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Maureen McMullen, Published December 13 2013

Microsoft works with West Fargo computer class to make programming accessible

WEST FARGO – For those with a murky understanding of computer coding, West Fargo High School junior Rit Bezbaruah offers a simple explanation for the complex digital language:

“It’s a kind of text that can be typed up to make certain actions on the computer.”

In honor of Computer Science Education Week, Bazbaruah, 16, and several other students in West Fargo’s first-ever computer programing class participated in The Hour of Code.

The global event organized by Code.org aims to familiarize students with technology skills needed in an increasingly computer-oriented world.

Employees from Microsoft joined West Fargo’s computer science class on Friday in inviting other students to try out simple computer-coding activities, such as writing programs for games such “Angry Birds” or creating virtual greeting cards.

The event piqued students’ interest in computer programming, said Assistant Principal Dan Holder.

“The kids that I’ve seen are having fun with it; they’re doing some creative things and within a matter of minutes they have written a program that functions,” Holder said. “I think it’s pretty fun that they can add their own personal flare to it.”

Microsoft and students in the computer programing class wanted to show students that coding is more accessible than they may think.

“People think, ‘Oh, you have to be super smart’ or ‘You have to know a lot of math,’ but it’s not necessarily true,” said Dan Hoeger, senior build engineer at Microsoft. “There’s some computer languages out there that are very, very simple to use and just about anybody could write.”

Hoeger teaches West Fargo’s computer programing class through the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program.

TEALS works with more than 100 technology companies to place high-tech professionals in high school classrooms as part-time teachers.

Hoeger hopes the class and Hour of Code event show students the advantages of computer code literacy, even if their career goals don’t include software development.

“There’s a high chance of any job that you get, you’ll have to use a computer in some way,” Hoeger said. “Understanding how they’re programmed and how to program them makes it a lot easier for you to use them, and opens up a lot more possibilities of things you can do with a computer if you know how to program.”

There are 19 students in West Fargo’s computer programing class, with 25 enrolled for next year.

“Microsoft is just encouraging its employees to help with this task and I’ve just been really enjoying it,” Hoeger said. “I’ve always liked teaching people and helping kids. It’s fun for me.”