At theCoderSchool most of the students are your typical kids between the ages of 7-18. The typical CoderSchool students have a passion for learning and are excited about what they’re learning. This article however is not about them. It’s about a couple of very unique CoderSchool students that have a passion and determination to learn that goes far beyond any normal expectations.

Whether you’re a coder or not, I’m sure you have some level of appreciation for the effort it takes to learn to code. It’s just like learning anything worthwhile; it will take time and much effort. I’m also sure that everyone reading this has probably at least used a computer, unless perhaps you’re Amish. And even then, I understand, you probably have still used a computer but may not have owned one. So regardless, pretty much everyone can envision themselves using a computer. Now try picturing using a computer without any sight. That’s right; it’s suddenly not so easy to even imagine how you would accomplish the simplest of navigation on the screen. Now take it one step further and try to imagine what it might be like to learn to code without being able to see. There’s one exceptional student at theCoderSchool who’s blind and learning to code in Python. I don’t think words can describe his amount of desire and determination to be able to do this along with his Code Coach®. It actually takes a tremendous amount of effort as a team for both student and Code Coach®. There are unimaginable hurdles that most simply take for granted as they don’t have to deal with them.

Hurdles of being a Blind Student Learning to Code

When our Code Coach®, Jason Mortensen, first started teaching this student it was all new to him. He quickly realized the most simple techniques and strategies wouldn’t work. Using the internet is an obvious source of information for everyone nowadays. Jason quickly found that it’s not that useful when having to use a text to audio translation as it takes quite long to render and read and when there’s an image it doesn’t work so well since images can’t be translated. Didn’t think of that one right? No one probably would unless forced to deal with it.  Even trying to use the language cheat sheets isn’t that straightforward as the descriptions and code are usually delineated by using color. What he ended up doing is creating custom cheat sheets with clear labels saying things like “This is a description” or “This is code”.    Picking his language was also very important as you don’t want to pick one that’s too syntax regulated as your starting point. Suddenly the phrase nested curly brackets is pretty overwhelming. And again, these are generally delineated using underlines in text editors which is another visual indicator. Even dealing with spaces can present a problem as most text translators will treat a group of spaces as just one and if you know Python, the number of spaces preceding a line of code is critical. I mention the hurdles above and these are just a small sample to give you a clue as to what they are overcoming together to teach and learn to code. They’re going down the path of working on logical, mathematical, and text based games mainly and making great strides.  I had the privilege to shadow one of their sessions and was awestruck by both the student’s and Code Coach’s® passion, desire, patience, and care towards achieving their goal.

82 Year Old Student Learning to Code

The second unique CoderSchool student is an 82 year old gentleman who has now decided he wants to learn to code. Can you believe that? I couldn’t at first either, but it’s true. He’s 82 years young and wants to learn about web development so he can build his own website and blog. It just goes to show you with emphasis that it’s truly never too late to learn to code. Coincidentally our same Code Coach®, Jason, is also teaching him. He is a very unique student as is the student mentioned above. But they’re quite similar in a lot of ways too. They both have an amazing passion and determination to learn to code. Neither will let anything get in their way. And I do mean anything. If being blind or 82 years old doesn’t stop you, I don’t think anything will. Jason faces a different set of challenges with this student, but applying the same custom Code Coaching® methodology he is able to create engaging lessons that are allowing his 82 year old student to learn and make progress. If he were using a one size fits all curriculum it certainly would never work for both of these students.

Our Code Coaches® Learn too by Teaching

 Code Coach® Jason Mortensen Code Coach® Jason Mortensen

These two students have had as much if not more of an effect on their Code Coach®, Jason, as he has had on them. All of our Code Coaches® learn from teaching their students in the natural way as there’s no better way to hone your skills than by teaching them to someone else. In the case of these two students though, Jason has been able to gain an appreciation and respect he probably would not be able to unless given the opportunity to teach these two. Jason now has such an appreciation for things he always took for granted before like just being able to see the computer screen. He said this appreciation will hopefully last the rest of his life and gives him a better perspective on how he goes about dealing with other challenges in his own life.

 Worldwide Coding Schools of IAYCE Worldwide Coding Schools of IAYCE

One of the coolest things I’ve been able to do since starting the Coder School is meet folks around the world who are doing the same thing we are.  As it turns out, there’s a lot of coding schools around the world that are also teaching kids to code.  That’s why I co-founded IAYCE, an international alliance of coding educators.  This blog is a collection of schools I’ve come across (both in and not in IAYCE), but more than that, it’s an inspiration to us all that the entire world is teaching kids to code!

