Too many people become programmers

interview : "Learn to program!"

The “Everyone can program - Start coding!” Initiative is scheduled to officially begin on Tuesday. What is it about?

We are preparing a large media campaign to help get more people involved in IT and programming.

So with IT ...

... we avoid this term because it is often filled with prejudices and clichés. Many think of the eccentric computer freak who thinks up complicated special programs on his own. They are still necessary, but basically programming has long since become a cultural technique, like reading, writing and arithmetic. And it is becoming more and more important. Those who can program can help shape the digital society.

How does that work?

An example: Many people, especially young people, have smartphones in their pockets that are more powerful than many computers that we only recently had under our desks. And what do you do with it? They watch videos that other people have produced, they use apps that other people have programmed. We say: man, the devices can do so much, get creative and use the full potential of the technology!

What are you supposed to do with it?

There are a thousand possibilities. For example, small devices can be built with little effort that send a warning to your smartphone if the power fails and food in the refrigerator is about to spoil or a window is not closed. Or you can program solutions for school and studies or create small works of art. The programming language "Processing" required for this is by the way simpler than many older languages. It was developed by artists, not specialists. Laypeople can easily get used to it.

Most of those who learned to program at school or university don't think back to the time euphorically. Even if some things are easier today, in the end I have to dig deep into the subject in order to program something that is useful to me and not just a gimmick. Do you really think you can get the masses excited about it?

The extremely successful “” campaign in the USA gave us strength. Even President Barack Obama actively supported the cause. More than 36 million people have taken online courses there. We are planning that too: Video tutorials on our website “”, which provide a simple and entertaining introduction. We also want to offer workshops where the participants can teach each other many things more quickly. We also want to make the course materials that we develop for this available to multipliers and teachers so that they can offer such workshops themselves better prepared.

Computer science teachers should be able to do that anyway.

Not always. Let me put it this way: If teachers teach their students how they learned to program in the 1980s, you can destroy a lot and achieve the opposite of what you wanted to achieve.

Does that mean the teachers should continue their training and the curricula should also be improved?

In any case. It is important that teachers deal with current technologies confidently. Then they can convey that better.

Who is behind the initiative?

The idea originally came from the science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar and myself. We found out in a conversation that programming in Germany is far from having the positive perception that it should have and that many people use their smartphones and computers as pure consumers and hardly produce any content themselves. IT is a central part of our society and that will increase in the coming decades. This makes programming the language of the 21st century.

What happened next?

We have teamed up with Studio Nand, which develops didactic concepts, and started the project as part of the Science Year. Now we are looking for industrial partners. It's worth it for both sides. Many companies are desperately looking for IT specialists. Our message is clear: You can work harder to get the few graduates into your company. But you can also invest in the future and make sure that there are more people who are competent in this field.

You have several ambassadors for your campaign like Bernhard Hoëcker or Maybrit Illner. Are they really hardworking programmers?

Bernhard Hoëcker is not an IT specialist, but he programmed in his youth and tried to stay up to date - that makes him authentic. However, we not only want to involve the well-known figures from television, but also the YouTube scene in order to reach young people who have not yet been determined professionally.

Who did you win for your project?

For example, LeFloid, who does news programs for young people. Of course in a different form than the daily news. But this is someone who can convey our concerns well and is well received by young people because he speaks their language.

When was the last time you programmed yourself?

Just recently when I got a new smartphone. In order to take full advantage of it, you also have to do a bit of programming - although most would not call it that. Which once again shows that the term encompasses much more than writing program code. With the new device, I can set it to change its status in certain situations. For example, when I come home, it should turn the ringtone down, no longer acoustically display incoming SMS and stop checking e-mails after 10 p.m. When you program something like this, a smartphone becomes really smart. Otherwise, it's a phone that has internet access and nothing more.

It doesn't sound like programming is an everyday requirement. You don't get a new phone that often.

In the future there will be more and more devices like this in smart homes: from washing machines to refrigerators to lighting controls. They have a lot of intelligence of their own, but you have to explain the connections to them. People should be able to decide for themselves what to do with the technology. And not having to make do with the applications that others have devised for them. Basically, we want more responsible citizens of the digital society, who think about it and decide confidently how they handle their devices and data.

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