Learning to code is much bigger than just getting a good paying job. It’s challenging, empowering and will help you change the world for the better.  Coding doesn’t discriminate, and neither does someone’s innate ability to learn to code.  No matter your race, religion – or sex – coding helps you think critically, and sharpens problem solving skills essential for any career.

Some unfortunately, don’t agree.  James Damore, a recently fired Google employee, wrote a 10-page memo about how Google’s efforts to improve diversity were misguided. One of his big arguments revolved around evolutionary psychology and how men and women are fundamentally different, implying that women aren’t as well suited to be coders. We wholeheartedly disagree and believe anyone and everyone can – and should! – code. Apparently, so does Google and most other companies in tech right now.  Take a look at the full Recode article.

There’s no denying that we’re a bit skewed today on the male/female ratio in computer science majors and jobs, but theCoderSchool is joining others in hopes of helping change that soon.

 Girl Coding Power, in our San Francisco location Girl Coding Power, in our San Francisco location

How Your Kids Can Learn to Code

Coding for Kids has become a hot and ever hotter movement, with STEAM or coding-specific schools popping up around the country.  Awesome organizations like code.org and Girls Who Code are helping to push the message to code, and the public school system is even getting into it, with some like San Francisco starting to require computer science in their curriculum.  As a parent, you’ve got lots of options these days, some better than others, but all better than nothing!  Let’s take a look at some of them, and along the way maybe help you decide what’s best for you.

1. Online Coding Courses

A quick and easy way to get set up is free online courses.  Sites like khanacademy or codecademy, or a host of others provide free online courses your kids can follow to learn the basics of coding.  Some of them allow some creativity in between as well, but they all provide some form of structure, some goal to get to the next chapter or level (e.g., “draw a circle”).

  • Pros – Easy to get on, often free
  • Cons – Not all kids understand the material, some just click to get to the end; many kids don’t have the discipline to self-learn much online; need a real person to generate passion, answer questions

2. In-Home or Online Tutors

Another common model is your good old traditional tutor.  Wyzant is a good online marketplace, and if you’re in the Bay Area, Breakout Mentors provides some great tutors too.  Many of these guys will come to your home, so that’s a big plus for the busy parents out there.  Start your dinner cooking while tutor shows up in the comfort of your home!

  • Pros – Tutors often come to your home or teach over Skype, so are quite convenient; Tutors often work in a small ratio (often private), and can customize what is taught
  • Cons – Kids learn alone, so don’t have a chance to connect with other kids and be inspired by others, or by a cool learning environment;  You’re also dependent on the single tutor – they may be sick or on vacation at times;  It’s up to you to find a new tutor and switch if the fit isn’t right

3. School Curriculum

These days there are plenty of school systems starting to get into the game, and providing a basic curriculum for all kids.  There’s even a consortium that helps support CS Teachers in schools  called CS For All.  Countries around the world like England and Vietnam are requiring their students to learn CS as part of a core curriculum, so we should too!

  • Pros – Super easy, just a part of the normal school day for your kids
  • Cons – Not every district has coding (in fact, most don’t quite yet); Those who do (e.g., San Francisco) are still early and going through some growing pains; Even when settled, the likelihood is the curriculum and learning will be aimed towards a wider audience, and will stick to basics

4. After School Programs at Your School

Schools in many part of the country are outsourcing some of the teaching work to businesses who can provide the coding education.  These programs are often at the school itself, and offered after the normal school day is over.  We at theCoderSchool offer this to some schools, as does other companies like Sparkiverse in the Bay Area and Coding With Kids in the Seattle area.

  • Pros – Super convenient, kids typically just walk over after school;  Can help parents with a form of “childcare” if parents aren’t able to pick up at normal time
  • Cons – Similar to coding programs at school, these typically don’t have the time or teacher ratio to get too far in depth; Typically use a static curriculum for all kids;

5. Coding Camps

Camps are a great way to spend some weeks in the summer.  One of the largest coding camp providers is IDTech, who offers their camps at various universities around the country.  theCoderSchool and many (most?) other STEAM or coding schools also offers summer programs and camps.

