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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

September 3, 2013 at 2:08 PM

Online and off: Seattle organizations offer easy ways to learn to code

codefellows

In middle school in Bremerton, Will Little programmed a computer to play Fairview Junior High’s fight song just for fun. He didn’t use code much again until years later, when his wife was pregnant and he Googled the phrase “make money.”

Today, Little is a software engineer, an investor and a startup advisor, and the co-founder and CEO of CodeFellows, an organization so confident its coding bootcamps can help people find a $60,000-per-year job that it refunds their tuition if they don’t.

In this week’s column I looked at the case for coding, not for students or people looking for new jobs, but for everyone. Code makes up more and more of our world. To thrive in that world, we should understand its new, digital building blocks by knowing something about how to build with them ourselves.

One of the murkiest parts of the argument is what it means, exactly, to learn how to code. As Code.org founder Hadi Partovi put it to me, you code when you teach a computer a certain behavior.

Code.org’s website offers a few places online to learn the basics from home at your own pace: Scratch, Codecademy, Khan Academy and Code HS.

Aimed at training more engineers to join the tech workforce, CodeFellows makes the learning more of a commitment. But apart from its intensive bootcamps and other regular classes, it offers free workshops on Fridays for anyone with an interest in coding to get a primer on programming languages and what you can do with them. Coming up this month: Ruby on Rails (what Twitter was first built on), JavaScript and Python.

In a chat last week, Little told me that 30 to 40 percent of the people who sign up for CodeFellows workshops find out they’re more technologically savvy than they realize. Using technology gives you a leg up. And just about everyone uses technology.

“The more you’re synced up with the tech companies, the more you’re familiar with the language, the better a citizen you’re going to be,” Little said.

Believing that everyone should have access to code, Little has put on CodeFellows workshops geared toward underserved populations. Last month CodeFellows held a weeklong camp for at-risk women and children at Seattle’s Union Gospel Women’s shelter. Next, he’s working on partnerships with various community organizations, including Umoja Peace Center and the Filipino Community of Seattle, to put on after-school coding workshops that bring code savvy volunteers into different Seattle neighborhoods.

“Just being able to go in and figure out what HTML is — that alone can be life changing for a 10-year-old,” Little said.

Seen a story that caught your eye re: digital life? Email me at mguzman@seattletimes.com or reach me on Twitter or Facebook.

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