Teaching Kids to Code

Posted on Jan 11, 2012

I went down to the Mozilla offices in Toronto tonight for a brainstorming session on teaching kids to code. I had caught on to the event when someone in my twitter feed reposted a tweet from @msurman advertising the event. It struck my fancy because I’ve been really thinking a lot about how I could give back to the world to make it a better place. I have been feeling a sort of “alstruistic itch,” and thought that teaching kids how to program was an incredibly good idea and that it was a great opportunity to give something of myself to the world in the hopes it would make it a better place for persons other than myself and the companies I work for.

I first have to thank Mozilla for hosting the event at their offices. It was a wonderful evening. They provided space and snacks and got everyone together to share their ideas on how we can get kids learning to code. It really goes to show that Mozilla is definitely a company that cares about technology and it’s bigger picture. Kudos and thank you.

The discussions of the evening began with some quick demonstrations of various technologies and pitches from organizations who are working right now to help kids learn to code. I saw a demonstration from Popcorn and Scratch. I heard pitches from Ladies Learning to Code and Hive. I think I was impressed the most by everyone’s passion. They were all so determined that they went out there and put these projects together just to share with kids the opportunities and joys of learning to code despite the challenges and hurdles of bootstrapping altruistic projects.

We then formed discussion groups around various interesting topics to brainstorm ideas. One group discussed how we can bring programming into schools. Another group came up with suggestions on how to host “hack jam” events where kids and mentors can get together for a day and learn something cool. I joined a group to discuss how we could grow the community of people interested in helping kids to code. We discussed why we think Toronto is a great city to start building this community, how to facilitate engaging volunteers and supporting them, to tools we think would be useful for facilitators to run workshops and courses. At the end everyone presented their ideas and people who were interested in helping out could leave their emails under the respective group!

I think it’s a really great idea to teach kids how to code. We live in a world where computers power everything around us and I think teaching kids how to code can empower them to take control of that technology before it controls us. It also provides kids with opportunities to step into many different kinds of careers later in life. And the act of teaching kids to code can bring communities together and rediscover our roots in our communities — that passing on useful skills and knowledge isn’t solely the job of institutions.

I am looking forward to seeing what becomes of this evening. I put in my name to help develop the community. I’d also like to teach kids about the things I know; especially at-risk/disadvantaged youth and girls – I want to live in a world where STEM no longer continues to be a curriculum geared to just boys. Technology is liberating and programming is fun. I want to live in world where anyone can become involved in technology and more people are aware of computers and how they work. I think it will become increasingly important as computers become more ubiquitous and threaten to control more of our daily lives.

Plus, it’s what I would teach my kids so why not share?