Know How to Code: An Introduction to Webmaking

Whether you’re a teacher in the classroom, interested parent, after school mentor, or student, there’s a vehicle for learning code that fits your budget, schedule, and learning style.

[blockquote style=”normal”]Here we are, 2013, we ALL depend on technology to communicate, to bank, and none of us know how to read and write code. It’s important for these kids, right now, starting at 8 years old, to read and write code., Musician/The Black Eyed Peas and Entrepreneur[/blockquote]

While 2013 doesn’t exactly look like the world that writers and directors imagined 50 years ago—teleportation devices, hover vehicles, and intergalactic travel—they did predict a society enhanced by the widespread use of computers.  The future we’re living in is one woven together by the intersecting threads of code, circuitry, media, and design.

Just a decade ago, owning a pocket-sized computer was a novel idea to the typical American family. Desktop computers were expensive and the internet was painfully slow. Now, according to a recent study by Pew Internet & American Life Project, 95% of teens (ages 12-17) use the internet and 78% have cell phones.

For years, the internet has been a mostly passive experience for students. But with more and more of our lives moving online, it’s essential that everyone, and especially today’s youth, become more active and engaged with the web. With technology made easily accessible in both in- and out-of-school environments, students can build their own web-based experiences to enhance both learning and socializing.

As younger generations grow into leaders, decision makers, and innovators they need the skills to actively participate in an increasingly internet-centric world. Our job as teachers, parents, caregivers, and mentors is to transform teens from web consumers into webmakers.

[blockquote style=”normal”]If you can program a computer, you can achieve your dreams. A computer doesn’t care about your family background, your gender, just that you know how to code. –Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter[/blockquote]

What exactly is webmaking? Simply put, it is using computer coding languages to create, understand, and promote content on the web. Teens can contribute to the web just by creating YouTube videos or customizing their social media profiles. However, a more in-depth understanding of coding languages like HTML5, Javascript, Ruby on Rails, and Python will allow students to become true change makers using the internet as a tool. Learning code also provides important lifelong reasoning, logic, and communication skills.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics cites that computer science is one of the fastest growing occupations in the nation, with more than 150,000 job openings each year. According to the non-profit, there aren’t enough computer science college graduates to fill these positions in diverse industries such as health, defense, government, manufacturing, information technology, and many others. Additionally, these jobs tend to pay 75% more than the average median salary.

As with learning any language, early intervention is paramount. Students as young as six years old can begin learning how to code using an array of easy to understand, graphic programs that teach real-life programming applications. With many free and open-source methods that are geared towards students of any age and skill level, gaining a basic understanding of computer programming and coding can be as easy as visiting a website.

[blockquote style=”normal”]Every student deserves the opportunity to learn computer programming. Coding can unlock creativity and open doors for an entire generation of American students. We need more coders — not just in the tech industry, but in every industry. –Mark Pincus, CEO and Founder, Zynga[/blockquote]

And now you can dig in to a few shining examples of the most popular free tools that students from around the world are using to sharpen their coding skills! Remake Learning is rolling out a new Resources section that will collect useful tools, activities, tutorials, and reference materials for teaching and learning digital skills. Read on to learn more about the first three tools– all focused on webmaking!

Screenshot of Mozilla Thimble web appThimble enables just about anyone to publish their own webpages. Thimble states that in just minutes, a user with no prior coding knowledge can use their browser to create a finished page and share it with the world. This program is a great entry point for someone who wants to learn the foundations of coding by actually making web pages. As the user edits the code on the left side of the interface, the right side displays what the site will look like– creating an immediate connection between the code and its output. Users can earn badges when you gain new skills or participate in other Mozilla or Digital Learning projects. Read on about Thimble.


Screenshot of Codecademy web app

Codeacademy brings learning to write and edit software within reach whether you are a high school student or a mid-career marketing professional. Their mission is simple–teach the world to code–and they are making a huge impact in the digital media realm. Even NYC’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg has signed up for lessons! Through a series of interactive tracks, students can become fluent in many of the major programming languages like Javascript, HTML/CSS, Python, Ruby on Rails, and APIs. Beginning with the fundamentals, Codecademy takes students through levels of learning based on what skills they’ve mastered. Read on about Codeacademy.


Screenshot of KidsRuby softwareKidsRuby is a free software download with embedded tutorials that teaches kids how to program using the open-source coding language Ruby. The KidsRuby site encourages kids to “hack” their homework, which may be programming a math formula, creating a diagram, or making a web page instead of writing an essay. While this software is aimed at younger children, adults may use it as a casual introduction to this widely used language. KidsRuby allows beginners to explore a very complex subject using a simple, yet effective, framework. Within an hour, a child could easily code their first design using the Ruby language. Read on about KidsRuby.


And you can try your hand at these and other webmaking tools at the Hive Pittsburgh #MakerParty today, Saturday, August 10, 2013 from 4:00 – 8:00pm at TechShop Pittsburgh in Bakery Square. Come out to celebrate the end of a summer of learning, making, and connecting with free food, music, and hands-on learning activities from MAKESHOP, the Labs @ CLP, assemble, and more!

Published August 10, 2013