I’m working on an article as part of my Spencer Fellowship and part of the larger research I’m undertaking this year (which involves tracking the networks of influence among technology investors and entrepreneurs interested in education, education technology, and education reform).

Where did this “learn to code” craze come from?

I’m not asking who in Silicon Valley was “first” to teach students programming. Indeed, there’s a much longer history of computing in education that many involved with this latest push for “coding” overlook: the work of those developing and teaching LOGO, for example.

I’m curious about a couple of stories here: the origin story of Codecademy, for starters – an idea the startup founders came up with a week and a half before Demo Day at Y Combinator in 2011. Y Combinator has now supported many, many “learn to code” startups. But when the founders of AppJet – who eventually focused on their Etherpad product, later acquired by Google – had a different experience at YC. Back in 2008 or so, they were discouraged from building a programming tutorial. What changed (at YC and beyond) and why?

Codecademy is a particularly interesting startup here because it garnered so much positive press (with a few notable exceptions cough) and so much high profile hype. Remember Code Year – even then Mayor Bloomberg tweeted that his new year’s resolution was to learn to code. Codecademy sort of faded from view – there are only so many exciting stories you can write about a Web-based IDE, I suppose. But other startups and organizations maintained the “learn-to-code” drumbeat, particularly

What motivated the founding of in 2013? It came after “the Year of the MOOC” in 2012, which was very much a story about higher education’s failure to focus on high tech skills training. (Sebastian Thrun, for example, would often claim – incorrectly – that colleges do not teach things like mobile app development.)

Who’s funding this narrative that everyone needs to learn to code? (I’ve started tracking some of this as part of my larger researcher into venture capital’s influence in education technology and education policy. Here’s what’s funding network looks like:

Audrey Watters


Audrey Watters


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