'Week of Code' underway as Microsoft NZ inspires Kiwi youth

Microsoft NZ and High Tech Youth Network kick off ‘Week of Code’ to encourage young Kiwis to learn computing skills.

Microsoft New Zealand and the High Tech Youth Network are joining forces this week to encourage young people across the country to learn some basic skills in computer programming as part of Microsoft’s international ‘Week of Code’ campaign.

The Microsoft campaign officially launched across the Asia-Pacific on Monday, with local events in more than thirteen countries throughout the region.

Aimed at inspiring youth to try their hand at coding and become creators, the campaign aims to connect aspiring student coders of all skill levels with the tools, resources, and experiences they need to turn their innovative ideas into reality – whether they only have an hour, a whole semester, or an entire year’s worth of time to invest.

For the campaign, Microsoft has made a range of resources and activities available, which students, teachers and parents can try for themselves to help them take the first step into the world of coding.

The feature event for the Kiwi ‘Week of Code’ will be a hosted #WeSpeakCode gathering across the High Tech Youth Network’s nine studios in New Zealand and Pacific Islands on Friday 27 March.

Led from HTYN’s Studio 274 at 51 Othello Drive, Otara, the event will bring together students, parents and teachers to give coding a try.

Mike Usmar, CEO of the High Tech Youth Network – which is partly funded by Microsoft through its YouthSpark programme – says it’s vital that Kiwi youth become fluent in the language of digital technology.

“We are living in a digital world where smart devices, apps and cloud services are changing the way we work, live and play; and yet, only a tiny fraction of our primary and high school students learn the basics of how computers work, or how to create software, apps or web sites,” Usmar adds.

“We have seen an increasing groundswell of interest from teachers who want to see coding as part of the core school curriculum.

"The Week of Code provides a great opportunity for educators to road test coding lessons, to then encourage their school to incorporate it into general curriculum.”

In New Zealand, the Week of Code campaign forms part of the broader Microsoft Student Accelerator programme, which launched earlier this month with a showcase event in Auckland that also featured the finals event for the local Imagine Cup competition.

“With young people today facing an unprecedented level of technological change in the workplace, supplying them with the right level of digital training can propel them into interesting and exciting careers,” adds Evan Blackman, Education Sector Director, Microsoft New Zealand.

“Equipping young people with digital skills isn’t only about helping them in the job market, however.

"Coding is just one important part of developing broader digital skills which can help students grow their creativity, flexibility and problem-solving abilities.

“Learning to code can help students understand the increasingly digital world around them. In today’s knowledge-based economy,"

According to Microsoft's philosophy, Computer Science Education should be considered a curriculum cornerstone, as much as reading, writing or mathematics.

"At Microsoft, we believe that code is a language that anyone can learn," adds Cesar Cernuda, President, Microsoft Asia-Pacific.

"Computational thinking is an essential foundational skill that should be taught in all schools – regardless of age, gender, or your current field of study.

"Writing code and creating a program of your own is not complicated or difficult, and more importantly, it’s fun."

According to Cernuda, more than 82 million people of all ages around the world already tried coding last year through the global Hour of Code event in December.

"Through the Microsoft YouthSpark #WeSpeakCode campaign, we’re bringing the movement here to Asia Pacific and empowering youth here to innovate, create, and unlock the best opportunities for their future," he adds.

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