Turning inner space into outer space

August 30, 2014

Basic coding is fast becoming a part of basic literacy

Host a Maker Party event

Moms and dads, if you were to advise your children to learn just one skill in order to have a successful career — what would it be?

It’s taken a while, but I’m finally convinced. The kids should learn as much computer programming as they can. Even if it just means figuring out the basics of marking up copy for a website, it’s the one thing they’re all going to need to know if they have any hope of holding on to a well-paying, stable job.

We’ve reached a point where pretty much every business and organization, large or small, has a website and a presence on social media. Many have their own apps.

Currently, it’s common to have someone on staff who specializes in taking care of this kind of stuff. But I predict that in the near future, nearly everyone will be expected to contribute in one way or another. If you’ve got an update for the website, you’ll just have to go ahead and do it. No one will do it for you.

And while many content management systems have evolved to the point where it’s easy to make updates without having to mess with code, there are still times when it helps to know some HTML. Are the paragraphs jammed together instead of having a space between them? Maybe there’s a <p> tag missing.

Knowing HTML will become as common as knowing your ABCs.

If this sounds daunting, it shouldn’t. Take a few lessons in HTML or CSS — the building blocks of web design — and you’ll wonder why you were ever scared of it.

Luckily, encouragement for web literacy abounds on the Internet. Firefox, for example, has modified its start page to show just how easy it is to do a bit of coding. Want an orange background? Just type in the word “orange.”

It’s part of an effort by Mozilla — the open source organization behind Firefox — to promote Maker Party, described as a “global campaign to teach the web.”

It consists of thousands of events taking place in virtually every nook and cranny of the world. An unfortunate exception is our hometown of Kamloops. There is still time to add events to the list, though, and there are many bright people in the city who could organize one.

Even if nothing formal is put together, there is no reason why web savvy people can’t take the time to show friends and family some of the basics. The Webmaker site also has plenty of online training and resources available. You can also check out the free lessons at W3Schools.

It won’t be long before special events like the Maker Party will seem archaic. Children in elementary school will be taught HTML soon after learning the alphabet. And they’ll consider it to be one of their easier subjects.