Hi all,

Over the last few months we have been asked to run introductory coding sessions for a few different organisations. For the most part, the people attending the courses have had very little experience in this space and are curious to know what’s going on.

They are there because they might have read an article about the increased need for coders, maybe their employers see value in digital transformation and recognise that their staff need to keep in the loop with the changes that are happening. So… given two hours: what do you do?

 (image: gettingsmart.com)

Start by framing the session. What motivated people to be in this room? How long have they been thinking about learning to code? What do they think learning to code will bring them?

The people I speak with generally agree that technology is rapidly reshaping our world. But this isn’t news -they have known that for a while. Technology has been rapidly shaping our world for several decades. The difference is that as you get older, you notice it more and are more driven to find ways to keep in touch. You remember the days of looking things up in street directories, ordering goods from the back of magazines or calling the airlines to see if your plane is still leaving on time… an suddenly notice that its all changed. Not action hasn’t changed – just the way we do it.

I’m always interested in what motivated people to investigate this new skill now? Its possible that the rate of technological change has increased over the last decade – the advent of the smart phone and the presence of ubiquitous high speed internet has bought in a new wave of change. They have also lowered the technological barriers to entry – it is now possible for people to make basic apps and trial them on their phones with very little cost (thanks AppInventor!).

So what can people learn in a two hour session? They can learn not to be afraid of technology – two hours is enough to demystify coding and take the first steps. There will never be a right time to start learning these skills. The right time was years ago – probably around kindergarten or year 3. Everything we do after that is playing catchup.

After two hours people can:

  • Leave a session informed about major technology trends (data, mobile, localisation, cloud, social, security, internet of things etc)
  • Write their first lines of code – often using Code.org’s online resources
  • Play with their first circuits (using Arduinos)
  • Understand the next steps (such as going through an Arduino starter kit, or heading to Coursera.org for more lessons)

Individually these things are very simple – making a Flappy Bird game is fun, but does not a coder make – but together they can be the start of a massive learning experience. Something that a few hours earlier seemed relatively impenetrable.

When running these sessions – its also important to try and tie the learning back to people’s everyday lives. This could mean outlining ways they could soon find themselves working with developers and needing to speak a common language. It could mean they are interested on more information for their children or students. It could mean they have a business idea and want to sketch out the tech before hiring a more experienced developer.

Whatever the reason – learning the basics of coding, understanding technology trends and understanding technology as a solution to societies challenges has clear benefits.