Believe me when I say it’s a really cool feeling to know that we’re part of this ever-important worldwide movement to teach kids to code – so high-five to each and every one of the schools on this blog!  While I’ve met most of the founders, I certainly can’t purport to know everything about how they’re running their company.  Each has their own methods and coding curriculums or code-learning platforms, but we’re all after the same awesome goal – get more kids coding!

Apologies in advance if I messed up any descriptions (email me at hansel@thecoderschool.com if I’m totally off on anything below!).

Before I go on, note that I’m only talking about coding schools, schools that predominantly teach kids under 18 how to code, that predominantly take kids into their location to teach, that seem to be expanding to new locations.  There’s tons more schools that only teach offsite, or maybe teach STEM and not just coding, or maybe only teach coding camps (ahem, IDTech!), or maybe is just sticking to one mom-and-pop location… so just a heads up I’m not ignoring them – just trying to make this blog a little shorter than a book!

First, the United States

It may come as no surprise that I’ve generally found more coding schools in the US than other countries.  Perhaps it’s the economy here, perhaps it’s that we’re behind the curve here, or perhaps it’s just because I live here!  I certainly haven’t found the full list of all coding schools (so email me if you feel like you belong on this list!), but here’s a subset of some of the more prevalent ones we know of (besides the Coder School, of course!):

  • Hackingtons – Founded and run by a guy named Matt, these guys are super cool.  They predominantly teach web related technologies like HTML and Javascript, and have popped up many locations around northern California.  Matt once said he’s going to be the Starbucks of coding schools – right on, Matt!
  • U-Code – These guys are taking over the Southern California market with plenty of power and bucks in their bank (they’ve raised some significant capital to get more kids coding!!).  Scott founded this bad boy way back in the day, and was one of the original coding schools.  Way to head up the trend, Scott!
  • Codeverse – Can’t say I know much about these guys other than that they’re based in Chicago area, and have an amazing looking space!  Founded by some apparently pretty awesome serial entrepreneurs, I think they’re targeting something like teaching a billion kids to code?!?  (wow, are there even that many kids in the world?!)  Congrats Katy, for pushing the envelope!  Can’t wait to see these guys grow (they’re fairly young, having started in late 2017).
  • MVCodeClub – Founded by Doug up north of San Francisco (MV stands for Mill Valley), these guys were the FIRST ones I ever read about in an article.  They’ve since spread their wings to locations across the bay, congrats Doug!  MVCodeClub is another original gangsta, having started in the 2013 timeframe.
  • iCode – Based in Dallas, these guys were one of the first to start franchising, at about the same time we did.  Founder Abid has created this insane looking super-awesome class A facility in Frisco where kids can code, make robots, all kinds of cool stuff!  Don’t miss them if you’re in Frisco (and don’t miss our own Frisco site either!).
  • Code Ninjas – Ah, the ninjas!  They’re the other big franchisors in the market, and have created some cool cool stuff.  They’ve created an awesome platform that teaches kids to code in a really fun and engaging way.  Founded by Dave with help from Marty, these guys have lots of franchise experience and will be competing hard against, and with, us for franchisees! =)  Love these guys though, not a bad thing at all to say about them, make sure to check em out if you’re looking into franchising!
  • Coding With Kids – Started in the Seattle area back in 2012, these guys have since grown to a bunch of locations around the country!  With classes often in shared spaces with other like-minded businesses, these guys are showing us that there’s demand around the country for coding!

Now, the World!

Ok now let’s get interesting, and see why it’s so cool to see and hear about kids from around the world learning to code.  The schools named below are part of IAYCE, an alliance that I co-founded with a friend down in Brazil who helped found Madcode.  I have to say, one of our prouder moments was being on a video call with 8 different coding schools from around the world, all talking about our best practices. Incredible!!

