The Language of the Internet

A video published on February 26 by CodeOrg gained a lot of attention over the past week—and not because of the sleek background music.

The likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Bosh (Miami Heat NBA player), Jack Dorsey (creator of Twitter), Drew Houston (CEO and founder of Dropbox), Ruchi Sanghvi (former Facebook engineer and current VP at Dropbox) and others all feature in a six minute video stressing the importance and ease of learning how to code.

Millennials are often referred to as “digital natives,” with only the oldest of us ever using bound encyclopedias for elementary school research. Having grown up with the Internet, cell phones, and touch screens, we are confident and unafraid of digital technology but most of us have no idea how to program a computer or how to read and write code.

The point isn’t to create a generation of programmers. Rather, coding has some role in any profession in a modern economy. It’s that coding is a gateway to broader learning. Learning to code means learning how to think creatively, reason systematically and work collaboratively.

For folks interested in exploring coding (if it is too late for you to enroll in Computer Science 101) here are five places to consider beginning your education:

  1.  At Codecademy, you can take lessons on writing simple commands in JavaScript, HTML and CSS, Python and Ruby. (See this New York Times piece from last March, on Codecademy and other code-teaching sites, for a sense of the landscape.)
  2. One of many programs geared toward females who want to code, Girl Develop It is an international nonprofit that provides mentorship and instruction. Similar programs include Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code.
  3. Stanford University’s Udacity is one of many sites that make college courses—including Introduction to Computer Science—available online for free.
  4. If college courses seem a little slow, consider Code Racer, a “multi-player live coding game.” Newbies can learn to build a website using HTML and CSS, while the more experienced can test their adeptness at coding. Similarly, Treehouse (the parent site of Code Racer) provides online video courses and exercises to help you learn technology skills.
  5. Finally, Code School offers online courses in a wide range of programming languages, design and web tools.

Special thanks to the TED technology blog for recommending coding workshops.
A longer version of CodeOrg’s video, featuring cute kids and fun informational graphics, can be viewed here.