  • Pros – Great way to spend the week in the summer and get exposure to coding; Gets kids out of the house while parents are at work
  • Cons – Summer is a tough time to get kids to really dig in and learn;  Camps are often full or half day, with enough breaks so kids aren’t on a computer for six hours straight; Camps are short-term – like everything else, coding takes year-round constant practice

6. Coding Clubs

Lots of schools and kids at schools are starting to form coding clubs at their own schools.  Kids can meet kids with similar interests and really help each other develop skills.  Coder Dojo is a popular “super-club” where professional coders volunteer to teach kids the basics in free classes.

  • Pros – free, meet other kids with similar interests, great inspiration for each other
  • Cons – Some clubs aren’t meant for education so don’t have a teacher nor curriculum; Coder Dojo sessions are free but are fully booked very quickly; Typically don’t have a long term learning strategy – more for learning in spurts

7. Coding (and STEM/STEAM) Schools

Finally, coding schools!   These places specifically teach either just coding, or general engineering topics.  The movement to teach kids to code is really gaining steam (no pun intended!), so while these after-school businesses are popping up fast, they still aren’t quite in every city yet.  We’ve found three general styles of teaching for these schools:

  1. Curriculum Based – This just means your standard traditional school that you might think of, folks who offer classes for X number of weeks where a certain goal is presented.  For example, “take our 10 week Python Course for Beginners, and learn to do X by the end!”.  Many examples of these exist, iCode in Dallas or Zaniac, a national franchise, come to mind.
  2. Software Based – Some schools have spent time to create an online platform, using that platform to help guide kids through to learning new things – but combining that with in-person guides to keep the kids moving along.  Examples might include Hackingtons to an extent, and Codeverse in Chicago or the Ninjas in Houston.
  3. Staff Based – Finally, some schools (including theCoderSchool) feel their strength is the smarts of their staff (along with curriculum resources/tools) when teaching kids.  This often allows students to be taught in a more flexible manner, customized to the student.  Breakout Mentors (above) and Young Wonks in the Bay Area are some examples.

The pros of a coding-specific school is pretty obvious, all we do is this stuff!  So we have great experience and expertise.  The cons?  Well, I suppose we typically cost more than some other options – but if you’re itching to learn to code, you can guess that I’m biased and think a coding school is by far the best way to learn to code!

And, since I’m writing this blog, the best part is I can separate my own school and put it through the hype machine!  Yes, theCoderSchool teaches kids using amazingly fun and knowledge staff. We also have super-small ratios of 2:1 so we can really customize what we teach.  To top it off, we have a really cool energetic space to inspire and impassionate (is that a word?) a wide range of students.

So parents – what are you waiting for?  Whatever option you choose, it’s time to get your kids coding.  The future awaits!

The standard assumption is that in order to learn to code you need a computer. To some degree this is true, but not in all cases. In this article, we’ll present ideas and options for teaching coding concepts to kids without the use of a computer. We call this “Offline Coding”.  What better time to learn to code while being offline than during the summer. It’s always good to be balanced so even if you’re 100 percent into coding, theCoderSchool always recommends to not forget to participate in physical activities as well. The summer is a perfect time to try out offline coding. Go outdoors as well if you can and get some sunshine with vitamin D.

Offline coding is not only just something worthwhile because it can give your eyes a break combined with some physical exercise, but it can also be a nice and needed change of pace. Learning to code is not easy and grinding away on the computer for hours requires lots of breaks and at times a change of pace can really make a difference.

If all this sounds like it makes sense to you, and you’re interested in offline coding, here’s a few ideas for you.

