Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Celebrities from Bill Gates to will.i.am want children to learn basic computer programming

Bill Gates
Bill Gates

What have Ashton Kutcher, Bill Gates, Richard Branson and will.i.am got in common?

They're all enthusiastic backers of a new charitable trust called code.org.

The trust's aim is to encourage schoolchildren everywhere to learn basic computer programming. In today's digital culture, it's as essential as learning how to read and write.

Code.org is not the first organisation to start a campaign along these lines, but it is certainly one of the best-funded and best supported so far.

Will.i.am, better known for pop music and reality TV talent shows, has begun coding lessons himself. He thinks kids should start their coding lessons from the age of eight.

And Stephen Hawking, physicist and cosmologist, says: "Basic computer programming is an essential skill to learn."

The website is more than just a call to action. It's also home to practical code lessons that anyone - not just kids - can start working through almost immediately. There are links to dozens of other online tutorials and resources.

Although it's very US-centric, the site has information useful to anyone, including an excellent list of links for teachers.

Everything's topped off with a swish video featuring dozens of celebrities encouraging kids to get coding.

Whether that will be enough to persuade Education Secretary Michael Gove that it's all a good idea remains to be seen.

CODE A CREATURE

One way to learn code is to visit CSS Creatures (bennettfeely.com/csscreatures) and make a little face out of pure HTML code. Click the "Make your own" button to see the code that makes the chirpy bouncy faces, edit it with numbers of your choice, and see how they affect the finished creature. When you've got one you like, you can post it to join the rest of the gang.

SIGN IN WITH GOOGLE

If you've got a Google account, you've got a Google+ account too. And now, you can use Google+ to sign in to other websites, services and apps all over the place. Sound familiar? Yes, it's just like Facebook Connect, the system that allows you to sign into websites with your Facebook credentials. Google says its rival service will be better and won't flood your Google+ profile with stuff you'd rather keep private. Google's efforts to become more Facebooky show no sign of slowing down. Find out more at www.googleplusplatform.blogspot.com

NAME AND SHAME

Tweetbot (tapbots.com) is a very popular Twitter software client for mobile phones and desktop computers. Although it's hardly expensive, some people still try to use pirate copies. So the makers of Tweetbot tried something clever with a recent update: pirated copies of the app ask their owners to post the message "I'm demoing a pirated copy of Tweetbot and really like it so I'm going to buy a copy." Hundreds of them go ahead and post it regardless, confessing piracy in public.

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