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March 20th, 2013

Techies Urge Kids to Learn Code

Published March 18, 2013

Schools across America teach all sorts of languages: French, Latin, Spanish, even Chinese. However, there’s one language that 9 out of 10 schools don’t teach: coding, or the language of computers.

Writing in code instructs a computer to do certain tasks and functions. Computer programming commands are the basis for how websites are built, video games are created, software is developed and more.

Now, pioneers of technology have come together with celebrities to stress the importance of learning to code. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and other tech innovators have collaborated to create Code.org, which provides programming classes for students.

Code.org encourages students to take free online coding classes and to push their schools to offer lessons to help students learn skills they’ll need for the modern, technology-driven workforce.

Cool to be a nerd

Code.org also hopes to combat the old “computer nerd” stereotype. It argues that almost every career field has already been changed by technology, and people with all sorts of interests can benefit from learning code.

Music, news, entertainment, health and medicine, banking, graphic design, fashion, science and race car driving are just a few of the industries that rely heavily on computer programming.

Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and basketball star Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat have taken classes in coding. Bosh was a member of the “Wiz Kids” club at school and faced teasing from his peers because of it. His response to bullies? “Man, I don’t care – I think it’s cool, and you know, I’m learning a lot.” Bosh went on to study computer programming in college before leaving for the NBA.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 80 percent of Americans live in a household with a computer, while others have access to computers outside the home. Coding can be learned on any conventional computer.

Will.i.am is learning code now, and can’t believe he waited so long. “Here we are, 2013. We all depend on technology – to communicate, to bank, for information – and none of us know how to read and write code.”

An artist for Valve, the company behind video games like “Half-Life” and “Portal”, thinks learning to code is just like learning to read, and argues that “you don’t have to be a genius to code!”

“Addition. Subtraction. That’s about it,” says Bill Gates.

In a tough job market, coders find employment

The founders of Code.org also have a selfish motive: they have lots of jobs to fill, and not enough job applicants who know how to code. Computer programmers are highly sought after, so finding a job that pays well is no problem for those who know programming languages.

Companies often try to lure and keep coders with perks like top-notch chefs in the dining halls and game rooms with video games and ping-pong tables. Code.org hopes that students will see that learning to code can help them achieve their career goals and master the skills needed to work in a fast-paced technological world, and maybe even skateboard down the hallways at work.

– Compiled by Elise Garofalo for NewsHour Extra

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