Trending: This governor alarmed professors 22 years ago with his vision for distance learning in 2020 — here’s what he says today
Bill Gates, top row center, waves to other participants during a “Code Break” livestream via Zoom on Wednesday. (Code.org screen grab via YouTube)

Like many people working from home these days, Bill Gates hopped on a Zoom call Wednesday morning. The Microsoft co-founder just happened to be joining thousands of students from across the planet.

Gates was this week’s special guest on “Code Break,” the live interactive classroom for computer science lessons, presented by Code.org founder and Seattle entrepreneur Hadi Partovi.

Partovi and his daughter, Sofia, hosted the hour-long session — a “weekly dose of inspiration, community and computer science” — in which they wrote simple code to simulate and estimate the spread of disease. Gates joined for a Q&A to discuss everything from the challenges of education at home to how computer science is revolutionizing medicine — all in context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hadi Partovi and his daughter, Sofia, write code that creates little critters trying to ward off infection. (Code.org screen grab via YouTube)

“I first met Bill while working at Microsoft as a college student,” Partovi said while introducing the billionaire philanthropist. “I was amazed by how much effort Bill put into learning everything about everything.”

That apparently hasn’t changed.

Calling it a “crazy time,” Gates said he is safe with his family at home and he’s consuming endless information about what’s happening with the pandemic in the United States and around the world. He called the health crisis “a bit like war, with all of humanity fighting the virus.”

At one point, while discussing the discipline it takes to do schoolwork at home, Gates said it’s important for kids to still get outside when and where that’s possible.

“I can sit in front of the screen for a long time,” he admitted. “Sometimes I stay up later than I should if I run into some good online lectures.”

Here are some other highlights from Gates’ visit. You can watch the full livestream above. Gates joins around the 20:45 mark.

  • When asked whether he thinks schools will reopen in the fall, Gates said he is optimistic, but it’s tough to know for sure. “We’ll get through this first peak in the U.S. and many other countries and we’ll want to open up somewhat. By the fall we should have better treatments so it’s not as risky as it is now.”
  • Asked about modern technology and science aiding in our ability to cope with and combat the disease, Gates said the ability to stay in touch, exchange information, do business meetings and calls like “Code Break” and even watch Netflix were all examples of how the internet was helping to “reduce the pain a little bit.”
  • Gates addressed some of the challenges of home schooling, saying it’s harder to reach out for help if you get confused and getting motivated or staying focused can be difficult in a home environment. He said it will be interesting to see whether some students learn better, going at their own pace, digging online for more information, reaching out to friends who are good at particular subjects.

After Gates left the call, Partovi remarked about how great it was to be able to do the session from home. And then he stood up in front of his web cam to model polka dot pants.

“I’m proud to say I spoke to Bill Gates in my pajama pants, which of course Bill didn’t know,” Partovi said.

Next week’s guest on “Code Break,” at 10 a.m. PT on April 29, will be Vint Cerf, who is widely known as the “father of the internet.”

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