Oh, Codecademy, You’re Getting There
February 7, 2013 3 Comments
A quick missive here. I started learning Python about a month ago. I began with Codecademy because they’re a well known name and their lessons were fun.
Long story short: Their lessons were also written by different people and didn’t seem to connect to one another. After successfully completing a handful of exercises I realized I didn’t know what I was doing – just how to type in what I needed to answer their questions correctly. (This is a huge problem with how math is taught in US schools. Old “plug & chug.”)
So Codecademy has been sending me reminders ever since, asking and imploring me to log in again. Here’s a quote from their latest email. Can you spot what’s wrong?
We believe that learning how to program is the best job security you can have because it’s more important than ever before to understand the systems we depend on every day.
What you may notice is that it makes no sense. They gracelessly transition from “job security” to “understanding the systems we depend on every day.” Those aren’t the same thing. You can, for example, learn code well enough to have an appreciation for how computer systems work without being talented enough to get a job.
I think this shows where, for right now at least, online computer courses try to bridge the two competing focuses (foci?) of education: to prepare students to get jobs and to help give their lives meaning.
In that sense, I actually give Codecademy props. There are more important things than getting a job. I personally have no interested in sitting at a desk and writing code for 40+ hours a week; I would sooner perforate myself with a Garden Weasel. But I do want a better idea of how computer systems operate, and to create some simple programs of my own, which they also promote in their email.
This highlights something teachers have always known about online academies. There’s more to an education than getting a job. The sooner and more forthrightly Codecademy, et. al. address this, the more successful they will be.