Activities & Games

Teach kids about binary numbers which are the basis of all coding languages through a fun physical activity. Great for groups of 3-5 so if you have more, simply break them into a few different groups and perhaps make it a competition. The goal of the game is to line the kids up and have each of them represent one binary number, a zero or a one. But they have to be lined up and each becomes a one by raising their hand or remains a zero by keeping their hands down. There place is what’s key. So if you have 3 kids, the one on the far right can be a 1 or 0 with 1 or 0 being the value. The second one can be a 1 or 0, but their value is either a 2 or 0. The 3rd one can have a value of 4 or 0. You call out a number and they have to represent it as a team. It builds team and collaboration skills. You have to understand how binary works to run this activity, but it can be lots of fun.

Another fun activity is to have one kid be the sprite and the other kids have to take turns giving them specific instructions like turn 90 degrees and go 3 steps. You can build a coordinate playing field using cones for them to use. Be creative with this one as well and do all kinds of variations like having one kid be a sprite that has to get across the playing field as the other kids are trying to capture them. But each kid can only either turn of go 1-2 steps.

Teach the kids about sorting efficiency by having them all stand in a line and try to make the least amount of comparisons in order to get themselves in line sorted by height. You can also do this with bottles of water if that’s easier.

Play Techionary – This is essentially Pictionary but you only select technology items to draw. This can get the kids really in a frenzy of competitive fun!

Play Coding Simon Says – Kids have to do what Simon says, but mostly movements based on the x/y coordinate system. Simon says if you’re wearing a green shirt to move along the X axis 2 spaces.

Board Games

If free form activities and games aren’t your thing, you can always go with something more structured and known such as a purchased board game. There’s quite a few out there, but here’s a few of our favorites.

1. Code Master – This is a great board game which is fun for beginners up to advanced as well. It’s amazing how they’ve put these coding challenges into a fun board game. You have to try it to believe it.

2. Rush Hour – I’m sure you may have already seen this one as it’s quite popular. You’re forced to use your logic skills to get a car out of a a traffic jam.

3. Chocolate Fix – This one is similar to Rush Hour in that it’s super engaging and just about as popular. This tends to be a great one for the kids as its primary pieces are all cupcakes.

Other resources for Ideas

The field of teaching kids to code is growing quite fast and so are the resources. Here’s just a couple of the resources available that you can browse to get tons more great offline coding ideas.

https://code.org/curriculum/unplugged

http://csunplugged.org/

Summary

In order to learn to code, you will always need a computer in the end. We just want everyone to know that along your journey of learning to think like a coder, you can employ quite a few things that don’t require a computer to make it more fun, dynamic, and keep things interesting. Balance is the key. It’s not just with with diet, but pretty much everything is better and healthier in moderation. A Code Coach® from a Coder School can work with you to help maintain your healthy coder balance.

 Student in deep coding mode

Student in deep coding mode

When it comes to raising kids, our increasingly technology-heavy lives have hit a fork in the road. Parents are starting to wonder whether too much technology is good or bad for our kids’ growth, whether it’s time to limit exposure to tech – or to open up the possibilities. As a parent myself, I see how tech has become an accepted part of all our lives, but also how tech can overwhelm my own kids. But now isn’t the time to hold back – now is a time to guide, encourage, and expose our next generation to this tech so they form a good relationship with it, and so they are ready for their own future.

Sometimes, technology is designed so seamlessly that kids get lost in it while they use it. Ironically, that’s the goal of the tech companies – create something so seamless that users don’t need to think about it. But I say we fight against that. We turn our kids into Critical Thinkers of technology, not just users of it. By thinking through how technology might work, or why its designed in certain ways, we are setting a foundation for our kids to think critically about the things they use, things that they themselves may soon be a part of creating.

Almost any tech or application can be viewed with a critical thinking eye. Playing Pokemon Go? Ask how small businesses benefit, or talk about GPS position tracking. Spending $27 to buy Minecraft? Talk supply and demand pricing, or a license vs subscription model. Watch a lot of YouTube? Find out how youtube the company makes money, or how youtubers themselves become successful (it’s not easy!).

