Turns out there’s one thing Democrats and Republicans — and Apple and Google — can agree on: Computer programming is a skill necessary for America to succeed in the global economy. To that end, and as a part of Computer Science Education Week, President Barack Obama, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and a host of tech leaders and celebrities are throwing their support toward Code.org’s “Hour of Code” initiative.
The initiative aims to get people of all ages to set aside 60 minutes this week to learn the basics of computer coding. Already, 5 million students in 35,000 schools from 167 countries have committed to the project. Online tutorials are available on the group’s web site, featuring lessons taught by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and Mountain View-based Khan Academy, among others.
In a blog post, Code.org co-founder Hadi Partovi said 1.1 million students have already completed their hour, creating 40 million lines of code. “We’ve had unprecedented support ,” Partovi wrote, “to spread a simple idea: that computer science should be accessible to every 21st century student.” He hopes to reach 10 million students by week’s end, with 1 billion lines of code.
President Obama kicked off the week with a YouTube message to prospective programmers: “Don’t just buy a new video game, make one. Don’t just download the latest app, help design it. Don’t just play on your phone, program. No one’s born a computer scientist, but with a little hard work — and some math and science — just about anyone can become one.”
In addition to Zuckerberg and Gates’ individual contributions, this week’s efforts will involve some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies:
— Today, Google changed its daily doodle to commemorate the 107th birthday of Grace Hopper, a pioneering computer scientist who created the Cobol computer language. Yahoo, YouTube, Apple, MSN, Bing and Disney will also feature the “Hour of Code” on their homepages this week.
— Apple Stores around the country will hold free programming workshops for kids at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11. (Click here to find an Apple Store near you and register for a session.)
— Microsoft will also hold “Hour of Code” sessions at its retail stores at various times this week.