  • MadCode (Brazil) – Our original IAYCE partners, Alex, Danny and Ralf have done some amazing things in Brazil with MadCode.  With their own Portugese platform for teaching kids to code, their model revolves a bit more around teach at schools (though they do have their own branded locations).  They’ve even taught coding to thousands of kids in favelas (Brazilian “slums”) through partnerships with Accenture and SAP.  They were recently bought by Cel.lep, a network of schools in the Brazil area, ready to add coding to all their schools!  Congrats MadCode, and good luck on your upcoming expansion!
  • Computhink (Singapore) – David’s been at it in Singapore since way before we contacted him.  With such a math and science oriented country, you can believe he’s kicking butt!  Computhink offers classes from Scratch to Python and beyond.
  • Code4fun (Australia) – Grigory hails from Russia actually, but started Code4fun with his wife in Australia.  Getting their start by teaching in art galleries, Code4fun’s since expanded their curriculum to include more advanced stuff like Unity.  G’day, mates!!
  • Hatch (Canada) – Peter’s definitely the fun guy of the bunch, hailing from UPenn down in the states.  Hatch has created their own awesome platform based on Javascript, and is taking Canada by storm, eh?!
  • Koding Kingdom (Hong Kong) – John’s a serial business guy who decided there’s an awesome opportunity for coding in Hong Kong, and boy, is there!  John is also the first to partner with IDTech to provide their camps in Hong Kong – congrats!!
  • Arukay (Columbia) – I haven’t had a chance to talk to Vicki too much, but I know she’s busy!  Arukay has an array of other subjects they teach as well, and is one of the few in our group that’s not coding-specific.  They’re about to expand into Python, and we’re exchanging best practice info on how to do so – cool, right?!  Alliance powers, activate!
  • Maker Cocuk (Turkey) – Zeynep and friends at Maker Cocuk have a great curriculum style similar to ours where they go from technology to technology somewhat quickly, introducing kids to a wide array of tech from straight coding to robotics and even maker stuff!  Kudos to all the cool stuff Zeynep has been doing – can’t be easy with all the unrest in Turkey.  Great job Zeynep!
  • Ghana Code Club (Ghana) – Tina impresses me most out of them all!  Not a coder by trade, Tina has seen the need in the small country of Ghana in West Africa for the future generation to learn these basic technology skills, went and taught herself to code – and voila!  Ghana Code Club!  Coding classes to many kids who can barely afford a computer – can you believe that?  Kudos to Tina!

Now not everyone has joined IAYCE – we’re not THAT cool yet!  Here’s a list of some of the other schools we found around the world – kudos to all of you guys!

Who Else is There?

I don’t know!  But look at the list above again, isn’t it incredible??  Think of how many tens of thousands of kids are learning to code in a coding school somewhere around the world.  This is what it’s all about folks, this is the feeling of being part of something bigger.

How bout you, are you ready to join the movement and start your own coding school?  If you’re in United States, check out our franchising program!  (sorry, despite the many, many requests I’ve had for franchising internationally, it’s simply not something I’m yet ready for.)

Code on, friends!

The tortoise always beats the hare in the long run and in coding! This is a classic but oh so true tale of trying to go too fast and failing versus taking your time, steady and slowly, but achieving your goal. This classic tale epitomizes theCoderSchool’s philosophy of allowing its students to go at their own pace and making sure that they’re always engaged and having fun too. The other route of pushing too hard can help achieve short term goals, but in the end, the student will too often end up quitting and not returning. In comparison, when the student is allowed to go at their own pace working on projects that interest them, they tend to have a lifelong connection with coding and technology and will continue their journey with coding and technology rather than quit and be afraid. And even worse, for the rest of their lives have an animosity towards technology.

Can you teach my 7 year old java?

At theCoderSchool, we have parents quite often wanting us to teach their very young kids java. They want their child to excel so what better way to get ahead than by learning java right? This should be the obvious choice right because it’s a very popular language and quite complex so by learning java you’ll clearly get a jump on the rest of the world. There’s just one, well actually quite a few, problems with this approach. In general, unless your kid is the next Marc Zuckerberg, they simply aren’t going to be ready to learn and absorb a language like java at this young age. They may be able to get some exposure through Minecraft mods, but note that Minecraft mods do not require a full understanding of the logic and rigor involved in truly creating a java program from scratch. It’s more about following steps and then making adjustments to existing code to make changes. This is still great in many ways as it’s engaging and keeps the kids interested, but it is not learning java at its core.