The best part is, it’s not the answer that’s important, it’s the thinking process. In fact, if you don’t know an answer, take it a step further and find out the answer together on the Internet. Not only is learning how to learn an important skill for kids – but now you’ve learned something too!

At theCoderSchool, we use this method every day. We encourage inquisitive, critical thinking not only through the code we build (“why did the tank disappear?”), but through the broad tech talks we hold (“how does Uber work?”). We even Google the answers to our own questions sometimes. By setting up a habit of critical thinking of everyday technology or applications, we set a foundation for next generation to think, learn, grow, and create.

Too often we parents get busy and let the computers and kids get lost in reality on their own. But just as there’s no substitute for a passionate Code Coach® that brings out the technical curiosity in our Coder School students, there’s no substitute for the engaged parent who teaches and learns along with their kids’ technology-heavy lives. So let’s find these teachable moments. What are you going to ask your kids today?

I have three kids, and they’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. But you know what? They also drive me crazy like no one else in the world can. If you’ve never thought that before about your own kids – well, I’d venture to guess you don’t have any! Owning a kids education business isn’t much different. Some days it’s “Who IS this spoiled brat?!?”, and other days, it’s “Wow, these kids are AMAZING!”. Like having real kids, the positive rewards of a Kids Ed business can certainly outweigh the negatives you’ll face. But unlike having real kids, you might actually make some money instead of spending it on the latest fidget spinners or doll craze!

I’ve been in the Kids Ed business for over 5 years now, having bought a School of Rock franchise (teaching kids to play rock music in a performance setting) and having created my own franchise system, the Coder School (teaching kids to program computers). I’d say you learn a thing or two after having thousands of kids – angels, brats, geniuses, OCD, ADD, even two blind kids – go through your schools. While I haven’t owned a restaurant, cleaning service, or retail business before, I can safely say there are a few things that make a Kids Ed business different.

So let’s dig into what makes a Kids Ed business the oxymoron that makes you love it but hate it too. Along the way, I’ll hopefully give you a sense of what it feels like to own one, and maybe even help you see if it’s right for you.

It’s Usually a Straightforward Business Model

Whether you’re teaching music, kung fu, or coding, these businesses usually have a pretty straightforward business model. There’s no food to spoil, no inventory to manage, no secret formulas to keep… Often, your main costs come down to labor and rent.

In my two schools, it’s about as straightforward as you can get. Parents pay a monthly fee at the start of the month, and I pay our instructors and coaches as they spend their time teaching kids. Add on a little bit of equipment here and there, and it’s a pretty simple business model.

Now does that mean the business is easy? Heck no! It means you’re focusing on other things, like quality, marketing, or scheduling – and especially customer relationships.

It’s All About the Parents. Oh yeah, the kids too.

Speaking of customer relationships, it’s uber-important in Kids Ed. When I first opened my Coder School, I spent almost the entire 5 hours we were open each day just chatting with parents and getting to know them. The kids are who you’re teaching – but your clients are really the parents. When they get to know you as a person, and trust that you’re taking care of their kid, it goes a long, long way towards customer retention (and it’s fun, too!).

I’ll give you a great example – my son’s dentist. This is a guy that I see maybe once every 6 months for about 2 minutes each time. Twice now, I’ve seen him outside of his office – once in a restaurant, and once at the airport – and both times he came up to me and said “Hey Hansel, how’s it going?”. My response? “Hey… there… guy… (and who are you again??)”! Here’s a guy who has hundreds of kids as patients, sees me for a few minutes a year, and he remembers my name when we’re outside his office. I’ll tell you what, I have no idea what he does to my kid’s teeth, but to me, he’s the best dentist in the world. VIP Customer Service – lots of effort, but worth its weight in gold!

Camps are nuts. Good nuts.

Many Kids Ed businesses will also run camps during the summer, and sometimes during holiday breaks as well. And – they’re nuts. Imagine a big group of kids stuck in a small-ish confined space for 6 hours a day, and you can picture the chaos that can ensue. There’s more breakage, more wear and tear, more bathroom usage – you name it, there’s an exponential amount of it when compared to the normal after school business. By the end of the summer, only the most patient of us aren’t praying for an early end to the camp season!

