5 Ways to Teach Programming Like The Hobbit

teach programming like the hobbit

Wait a second; I know what you are thinking.  What on earth does instituting a programming curriculum in your class or school have to do with The Hobbit? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot actually.

Venture Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Don't be afraid to embark on an adventureRecently, after reading the story of Aimee Morgan, a Stanford University Libraries archivist who first learned to computer program at the age of 35, I began thinking about how it is never too late to:

Begin something new, push aside all apprehensions, let down the sails, raise the flag, and set course on an epic adventure towards uncharted lands.

With that in mind, I am by no means encouraging you to walk out of your front door, commandeer the nearest vehicle, and embark on a quest to slay dragons (unless this has always been your goal).  I am, however, urging you to develop in areas outside of your comfort zone.  For many, this means teaching programming.

Bilbo would have jumped right into a programming curriculum if given the chance

In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins is a small, eclectic, and reserved character that is reluctant to change his ways.  When initially presented with the opportunity to join in on a fantastical journey to regain the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo refuses, as this would force him into a world that he was neither prepared for nor felt comfortable in.  However, after spending some time soul searching, Bilbo ultimately opts into the quest, and becomes an integral part of an adventure that will forever be a part of hobbit lore.

Leap Into Programming
Take the first leap into programming

For many, integrating coding into your classroom lesson plan or school curriculum requires this type of “Bilbo moment.”  Like our favorite protagonist, many educators often harbor feelings that computer science and technology is part of a world in which they are simply unprepared for, or to which they do not belong.  However, based on the teachings of The Hobbit, and from personal experience talking to teachers using Kodable, the hardest part of integrating technology and programming into the classroom is, like anything else, just taking that first step.  When speaking with educators who are considering making the leap towards a programming curriculum, but are still hesitant, I often cite the following quote:

“Never be afraid to try something new.  Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.”

Programmers can read, write, and understand code, but teachers know best how to translate this material to their students in a language that they can grasp, and most importantly, engage with.  Certainly, some programming knowledge is always helpful, but introducing the fundamentals of coding, and showing students the amazing things that they can do with code is something that every teacher can understand.

Utilize your strengths when teaching codeFlex Your Muscles

As hard as it is to believe, not having a background in computer science or programming can often be your greatest asset.  In The Hobbit, Bilbo’s lack of survival training and inexperience in battle became his most useful tools, and led him to find the ring, save the dwarves, aid in defeating Smaug, and recover the Arkenstone.  On the other hand, the dwarves stubborn reliance on their combat training often get them in trouble, allowing Bilbo to introduce creative solutions.

The beauty of learning to code is that you can use the skill in any industry you find interesting.We need diverse programmers  More than anything, computer science needs artists, fashion designers, or those with a passion for social justice.  Showing students that you can use code in every subject from English to environmental science will help prepare a generation of young students for the challenges of the 21st century.  Coding to solve problems shows students how they can use computer science to help make our world a better place to live.

Don't be afraid to let go of your fearsDon’t Be Afraid to Let Go

In The Hobbit, Bilbo was forced to let go of his fears and reservations.  He let his natural instincts and talents lead him to greatness.  Don’t be afraid to let go of your students, and allow them to become immersed in programming.  Great programmers like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates taught themselves to code.  You can facilitate your student’s coding education by encouraging them, but you don’t need to have all the answers.  A programming curriculum like Kodable engages students so they can get started with programming education on their own.  So, what do students need most?

They need you teach them innovation, and help them understand how they can creatively apply, utilize, and further their programming talents.

Make Lifelong FriendsBilbo made lasting friends, and you can to when you begin teaching programming

Bilbo did not make his journey alone, but had great friends help him along the way.  You do not need to be alone in your journey either.  When we started Kodable, there were very few people teaching kids to code.  We started a biweekly Twitter Chat called #KidsCanCode to be a community for people to talk about programming education.  There are dozens of teachers who join regularly to talk about struggles and triumphs of creating their own programming curriculum.
Join a community of programmersOnce Bilbo established that he was fully committed to his journey, he never once regretted his decision to leave his comfortable home in the Shire.  Instead, he relished the friends that he made, the experiences they shared, and the positive impact that his actions had on his surrounding community.  Similarly, I promise you that your decision to introduce a programming curriculum in your classroom or school is one that you will never regret.

