I am a geek, and my passion is creating insanely great software. It all started back when I was 11 years old and saw my first computer. A light bulb went off, and programming instantly became the most awesome thing in the world to me. By the time I was in high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life: write code.
Now, well into my career, I feel incredibly lucky that my job is really my hobby, and my hobby is really my job. My day job is to head up mobile development at a D.C. science and technology think tank, and I love what I do. If you want to know more about me, see my LinkedIn profile here.
I credit many of my professional successes to my early exposure to coding. So, when my son turned 11, I started looking around for a coding class for him, and quickly found that none did it “right” as far as I was concerned. I found two big problems:
Instead of teaching kids to use professional tools to build “real” software, all of the available classes offered some sort of “baby” programming in a sandbox environment; and
Instead of offering a well-designed curriculum over the course of several years, all of the available classes offered short-term “sessions.” Those taught the basics of some language or tool without offering any continuity or depth, and did not get kids to the point where they could truly apply the skills learned.
I wanted better for my son. So, in 2015, partially for my son’s sake and partially for my own, I took the plunge and started <HelloWorld/> Coding Club, where kids learn programming using real languages and tools, and where the curriculum builds onto itself until the students are able to build real applications.
On that first point, I learned from experience that kids can be plenty smart and can appreciate and “get” real things; things don’t need to be dumbed down for them. And kids who are into coding not only don’t need the “crutches” often handed to them in other kids’ coding classes, but also truly appreciate the “real” experience.
As to the second point, <HelloWorld/> teaches a comprehensive, three-year curriculum that results in the students acquiring the critical mass of knowledge necessary to build interesting, sophisticated software projects. What we offer is not a “one-off” summer camp or a two-week class that ends almost as soon as it begins, leaving the student with insufficient skills to build anything cool and no choice but to take another, similarly basic, session covering a different language or tool. We teach a carefully-thought-out computer science curriculum that equips our students with a comprehensive toolbox for programming out in the wild.
We don’t just teach kids to punch out code; we teach them to think like software developers.
As I was thinking through this educational approach and discovering the way kids learn, I also happened to discover that I loved teaching. Few things are as gratifying as seeing a kid’s eyes light up when they realize that coding is not “voodoo,” that they can do it themselves, and that it’s a lot of fun!
I’m in my 9th year of running <HelloWorld/>, and I hope to continue bringing the rewards of coding (and reaping the rewards of teaching!) with many more crops of students.