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October 14, 2013 at 2:15 PM

Code.org launches “Hour of Code” campaign, prizes for schools

Code.org, a Seattle-based nonprofit group pushing for more computer-science education in the U.S., today announced the next phase of its national campaign.

hadicodeorg

The group is calling on K-12 schools to join an “Hour of Code” – giving their students at least a taste of programming – during Computer Science Education Week Dec. 9-15. Its goal is to get 10 million students to spend an hour learning about computer science during the week.

Code.org – which was co-founded by former Microsoft manager turned startup investor Hadi Partovi - also announced a stellar list of backers for its campaign. It includes Amazon.com, Google, Microsoft and Apple, plus Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Case, Reid Hoffman and Jack Dorsey.

Partovi is announcing the new efforts during a press event in San Francisco, where the city committed to having all of its middle-schoolers participate in the Hour of Code event.

“The Code.org vision is that every school should teach computer science and that every student should get a chance to study it or at least some basic exposure.”

Partovi said providing access to computer-science education is “the gift that the tech industry owes back to America.”

To encourage participation in its “Hour of Code,” Code.org is awarding prizes to participating schools. Fifty schools will have  a group video conference with a tech luminary  – such as Bill Gates, Square’s Jack Dorsey or Google’s Susan Wojcicki – to kick off their hour of code.

Fifty other schools – one in every state – will win a full classroom of computers.

Code.org is also offering the first 100,000 educators to host an Hour of Code in their classroom or school club 10 gigabytes of free storage from Dropbox. Partovi is an investor and adviser in Dropbox.

Teachers unfamiliar with programming themselves can direct students to use online tutorials hosted by Code.org during their hour of code.

Partovi also announced that Code.org is developing a game to introduce basic coding principles, interspersed with guest lectures by Gates and Zuckerberg, and artwork from hit games “Angry Birds” and “Plants vs Zombies.” The game/tutorial will be playable on tablets and phones as well as PCs.

Learning about programming isn’t just for pursuing jobs in software development.

It’s important to help the next generation  “navigate the new modern world” because future careers in all sorts of industries will touch software, LinkedIn co-founder Hoffman said at the Code.org event.

“The fundamentals of being able to do reasoning the way that coding skills teach you is fundamental across all of these industries,” he said.

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith concurred during a panel with educators and tech leaders at the Code.org event:

“I think that computer science is to the 21st century what physics was to the 20th   - it’s a fundamental field.”

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