison’s Country School quickly signed up for the 12-session class. The class size is meant to be smaller to foster a sense of camaraderie and a productive student-teacher ratio. Students meet twice a week at 8 p.m., but classes are recorded to accommodate students in time zones too far from the EasternTime zone.
Over the six weeks, Code4Charity students will draft a client needs assessment, scope of work, develop story boards and basic designs, write the code, build the pages, and learn to generate a web presence—particularly through responsible use of social media. Guest speakers will visit the class, too.
Inaugural Code4Charity students were drawn from a national consortium of schools in a pilot program that offers Byron’s services at no charge to students. The fruits of their labor will be a fully functional website that will be donated to a charity to be determined by an application process..
Like many successful projects, Code4Charity was a group effort.
Madison resident Ryan Duques, founder and managing partner of Byron Academy, explains, “The class was my idea, but it came about due to interest from our participating schools and students.”
Through those partnerships and Duques’ frequent trips to Washington, D.C. — most recently the Tech Inclusion Summit earlier this month — the U.S. State Department became interested in Code4Charity. Soon enough, Byron Academy worked with the U.S. State Department and Code4Charity gained several students from the department’s TechGirls program, a U.S. Department of State initiative that facilitates an international exchange program designed to empower young girls to pursue careers in the science and technology sectors.
Despite its rigorous syllabus, Code4Charity students are ready for the challenge. Many of them already have logged on to the class’s online Who Book — a series of short student and teacher bios — to introduce themselves and talk about their goals.
Instructor Elizabeth Kelly makes her intentions clear on part of her Who Book post. It reads, “I want to see more girls interested in not only computer technology but programming. Computer science has so many possibilities, and it is a great field for girls to consider as a future career.”
Fortunately, Kelly has a great audience.
Current Code4Charity student Caroline writes, “I love computers and learning about programming. I think it is really fun, and I am interested in having a future career in the computer science field.”
Kristin, another student, notes, “I’d like to learn new topics and techniques about computer science to be able to help others.”
And that enthusiasm is key to the future of women in IT and STEM. Without it, they may lag behind their peers in an ever-evolving technical world.
Duques states, “These skills are critical for the next generation of innovators. Offering this class online, in our live classrooms, means that we can provide this coding seminar to girls wherever they are — from the prestigious halls of the most elite private schools, to rural America to the Middle East. It is truly amazing.”
Registration for the next Code4Charity class, which starts on July 8 is already underway. Interested students may register at www.byronacademy.org/code4charity
Steve Jobs might have agreed and once pinpointed to greatest benefit of a career in computer science.
Jobs said, “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”
To learn more about Code4Charity and Byron Academy, visit www.byronacademy.org and on Twitter @Code4Charity .
For additional information contact: Ryan Duques firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.779.0331