HOLMBERG: Know the code or be left behind

Posted at 12:42 AM, Jul 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-19 13:04:46-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- What is computer code?

Do you anything about the language that makes your computers and phones so smart and fast?

Did you know those who know the code can make $70,000 a year, starting out?

But unlike French and Spanish, few middle and high schools in Virginia teach this increasingly crucial language.

“We’ve gotten to the point where either you’re on stage and in the know and able to do the magic, or you’re kind of in the audience being tricked,” says Rebecca Dovi, the co-founder of a new non-profit opening Monday (CodeVA) that will teach local teachers how to write computer code and teach it to their students.

That’s the magic that makes Facebook pop up and share information. Likes, pokes and pics are all written out in code to make that system flow.

City buses can’t run without computer code. Your ATM card, your smart phone, pacemakers, toll machines, stop lights, all working because of coding written by someone who knows the language.

“What if our schools taught Shakespeare and the classics, but never taught our kids to read?” asks Chris Dovi, Rebecca’s husband and co-founder of CodeVA - the only partner of the national organization, “That's what our schools are doing right now with science, technology and engineering classes.”

Only about one-in-10 high schools nationwide offer computer science classes, Dovi said. “Meanwhile, nearly 70 percent of STEM  - science, tech, engineering and math -  jobs are actually CS jobs.”

Hanover County is the only state school system fully dedicated to computer science in every school. Counties like Henrico are spotty. Richmond has none, she said.

“Right now computer science is a tiny little field,” she said. “It tends to be mostly Asian and white males, so very few women in the field and very few students of color.”

And with tens of thousands of good-paying jobs for the taking . . .

“That’s a lot of why we’re here, in the heart of downtown,” Rebecca said.

Along with teaching teachers, the non-profit will also  hold age-specific code classes for area children.

Rebecca Dovi, by the way, is a longtime teacher. Chris Dovi may be familiar to you. He’s been a longtime reporter in Richmond, formerly with the Times-Dispatch, Style Weekly and others. In the spirit of disclosure, he’s friend of mine.

For more information, go to