How it all Started?
Its been a year since we started CoderCookies (www.CoderCookies.com) Journey. We must say “what a journey it has been”, in the most non-clichéd sense of the statement though J. It has helped us learn, grow class after class and created a sense of satisfaction, that’s incomparable.
After several years in the software industry when we were just debating about how we can teach and introduce coding to our kids and weighing the costs versus value adds etc., an article written last year by a journalist in a prominent Canadian media calling Kids Coding “a silly fad”, just triggered us into action. A kind of negative article triggering us into positive action! The question was how can we we dis-prove (or prove) this? What better way than to try and teach our own kids and see if it is building any value into them. Simple! So, we started- with our own kids. We started to see some very useful thought concepts and skills being incorporated and registered into them, for life. So we started talking about these and our friend’s kids joined-we put together our first batch. Our friends talked about it with their friends and we added another one….and here we are trying to influence and teach several batches of young minds and, more importantly, learning from them and their experiences, so we can get even better.
I will not dwelve too much into the benefits of teaching Coding skills and concepts from a young age, too much has been written and discussed (a quick google search will tell you all!), However, thought it was important, at this first year milestone, to look back and share our experiences and learnings.
Teach the concepts, not the tool.
There are several tools and open source solutions out there. We set out with the mindset that we want to build into our kids programming skills and concepts and not build experts in certain tools. We think that has been paying off, quite well, so far.
Loop them in, never box them in!
It was so important for us to “loop in” the kids every class. With out their interest and engagement in each class, there is really no sense and satisfaction in delivering anything. It is true for any class for that matter. However, coding for kids’ classes are a different matter altogether, since we are trying to deliver and teach some complex and abstract concepts in very simple ways, that help register the concepts and also help students solve problems in their own “creatively best” ways. It is indeed as subjective as it sounds J.
Keeping things informal has helped us a lot here. We quickly learnt that to encourage imagination and creativity we needed to encourage risk-taking and to encourage risk-taking we needed to operate informally with the young minds. It we operate formally and in a very structured manner, we are really “boxing them in” and not “looping them in”.
Being informal with kids and operating almost like friends has another benefit: they start liking the teachers and and do not hesitate to express - After all creativity is imagination and expression of the imagination. I have been informal to the point that some younger kids call me Mr. Bean or call me with names of their favorite Cartoon charters J. What ever they call me, does not matter, but what this does is provide me more and more opportune moments to deliver and register the concepts into the young minds. Isn’t that our intention after-all?
Heart Over Brain!
Teaching code, for that matter any subject, we feel is as much a matter of the heart as it is a matter of the brain. If you can’t understand the young minds you are attempting to teach and influence and if you can’t connect with them, then none of the above is going to happen. Kids and young adults are open minded and not filled up with as much memory and experiences, as adults. So their views are not tarnished and they can see through better than adults. So if you are not making a heart-full effort at teaching with genuine intentions and giving your best, they are not going to engage, let alone giving their best!
Creativity without Objectivity, is just “gas without a Car” J
All that said, we designed and re-mixed some coding projects and problems in ways, that presented to student’s objective challenges. Challenges that make things happen, but in their own unique creative ways. Coding should be creative, subjective and Fun. But more importantly it should be applied to meet objectives. Not working through objectives consistently, translated into less retention of concepts. This was one of our key learnings. So almost every class we present clear objectives to our students, we encourage if they want come up with one. But, there must be one!
Our vision is to inspire every kid and young adult to code and help them move from consumption to creation with computers. We will continue our efforts and learnings and keep at it and continue to become better at it. We have some exciting ideas and things lined up and people coming together to join us in translating our vision to reality. We wish to accelerate in making this vision happen, sooner than later. Please join us, encourage us, teach and learn with us and do bring in your kids so we can help them and enable them on this important futuristic skill. Rest assured, that it is anything but a “silly fad”!