But camps aren’t just nuts – they’re GOOD nuts. Why? Because they can be pretty profitable! Summer camps double as day care for the busy parent who doesn’t have someone to watch their kids during the day, so there’s really a double-reason for good demand. Depending on the part of the country, some camps can charge upwards of $600-$1000 for a week of camp – that’s some serious camping!

Not all Kids Ed businesses can support camps, of course. Kumon or Mathnasium come to mind. Others like martial arts may or may not be strong camp contenders. STEM and Coding Camps these days are some of the higher-demand camps. So make sure you check your franchise business model – if it includes camps, there’s a good chance they’ll give your projections a boost.

Want a big emotional reward? You might find it.

Ever get tears in your eyes from a great taco? Goose bumps from a treadmill session? Probably not. But when you’re dealing with a kid education business, there’s a different emotional factor involved because they’re kids. Kids can do the most amazing things that can wow you like no adult can. I remember my first year at Coder School, there was an 11 year old kid who created a billiards game in Python. But instead of hitting a cue ball, you create gravitational anomalies that suck the cue ball towards it, using actual newtonian physics formulas. Now I’m a pretty good coder, been coding for 20 years. When I looked at his code, and I had no idea how it worked – that’s when I knew we were doing something special. Chills. Still feel ’em!

Helping kids get better at something is helping our next generation and helping our communities, so that in itself lends to some major gratification. Add on watching the kids grow and learn before your very eyes, and you’ll have something that can add up to an amazing emotional reward.

You Might Work Some Weird Hours

One of the negatives of managing a Kids Ed business is the hours they’re usually open. During the day, kids are usually at school – so most kids ed businesses aren’t open until school is out. That means your working hours are often 1-3pm doing admin work and then actually managing the business from 3pm-8pm. For you late-waker-uppers, starting work at 1pm might sound pretty cool. But for many of us who have kids, the working hours just happen to coincide with the hours you’d normally spend with your own kids. There are ways around it, no doubt (open on certain days, hire extra help, bring your kids to work), but it’s certainly a bit of a sacrifice. In fact, I recall that sacrifice being the hardest part of my first year as manager at both my School of Rock and Coder School – I just didn’t have a lot of time to spend with my own kids in the beginning.

So Is Kids Ed Right For You?

It depends. We’re not all built for the chaos of a big group of kids, but some of us thrive on it, and the rewards of helping kids. There are a lot more nuances to running a kids business like safety and insurance, the space and the staff, or even its potential for being somewhat recession resistant. So what’s the best way to find out if a Kids Ed franchise is right for you? Easy – just pick one and contact ’em. Good luck – we parents will thank you for it!

In this article we’ll discuss some ways to introduce and teach your 6 and under youngster how to code. Before we begin, let’s first make it clear that it’s actually absolutely fine not to teach your 6 year old coding. There’s plenty of other things that a 6 year old is still trying to learn such as reading, basic math, or even riding a bike.  But we know some parents might like to get a head start – so we thought why not write about it.

I have two daughters ages 4 and 6 so I have some relevant real world experience. Neither is currently actively learning to code. I did introduce my oldest to Minecraft when she requested it. She had some fun building structures in it, but then lost interest and I have not forced it. When she’s ready again, maybe next year, we’ll try it again, perhaps with a drag n’ drop platform. Of course if your child shows an interest and is a bit ahead of the curve with their reading and math, by all means, it’s a great idea to introduce them to coding via some very fun and engaging tools.Remember at this early an age, your kid probably won’t even be able to type well enough to learn any typed language coding. Also, keep in mind their cognitive development level and ability to process logic is still forming. At this young of an age, here’s a few ways to give them some exposure and introduce them to coding concepts.

