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'It’s increasingly important' that kids understand how software and coding works: codeSpark CEO

Grant Hosford Co-Founder & CEO at codeSpark joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers and Reggie Wade to discuss education outlook amid the pandemic.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. There's a new online platform teaching children how to code. So let's bring on Grant Hosford, co-founder and CEO at codeSpark. And we also have Yahoo Finance's Reggie Wade here with us for this conversation. So Grant, codeSpark is really out-- setting out to help young children learn how to code. I'm wondering how important it is for future careers prospects for children really to learn this skill.

GRANT HOSFORD: Yeah, look, our goal is not to create a generation of programmers so much as to create a generation of children who understand how software works and who could sit down with a programmer and problem solve. If you think about the world today, software runs almost everything we do, including our cars and our appliances. And so it's increasingly important that kids understand how these things work and can think about problems that they're interested in and how technology could help with those problems.

So that's really what we're focused on. We teach what's called computational thinking. And we do it in a really fun way. We let kids make their own video games and their own interactive stories. And then they can share those games and stories with each other. And they learn from each other by doing that.

REGGIE WADE: Grant, Reggie Wade here. I know that you work with a number of school districts around the country that are having their own problems when it comes to providing support for low income students so that they can get internet access. What has your program done to help address that?

GRANT HOSFORD: Yeah, well, one of the things that's great about codeSpark Academy is it works no matter where the student is, right? And it's really easy for a teacher to use. So first of all, it's free for public school teachers, right? And so-- and half of our schools that we work with around the country are Title 1 schools-- low income schools if you're not familiar with that lingo.

And so we have this platform that works super well for kids no matter where they are, whether they're at home, whether they're in the classroom, whether they're moving back and forth between the two, right? So it's completely cloud-based. You can use it on iOS. You can use it on a Chromebook. You can use it on Android.

The other thing we've done is most teachers aren't familiar with computer science and programming. And so, the app does a lot of that heavy lifting for the teacher. The teacher can really play the role of coach and encourage her as the child makes their way through the different puzzles and challenges and then eventually starts creating their own games and stories.

REGGIE WADE: Grant, we have a new presidential administration, new incoming Secretary of Education. What would you like to see from them when it comes to tech education and education in general?

GRANT HOSFORD: Yeah, well, what I love so far about the conversation with Secretary Cardona, or hopefully soon to be Secretary Cardona, is his focus on early childhood education. We have so much research that shows that if we can get kids prepared for kindergarten, first grade, that they do much, much better throughout their school career. So I love seeing the focus on that.

I love seeing the focus on keeping college affordable. That has become less and less affordable for many people around the country. And that's really still one of the keys to the American dream, is a college education. And also, I like the fact that he has recognized that COVID has expanded in equity for a lot of our poorer students, right? Students who don't have internet access, for example. There's 18 million Americans without internet access still today, which is crazy when all of our education in this pandemic has been delivered via the internet.

So I think the recognition of all those things is great. What I'd like to see more of is a focus on recruiting teachers, especially Black and Brown teachers. We know that students perform better when they're taught by teachers who look like them. And we need more diversity in our teacher ranks. We have amazing teachers out there who are working incredibly hard. But we need to keep replenishing those ranks.

And then we also need to do more training around STEM. STEM is clearly going to be part of almost every child's job in the future. Every company today is a software company in one form or another. And so we need to make sure kids get the basic skills in those content areas so that they can thrive once they get out into the real world.

And then the last thing I would say is, I would love to see us move away from, you know, standards-based testing that's about memorization of knowledge and focus our assessment much more on how kids absorb knowledge in the moment, and then get creative about problem solving. Because, you know, the future of work is more about learning on the fly and working with others to solve big problems.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, Grant Hosford, co-founder and CEO at codeSpark, Yahoo Finance's Reggie Wade, thank you both for joining us for this conversation.