Gates, Zuck, Dorsey chip in to teach 10M students coding

A new campaign dubbed "Hour of Code" hosted by Code.org enlists some of tech's heavy hitters to help students better understand computer programming.

Code.org launches its Hour of Code campaign. Screengrab by Dara Kerr/CNET

While computer programming and coding are becoming more common K-12 class options, these subject matters are still a mystery to many students. A nonprofit called Code.org is trying to change that by enlisting a star-studded entourage of techies to help with its new "Hour of Code" campaign.

The goal of Hour of Code is to introduce computer programming to 10 million K-12 students in the US during Computer Science Education Week. The event happens December 9 to 15.

Joining the cause are several individuals, such as long-time philanthropist Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. Companies are also supporting the initiative, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Yahoo, and others.

"Thanks to the amazing support of new partners and donors, the Hour of Code campaign will launch our long-term mission to give every student the opportunity to learn computer science," Code.org co-founder and CEO Hadi Partovi said in a statement. "This isn't just about the tremendous job opportunities in software -- every 21st century child can benefit from learning this foundational field."

The programming lessons will be provided to students via tutorials that can be taken online, on a smartphone, or in a classroom setting. Different educational groups have authored the tutorials.

Code.org is one of the groups that created a tutorial -- getting input from Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and Facebook engineers. This tutorial is basically a learning game that has the feel of Rovio's Angry Birds and PopCap Games' Plants vs. Zombies and also features guest lectures by Gates and Zuckerberg.

While participating in Hour of Code is optional for schools and teachers, those who do join have the chance of winning tech-focused prizes, such as 10GB of free Dropbox storage, a full class-set of computers, and a group video conference with either Gates, Dorsey, or Susan Wojcicki, Google's senior vice president of advertising and commerce.

Code.org launched earlier this year to promote computer programming education in schools and direct people to online coding tools. Founded by brothers and entrepreneurs Hadi Partovi and Ali Partovi, Code.org operates around the idea that every student should have the opportunity to code. The foundation has an all-star board of advisers that includes investors Marc Andreessen and Ron Conway, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, and Dropbox founder and CEO Drew Houston.

 

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