Friday, July 10, 2015

Code Studio rocks; diversity does, too

If you want to quickly get some kids introduced to computer programming concepts, you could do a lot worse than using Code Studio from That's what I did the last couple weeks - took two hours to lightly shepherd the Dayton YWCA day camp through a programming intro.

It's really well-organized and easy to understand - frankly, it pretty much drives itself. It's based on block-dragging for turtle graphics and/or simple 2D games, all easy and appealing stuff. (They even got their turtle graphics branded as the sisters from Frozen ice-skating!) I didn't need to do much more than stand there and demonstrate that programmers actually exist in the flesh, and occasionally nudge a student over a bump. Though, by pair programming, they did most of the nudging themselves.

Here's most of my awesome class. Sorry I'm as bad at photography as at CSS.

Hey - we got demographics, huh? Right - if you announce that you're teaching a coding class through your usual geeky circles, they spread the word among their circles and recruit you a class that looks pretty much like the industry already looks. And if you seek a venue through your geeky circles, the usual suspects will step up to host. In badly segregated Dayton, that means "as far from the colored parts of town as possible." That's less than inviting to the people who don't live there.

But if you partner with groups that already have connections in diverse communities - like the YWCA, which makes anti-racism one of its keystones - getting some fresh faces can be pretty easy! And there are venues available outside the bleached-white exurbs you're used to - you just need to think to look.

Another benefit of Code Studio is that it's entirely web-based, so you don't need to restrict your demographics to "kids whose parents can afford to get them laptops". The public library's computer classroom did the job with flying colors.

Seriously, this was about the easiest outreach I've ever done. I'm working on the follow-up, but I think I'll be able to find further lazy options. Quite likely it will leverage CodeAcademy. So, what's your excuse for not doing it in your city?

Now, in other news: You are running out of time to register for PyOhio, a fantastic, friendly, free, all-levels Python conference, and my pride and joy. The schedule is amazing this year, and for better or for worse, I'm keynoting. So please come and add to my terror.