Drag n’ Drop

The drag n’ drop coding platforms are a great way to go for young kids. These platforms remove the need to be able to type and any frustrations from syntax requirements, and can be good for even older kids.  MIT’s Scratch is one of the most popular of these languages – but generally we don’t tend to recommend that for the really young since there’s quite a bit of functionality to it.  For the under 6 set, we recommend a more contained version like Scratch Jr. or Hopscotch.  These are great iPad apps to get started, and are fairly self-driven and colorful with a simpler set of commands.

Engaging Logic Sites

There are many great logic sites for the youngster, but a couple of our favorites are:

1. Kodable (www.kodable.com) – This is a fun site for the youngsters to learn basic logic through fun logic challenges where they have to provide the steps and directions to navigate themselves from a starting point to an end point.

2. Code.org (www.code.org) – This is the ultimate site in trying to get everyone around the world to try coding. It has one of the best collections of fun logic games and challenges for kids to be entertained while also learning to code.

Offline Activities

Ironically you don’t have to be on a computer to start learning to code. Especially at such a young age, offline fun activities are a great way to get that coding mind started. Below are some of our favorite games:

1. Code Master – This is a great board game which is fun for beginners up to advanced as well. It’s amazing how they’ve put these coding challenges into a fun board game. You have to try it to believe it.

2. Rush Hour – I’m sure you may have already seen this one as it’s quite popular. You’re forced to use your logic skills to get a car out of a a traffic jam.

3. Chocolate Fix – This one is similar to Rush Hour in that it’s super engaging and just about as popular. This tends to be a great one for the kids as its primary pieces are all cupcakes.

Is your 6 year old Ready to code?

Don’t forget, coding isn’t for all 6 year olds!  Some just aren’t ready, and there’s plenty of time.  If they want to and are engaged though there are lots of different options available to get them started. And of course, all options are better when they are getting guidance and direction from a parent, or even better, a Code Coach® from a Coder School!

 LeBron James (Pro Basketball Player) LeBron James (Pro Basketball Player)

We don’t need more LeBrons, Drew Breezes, Adriana Limas, etc. But we do need more coders, scientists, and technologists. This is actually an old message that the technology world has known for quite some time, but it’s picking up STEAM (pun intended for those that know what STEAM is), now with the help of Verizon. Verizon is starting to really push this message to help our next generation realize this and hopefully influence their career choices just a bit. Let’s all join in and help teach more kids to code.

 Adriana Lima (SuperModel) Adriana Lima (SuperModel)

If you’re an adult reading this, I’m sure you can relate to when you were a kid and recall what you wanted to be. As with most kids, you want to be a model, pro football or basketball player, etc. No kids usually pick the software engineer as their dream job destination. And if you’re a kid reading this, I’m sure you probably would like to be a model or pro athlete. We all kinda do in general, but the key is the reality behind it. It’s actually fine to want to be a super model or pro athlete. The important thing is to at least be aware of the other options. Plenty of kids aren’t even aware of these other options and just focus on the really improbable careers with no back up. We’re not asking kids to give up their dreams of becoming Adriana Lima. What we are asking is to simply help them be aware of the facts and consider a few other options.

Just the Facts Ma’am

The facts show that there’s 4 million tech jobs right now and that it will continue to grow. According to code.org there’s over 500,000 open tech jobs right now! And it’s projected to be over 1M open tech jobs by 2020. That’s only 3 years from now and it’s almost an unbelievable amount of open jobs. This is not total jobs, but unfulfilled which is just ludicrous when you really think about it. Now you tell me, what do we need more of?

The Movement

Thanks to Verizon and the many others that all believe in this movement to help kids become more aware of the facts and options. And with more knowledge, will come more inspiration and change. Verizon has created a resurgence of this movement which is helping and there’s a very valid tagline “We Need More” and website to go along with it. They’ve created some really nice videos as well to help get this point across and reach more of the next generation.

theCoderSchool was formed with this movement to teach all kids to code in mind. Together with companies like Verizon, other coding/tech schools, Code Coaching®, STEM, and STEAM initiatives we can do this! We need more!

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!