General Progression of Cognitive Development

The better route is to remind ourselves of the general progression of cognitive development and make sure what you’re trying to teach is within the realms of what your student is physically and developmentally ready for. If you don’t get this right, you will be striking out pretty fast!  At theCoderSchool, we want to focus on teaching kids logic and how to think like a coder. Based on our experience, we found that 7 seems to be the right age at which our students are able to start and progress with logic – so that’s a great time to start with languages like Scratch or Snap!. Though there’s a vast market for the younger kids, we passed on this as we would then be spreading ourselves towards just exposure rather than always being able to focus on teaching kids logic and  how to think like a coder. We also, then found that a second milestone was around age 10-12 where we could easily start getting them into the typed languages and introducing them to more abstract logic – so we typically go with Python or Javascript at this point. And eventually move into a full object-oriented language like java around age 15. There are always exceptions, but this is the most common path that we are experiencing and works well. Interestingly, when we compared our progression with a famous developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, it lined up almost to a tee. In short, his studies showed that up until age 7, kids are mostly still developing sensorimotor and pre-operational skills. Only as they approach 7 are they really starting to hit some operational and fundamental logic skills which is the perfect time to start honing those skills through learning to code a block language like Scratch. His studies also showed that it’s not until age 11 or 12 that kids start to really develop concrete operational skills which are required for more abstract logic. And what do you know, it just so happens to also be a good age to dive into typed languages like Python and Javascript, along with some of the abstract logic coding concepts. Piaget was born in 1896, so we certainly aren’t the ones discovering this, we’re just finding out that he was pretty spot on as it relates to coding! Kudos to Jean Piaget!

Conclusion

In summary, don’t be in a rush to have your kids conquer any one language, but rather make sure they’re engaged and enjoying what they’re working on. Focus on the fundamentals and building blocks in any language or platform. Go too fast, and you risk your student losing interest, and tipping over your Coder Tree!  When you can mix the fundamentals with engagement and fun guided by a Code Coach®, the sky is the limit!

Many of you out there have probably heard of the Hour of Code, and the folks behind it, code.org.  Started in early 2013 by Hadi and Ali Partovi, these guys have done an incredible job of impacting the world of computer science education for kids.  Since their founding, code.org has helped millions of kids in the U.S. and around the world learn to code, and hundreds of thousands of teachers get set up to teach coding to kids.  These guys have been instrumental to the still-nascent industry of teaching kids to code, so we really wanted to give them a shout-out by blogging about them!

Check out some of the awesome stuff on their site:

Coding Statistics

We all know kids need to learn to code, but ah, can you quantify it?  Now you can! Check out some of these amazing stats from their stats page:
* There are currently about 500,000 open computing jobs nationwide.  But last year, only about 40,000 computer science students graduated into the workforce.
* A computer science major can earn 40% more than the college average
* Women who try AP Computer Science in high school are 10x more likely to major in it in college.  Blacks and Hispanics are 7x more likely.
* 90% of parents want their children to learn computer science, but only 40% of schools teach computer programming

Whoa, those are some serious stats!  Coding for kids is no joke!

Coding Platforms for Students

If you’re a student wanting to code, check out their Learn tab and you’ll see a few options, including some fairly self-guided options.  They’ve created two cool coding platforms, one targeted at younger kids (Code Studio) and one aimed more for older kids (App Lab).  This is also where you’d go if you want to do an Hour of Code at your school.  You’ll also find lots of links to other tutorial sites to get your kids up and running asap, not a lot of prep needed!

Coding Curriculums for Teachers

If you’re a teacher with kids chomping at the bit (haha, is that a pun?) to code, check out this section by clicking on Teach.  You’ll find curriculums you can use to teach kids, broken up into elementary, middle, and high school.  It looks like they’re still working on rolling out their high school curriculum at the time of this blog.  The best part of all these curriculums is they’re free!  But sorry, they don’t come with a robot teacher – you’ll need to fill that position yourself!

Hour of Code

If you’ve never heard of Hour of Code, then you’ve definitely been living under the proverbial rock, at least as it relates to coding for kids.  code.org has done an amazing job of making this an almost ubiquitous term, known by teachers around the country.  Hour of Code originally started as an hour during Computer Science Education Week in December where kids around the country spend an hour learning to code, and has since spawned a life of its own where almost half a BILLION kids have tried it and been exposed to coding.  That’s a lot of kids!

What’s Next?

There’s much more to code.org, so if you have a sec, make sure to check out their site.  You’ll also find great quotes from big names like Sheryl Sandberg, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and even a cool video with celebrity athletes like Draymond Green and Serena Williams that want your kid to learn to code!  If that doesn’t make you wanna grab your kid right now and throw them into learning to code, I don’t know what will!  Kudos to Hadi and all his great work, we look forward to plenty more awesomeness to come!

Shameless plug moment, while code.org has amazing resources, it doesn’t come with a personal Code Coach® (at least not until they’ve figured out how to 3D print a person to your house!).  We at the Coder School believe that learning to code is best done with the guidance of an experienced coder and in a social and cool environment with other students.  So go out and find a teacher, a mentor, or a Code Coach®, and let’s get our next generation ready.  Learn to Code.  Change the World.®