Is Coding the New English?

Imagine a room with around 70 female grown-ups (and a handful of men, to be fair) staring eagerly at their laptops and writing their first lines of code. A scene from Matrix IV? A vision from the distant future? Nope.

On the occasion of the 2017 EU code week, Kraftwerk, the recently opened innovation and collaboration space in Zurich, hosted a workshop for all those folks who always wanted to try coding but never got the chance.

Under the friendly guidance of Chanel Greco, an experienced developer and tech instructor, we were introduced to the fascinating world of coding, specifically html and css. As we were taught, html and css technically do not qualify as programming languages but they are ideal for giving programming newbies like myself a kickstart in code.

During the two-hours workshop I experienced both the elation and pitfalls of html and css. The magical feeling of seeing an html webpage come together with imagery and content based on my first lines of code was quickly (if only temporarily) overshadowed by the dramatic impact of what I thought was just a minor spelling mistake in the code. I learned very quickly that precision is king and queen when you code.

At the end of the workshop, I was the proud coder and creator of my first ever website. Well, technically it was a website but obviously not one that would stand up to the stringent inspection of a communications professional (such as myself). But hey, it was a start and it definitely got me going.

 

 

Mission accomplished for the lovely ladies Melanie Kovacs and Janine Fuchs from WeShapeTech and Master21, the two organizations behind the workshop. They aim to make code literacy the new normal, offering boot camps and summer courses together with networking activities. With their goal, they’re in good company. In a recent interview, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, called coding the most crucial skill for young people to learn. Rather than being a specialized skill for technology aficionados only, coding should be seen as a skill that enables almost anyone to be creative, to create, and above all, to potentially express oneself to 7 billion people around the world.

Will my eight-month-old son learn how to code when he enters kindergarten in a few years? No clue. (For those parents interested in sparking early interest: Codillion offers programming and robotics classes for kids as young as five. Discussions about code literacy have only recently started but they sound very familiar to me. I still remember the heated debate a few years ago, when teachers and educational policy makers argued whether English should be taught in primary school in Switzerland. The debate, it seems,  has moved on. Coding is the new English.