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Communications of the ACM


Should Everybody Learn to Code?

second-grade participants in 2013 Hour of Code

Second-grade students in Kevin Jarrett's Elementary 'STE MLAB' at Northfield Community School (New Jersey) participate in the 2013 Hour of Code.

Credit: Kevin Jarrett

To gauge the ability of professional graphic designers to do basic programming, Brian Dorn, then a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), asked a group of them to read and modify a piece of program code. The idea was to see whether they could turn themselves into informal programmers and figure out how to develop automated functions in Adobe Photoshop. Unfortunately, when the designers conducted Web searches to look for information on the code they needed, they sometimes used results that pointed them in the wrong direction, which was toward Java¬ówhen they actually needed to be using JavaScript for this particular project.

One of the underlying causes could have been tied to the participants' "lack of sufficient general, abstract knowledge of the computing and/or programming structures at play," wrote Dorn in Communications in May 2011.


CACM Administrator

The following letter was published in the Letters to the Editor in the April 2014 CACM (
--CACM Administrator

As explored in Esther Shein's news story "Should Everybody Learn to Code?" (Feb. 2014), educators should indeed teach everybody to code, even if not all become programmers. After all, throughout the English-speaking world, we aim to teach everybody to write good English, even though we do not expect all of them to write novels for a living.

William Clocksin
Hatfield, U.K.

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