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The Source Code

A Blog on Learning Coding and STEM skills

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

Since we opened 12.5 months ago, we have hired 18 staff in total, counting the 3 who accepted the offer but never showed up or started working at the studio due to personal conflicts or problems. We have interviewed and exchanged e-mails with over two dozen other candidates for the role of coding instructors and coding coordinators. Coding for kids sounds fun and rewarding, but committing for more than a few months requires more than just interest. Longevity requires mainly two things, assuming prospects are qualified for the role.

First, our teachers have another source of income and benefits, We are an after-school program teaching kids to code, and every child between the ages of 7 and 18 is in school during the day, whether homeschooled or at an institution. Outside of events and coding camps, we only open 20 hours a week and by appointment so our staff only works part-time. The studio coordinator works the most since he/she is there when MCP is open. Our teachers have other part-time or full-time jobs, or they are students.

Secondly, once the logistics work out and make sense for the candidate, what keeps them at My Coding Place, keeping them interested and performing well, is PASSION. I have always told people that most of our staff are not here for the paycheck and I still believe that to be true, which is what makes MCP a great place to work! Our instructors think coding is cool and want kids to be successful. I am regularly blown away by some of the things I hear being taught during lessons, such as sorting and binary search to 9 year olds! I love peeking in during camps and classes and seeing the teachers smiling and enjoying themselves, because kids are funny or they asked a funny question. Working with kids can be delightful but also requires patience, and our instructors work on that too. We talk about ideas for keeping kids engaged and how to be effective in communicating coding principles. One of our teachers just planned a theme-based Halloween activity that motivated the Robotics class with candy, and he dressed up for the class as well. Another teacher regularly tells me he isn't here for the paycheck, which I appreciate but, at the same time, he offers me a valuable service, one that keeps students coming back. We don't actually accept volunteers because we want to provide consistent and quality customer service to our families.

When I review the list of 18 current and former staff members, I am seriously impressed at their various skill sets and talents, ranging from technology teachers in the schools to software developers and consultants. Our current staff is dedicated and passionate, and I am grateful for their effort and dedication to the mission of reaching kids with the joys of coding. I wish I had more time to get them together for team events where they could talk about the latest movies or their hobbies, or coding exercises like FizzBuzz, which is used in software developer job interviews. I seriously heard that discussion at our last team meeting! Anyway, thank you to anyone who has worked at My Coding Place and formerly The Coder School. Thank you for joining me in this journey, and thank you for loving and believing in the power of coding and the need to pass it on!

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

As someone who learned to code in Pascal over 25 years ago, I thought coding was cool back then and still think the possibilities are vast and the opportunities endless. I accidentally learned to code because I wanted to take as many Advanced Placement classes as possible in high school, not because I knew what programming was or what it would involve. What I remember from that class is learning and writing Pascal to solve problems, and the challenges are what made it fun and something I wanted to continue to do in college.

If I were given the task today to write a story where a young dancer falls into a spaceship and travels to the moon, I would take her on a fun journey with her dog and best friend where she becomes an astronaut on her 19th birthday. Similarly, coding is fun because it involves problem-solving with an empty slate. There are many languages one can use to solve problems and multiple ways of solving the same problem. Coders can also use tools such as a graphics library to add a visual dimension. For example, a coding challenge might be to create a guessing game where the computer randomly picks a number from 1 to 25 and the user has to guess the number. Such a game could be developed using a drag-and-drop block coding interface, web design tools, or Python. A UI could be developed where the numbers 1 through 25 are blocks that need to be clicked on, or the game could be text-based with a timer added for fun.

In two weeks, My Coding Place will have our one-year anniversary party and open house. One year ago on this date, Oct 6, 2018, our friends were helping us assemble chairs, furniture, and computers to get ready for our Grand Opening event on Oct 13. What a crazy year it's been with over 175 students visiting us, 18 staff members coming and going, and a name change from theCoderSchool franchise to our own brand called My Coding Place. Or, as our kids call it, Mommy's Coding Place. Thanks to all our friends and our community for supporting our studio. We look forward to growing and reaching more kids with the joys of coding!

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

It is common today to hear the terms 'coding' and 'computer science' used interchangeably, which leads people to believe they mean the same thing. They are related, but pretty different and should not be confused with each other. Computer science involves coding, but coding does not always involve computer science. I've heard it said that computer science is what you pay to learn and coding is what you get paid to do. If a child enjoys or excels at computer programming, they may think that they want to continue pursuing and studying coding in college. However, coding is not a major or degree program, and people interested in coding can sign up for Computer Science degrees and have the opportunity to do a lot of coding.

Coding, or computer programming, is the act of writing instructions for a computer to execute. Coding requires knowing the rules of a programming language and writing code, or instructions, in that language, in order to solve a problem. Why should kids and adults learn to code? Because it's fun and helpful to expand the way we think, similar to learning a foreign language. Coding is very practical and a useful skill to learn.

Computer science, in contrast, is a mathematical science and deals with the theoretical foundations of information and computation. Computer science is theoretical and was around before computers were created. It involves the study of compilers and architecture, operating systems, number systems, algorithms and algorithmic efficiency. If you are wondering why coding using a specific approach is faster than a different approach, computer science can explain that. You don't need a computer science degree to be a programmer, but a programmer with a CS background will have a better understanding of the behavior of computer programs.

In summary, people use these two terms interchangeably but it's helpful to understand that coding and computer science are different and to identify which term is most appropriate for the author/writer in their context. Studying a subject in college? Computer Science. Learning the rules of a language? Could be either. Learning a sorting algorithm? Probably Computer Science unless you are just sorting for fun. Taking a test? Could be for a coding interview or for Computer Science. Note that a Computer Science degree always requires coding, and that is why any of these actions could involve the Computer Science discipline. Coding is learned in Computer Science classes, but it can be learned outside of class too. The simplest way to think of the difference is coding is a hobby, interest, and activity, whereas computer science is a science and field of study to understand the mathematics and principles behind coding.