18 Must-Watch Coding TED Talks

This article is part of a series. To discover more inspiring TED Talks covering a variety of industries and technologies, be sure to check out our round ups for Cybersecurity, Data, or FinTech.

Learning is a lifelong endeavor, but great ideas aren’t always accessible to the individuals who can benefit from them, especially when it comes to coding and other STEM topics. With so much of our daily life conducted through digital platforms, technical fluency is crucial to success in most fields today. So, how can you bridge the gap?

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas and sparking conversations through short, powerful talks that typically clock in at around 15 minutes or under. Presented in no particular order, these 18 clips of inspiring speakers from around the world share their views on coding and how it can transform lives.

1. Let’s Teach Kids to Code

Today’s children are considered digital natives adept at scrolling through their newsfeeds, watching (or creating) viral videos, and playing online games. But are they actually fluent when it comes to using new technologies? Mitch Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab, develops tools and activities to engage people of all ages in creative learning experiences. In this TED Talk, he explains how coding encourages young users to express themselves and work their way from an idea to a full-fledged project.

2. Don’t Just Learn To Code, Learn To Create

“What are you going to do with your life?” For hundreds of years, generations of creators have been shattering perceptions around human limitations. Justin Richards, founder and CEO of Youth Digital, works to introduce aspiring designers and developers to the skills and processes they’ll need to create their own games and apps. In this video, he explains how you can use technology to do what you love by learning to create.

3. Black Girls Code

Black Girls Code is devoted to increasing the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 through exposure to computer science and technology. Kimberly Bryant, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization, explains why she decided to champion this issue and how Black Girls Code plans to teach 1 million girls to code by 2040.

4. Learning to Code is Not Just for Coders

We aren’t taught math in school just to learn how to add or subtract (or because we have lifelong dreams of becoming mathematicians), but to gain important logic and problem-solving skills. Likewise, computer science covers advanced topics in engaging and dynamic ways. Ali Partov, co-founder of Code.org, explains why every single public school should include it in their curriculum and ultimately provide children an indispensable foundation for life.

5. You Should Learn to Program

In 1961, the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) relied on a processor running at 0.043 MHz to land on the moon and return to Earth. . Now, 60 years later, your cellphone has the computing power to perform the calculations for one million Apollo 11 missions simultaneously. Christian Genco, a retired software developer, helps entrepreneurs automate their businesses and live healthier lives by harnessing that same computing power. Here, he shares how learning to program can help you solve problems and develop solutions that have never existed before.

6. The Art of Code

Zach Latta was exposed to the world of coding at a young age. Suffice it to say that, he was thrilled when he was tapped by the creators of an online multiplayer game to become a community leader. After researching high school programming classes, he was disappointed by how much of it lacked hands-on learning. Now the co-founder and executive director of Hack Club, Latta shares how coding is a form of self-expression; a blank canvas with endless possibilities.

7. Why Computer Engineering is Like Stand Up Comedy

Meet Wayne Cotter: by day, he worked as a software engineer, by night he was moonlighting as a comedian. Tapping into the same creative reservoir for each job, he quickly discovered that he couldn’t do both at once. So, what did he do? He quit his day job and began touring. No matter the field, forget the stereotypes and follow your passion.

8. Programming as a Second Language

Programming languages function nearly the same as spoken languages; just like word choice can make or break communication, forgetting a bracket or a semi-colon could mean the demise of an entire application. What if high school students could take computer science classes that counted as a foreign language credit? Steve McIntosh, a software engineering student, explains why the public education system should offer technology-based learning to students.

9. Computer Science is for Everyone

When Hadi Partovi and his twin brother were 10 years old, their dad brought home a Commodore 64. Several years later, their family immigrated from Iran to the United States, where Hadi successfully embarked on a career as a professional developer. Today, technology encompasses many fields like medicine, energy, space research, entertainment, and transportation. Partovi, now the CEO of the education nonprofit Code.org, shares how computer science offers everyone the chance to participate in the world.

10. The Poetry of Programming

The next universal language? Code. Linda Liukas’s, programming journey began at 14 years old as a means of self-expression, but no one knew it. She’s since authored and illustrated Hello Ruby, a children’s picture book about the whimsical world of computers in the hopes of making technology more approachable. If JavaScript is today’s lingua franca, she argues in this TED Talk, we don’t need more grammar classes, we need poetry.

11. How Computer Science Made Me Brave

Growing up, Madeline Griswold, a self-conscious middle schooler with a speech impediment, never heard of programming and didn’t know any developers. But, after many tries, she found that computer science gave her a voice. This Brown University computer scientist explains why you don’t have to be a “coder to code.”

12. A 12-Year-Old App Developer

Where do you go to learn how to make an app if you’re 12 years old? After starting with some basic programming languages, Thomas Suarez decided to utilize Apple’s software development kit. Shortly after, he created an app club at school for students to come and learn how to design a mobile application. His future goals? Creating more apps in addition to “Bustin Jeiber,” a whack-a-mole-style game.

13. Indian Girls Code

Gender bias is prevalent in fields that are traditionally viewed as masculine. Aditi Prasad, COO of Robotix Learning Solutions and founder of Indian Girls Code, is committed to helping young girls in India become creators and innovators through coding education. Discover how providing girls access to technology that can help them solve real-world problems is a significant motivator in more women ultimately choosing careers in STEM fields.

14. Minecraft — Keep Calm and Code On

Minecraft is a popular video game played by more than 30 million people. But did you know that its history can be traced back to WWII? In this video, Stephen Foster invites you to imagine a possible future where a significant portion of society has mastered the skill set to build software that can touch millions of lives worldwide. We can start today with these seven words: Teach all the children how to code.

15. NASA’s First Software Engineer: Margaret Hamilton

In 1969, before the astronauts began their final descent to land on the surface of the moon, an alarm went off. Back on Earth, Margaret Hamilton, who led the team responsible for pioneering the in-flight software, set out to find a solution. From Indiana to MIT, find out how Hamilton landed at NASA and built the software for the Apollo 11 mission with her team of engineers.

16. Now Is the Time to Get Your Own Wings

Looking for inspiration? Masako Wakamiya is one of the world’s oldest iPhone app developers. As a retired banker, she took on the responsibility as her mother’s sole caretaker. Worried she would be socially isolated from her friends and neighbors, she decided to buy her first computer at 58 years old, which allowed her to make friends online and create “Excel art” by coloring cells and lines to create geometric patterns. Two years ago, she decided to develop a game app for senior iPhone users, despite knowing nothing about programming.

17. Three Myths About Coding, Busted!

What’s the first image that comes to mind when you hear someone say “coder”? Unless you know any in real life, you probably picture a person aimlessly typing away at their keyboard late into the night. Kenneth Alvares has a problem with this popular stereotype because the perception is heavily influenced by the media. But the world needs developers. Alvares, a self-taught programmer, debunks three coding myths and explains why anyone can join the field.

18. How I Taught Myself to Code

Litha Soyizwapi’s story into coding is a story of failure. Despite his fear of stepping into a new field, he decided to delve into computer science. Although he faced his fair share of obstacles along the way, he was determined to create an application that he would use on an everyday basis. This self-taught developer explains how he mastered the fundamentals and brought GauRider to life.

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