How I Taught Myself to Code: Hello World!

I had to use keyboard commands like a dinosaur

There are so many resources out there for learning to code these days that it can be next to impossible to know where to start.  As the sole programmer for Kodable (for now – we’re hiring!), I am completely self-taught.  I have never taken a formal programming class in my entire life.

In less than 4 years, I taught myself everything I needed to know to build an app that is currently used by over a million kids around the world.

In this 3-part series, I will share with you my journey from learning to code at 6 to founding Kodable. Hopefully this will inspire your own programming journey!

Back In the Dinosaur Age

My first initial exposure to programming was when I was only 6 years old. I learned programming on this ancient Toshiba computerMy computer was an old Toshiba that looked exactly like this   Remember those days?  Truthfully, I was always in trouble as a child.  If you don’t believe me, ask my parents, but be sure to put aside a few hours.  Anyways, I was always grounded, and my parents would let me play on this ancient computer because they refused to believe that I could have any fun on it.

The battery didn’t work, so I could only use it plugged in, and it didn’t even have a mouse! I had to use keyboard shortcuts like some kind of caveman or dinosaur!

I had to use keyboard commands like a dinosaur Eventually, I started tinkering with the system and ended up finding the BASIC compiler in MS-DOS.  After playing with it for a bit I ended up having my parents take me to Barnes and Noble to buy a few programming books.  This led to the creation of my first program, which was a password program that would start when you booted up the computer.  If the user entered the password correctly, the program would let you access the computer.  But if the user inputed the wrong password, it would say, “You’re an idiot! Try again.”  Like I said, I was always causing trouble as a kid.

After this, I continued tinkering for a few months and even tried to tackle C++, but that turned out to be a bit too intimidating for me at the time, and I ended up losing interest.  I didn’t program again until halfway through college 15 years later.

Learning to Code (Again)

Learning programming on basic as a young studentEven though I wasn’t writing code, the way I had learned to think like a programmer stayed with me.  In school, I would constantly find myself analyzing problems using programmer logic.  For example, I would often look at things in terms of if-then-else statements: If this happens, I will do X, otherwise I will do Y.  This ability was invaluable as I made my way through high school, college, and especially when I began to teach myself programming.

As a student at the University of Louisville in the Entrepreneurship program, I knew I wanted to start my own business.  I also knew that I wanted to do something in technology, but it quickly became apparent to me that I couldn’t do this without some sort of technical ability.

At the time, it was too late to change my major, and I also didn’t want to rely on someone else to build my dream for me.

I decided to teach myself programming (again)So halfway through college, I decided to teach myself programming (again).

In Part 2 of this series, I will detail exactly how I carved my path through the maze of programming materials available, and hopefully give you some friendly advice and direction for your own journey as well!

Read Part 2: Avoiding the Cliff

#KidsCanCode Chat: Teach Programming Like the Hobbit

Utilize your strengths when teaching code
Couldn’t make this week’s #KidsCanCode chat?  Catch up on what you missed as we discussed everything from collaborative programming to STEAM to Spy Robots!

Join us every Tuesday at 8pm EST for our #KidsCanCode Chat!

How to Participate in a #KidsCanCode Twitter Chat

Kodable Twitter Chat

For the past month, I have been hosting a weekly programming education Twitter chat on Tuesdays at 8pm EST called #KidsCanCode. Every week, there are new participants who are unsure about what a Twitter chat is or how to participate in one. So here is a quick guide to Twitter chats!

What is a Twitter chat?

Twitter chats are like an online party where groups of people with similar interests come together at a designated time to talk about a specified topic. Some chats occur weekly, some are bi-weekly such as #KidsCanCode, and others are monthly. It all depends on the moderators and the amount of participation.

The chats take place using a common hashtag. Using a hashtag allows anyone on twitter to follow the conversation. It is like a key word that links tweets together.

#KidsCanCode Twitter Chat

Here’s an example of what you might see when you click on the #KidsCanCode hashtag. All of these people used “#kidscancode” in their tweet, therefore Twitter lumps them together so you can read everything in one place.

 

How to participate in a Twitter chat

To participate in a Twitter chat you can use Twitter or some other Twitter software. I prefer to use TweetDeck or Hootsuite, because they allow you to open multiple columns.

Set up a column for #KidsCanCode in your TweetDeck

I usually keep one column open for the chat I am currently in, and one next to it with all of my interactions. I like this layout because I can see the chat while also seeing the separate conversations I have going on. You’ll find your own preferences as you get used to chatting on Twitter.

Once you install or create a free account on Hootsuite or TweetDeck, you need to create a column for the chat. In TweetDeck, you can do this from the side panel.

  1. Click the magnifying glass, and type in the hashtag for the chat you want to follow.  For example, type in #KidsCanCode. Search for #KidsCanCode
  2. When the chat comes up, click “Add Column” button at the bottom of the window and a #KidsCanCode column will appear.                                        Input the hashtag #KidsCanCode

How Twitter chats work

Now that you’re set up and ready to begin your first chat, it is important to know how they work. Twitter chats come in many different formats. Some chats are question and answer, others are focused on a guest, some are broken into conversation segments, and others are a free flowing conversation.

Most education related chats such as #KidsCanCode follow the Q and A format. I’ll go over participating in this format, since these are the ones I prefer and have the most experience doing.

The moderator will have 5 or 6 questions prepared for the chat ahead of time. Every few minutes they will announce a question using one of the following formats.

  • Q1: What is your favorite color? #colorchat
  • QUESTION1: What is your favorite color? #colorchat
  • ——> Q1: What is your favorite color? #colorchat

When you see the question, you can respond using “A” and the question number.

A1: My favorite color is purple! #colorchat

It is important to include the hashtag at the end of each of your tweets so everyone can see it.

Some final tips

Twitter chats are a lot of fun, especially when you find a group of people you really enjoy. Hang in there and try a few different chats to find a group you click with.

Here is a list of all the education related chats that are available.

Larger chats like #edchat and #edtechchat move very quickly, so don’t worry if you fall behind at first. Eventually you will get the hang of it.

Join us for #KidsCanCode!

Now that you know all about Twitter chats, get out there, start tweeting, and join our #KidsCanCode chat!