Enroll in a Kodable Education Plan

Kodable: Programming Basics for Kids 5+

Here at Kodable HQ, we enjoy the occasional complexities in life, but we mostly prefer to keep things simple.  Sound familiar? 🙂  

After a year of talking with teachers using Kodable in their classrooms, we discovered that we needed to rework our approach to coding education, and fashion a programming curriculum that is equally as beneficial for students, but easier for teachers to manage.

Well, we ran back to the lab, performed some tests, and created plans to meet the needs of educators using Kodable!  Kodable Education Plans are available in every version of Kodable, and provide teachers with the proper tools to better serve their students and adequately manage programming curriculums in their school.  We have created plans to help you use Kodable with your students at your comfort level: Free Kodable Teacher, Kodable Class, and Kodable School.

Kodable Teacher Accounts

Make the Most of your Programming Curriculum with Personalized Lesson Plans:

Kodable Teacher Accounts are free and enable you to easily monitor and cater to an individual student’s needs, allowing for a more effective classroom coding experience.  You can create a Kodable Teacher Account within Kodable or here!  Then just log in on the app to begin using these educational features:

Add students to classes with Kodable

Organize students in classes, and manage student profiles from within the app or on kodable.com.

Introducing Kodable Class

Enroll in a Kodable Education Plan

Organize a Complete Programming Curriculum with Kodable Class

Kodable Class is an app designed specifically for education use, and makes it easier than ever to introduce the basics of programming to your students.  If you previously purchased Kodable Pro, you can be grandfathered into the new Kodable Class plan when you update to version 5.0.

Develop Comprehensive Lesson Plans with Kodable Class Regardless of Your Programming Experience:

Taking the first step towards programming education can be intimidating, especially if you have limited or no programming experience. Kodable Class can help alleviate these fears, providing subscribers with complete access to all of Kodable’s Learning Guides.

Consult the Kodable Learning Guides for:

An Explanation of Kodable’s Basic Coding Concepts •  Recommended Classroom Activities •  Answer Keys to Every Level

 “I am an Administrator or Technology Instructor, and I want to bring Kodable Class to all of my students”

 Instituting a school-wide programming curriculum? Kodable School Accounts are designed with the unique needs of a school or district in mind.

Kodable Class is designed specifically for teachers and students

Kodable School includes all of the benefits of Kodable Class, as well as upgrades for larger curriculums:

Unlimited Student and Class Profiles • Professional Development from the Kodable Team • Administrator Accessibility – Grant permissions to those who need it at different levels within your school or district (Coming Soon)

Kodable School provides complete access for administrators

Learn More About Kodable Class


Learn More About Kodable School


Or Download the Free Version of Kodable

Download Kodable on the App Store

How You Can Change Programming Education

Empower students and start programming

Why teach programming? Odds are you already know how important it is to learn to code. But just incase you don’t remember the importance of programming education, I’ll recap.

Programming is the language of the future. By 2020 there will be twice as many programming jobs as there will be programmers. Programmers are needed in every industry in every part of the world, and the demand is only going to increase.

Programming job opportunities for the future

Learning to code teaches you how to think. When you program you use deductive reasoning, logic and problem solving skills that are necessary for everyone to learn.

It is incredibly empowering. You can literally build anything you can imagine. Just ask Zora Ball. She made an iPad game when she was in the 1st grade and now it is in the app store where millions can download it.

If that isn’t enough to convince you, take a look at this video from Code.org and get back to me.

Despite all of this, only 10% of schools in the United States offer programming classes.

What is stopping people from teaching kids programming?

Since we started working on Kodable, I’ve consistently heard from teachers who want to teach programming, but don’t have time. They can’t fit it into their already packed schedule because it’s not required. Programming is only required in a handful of countries, and until it is required in the US, good teachers have to find ways to incorporate it in the limited amount of time they get.


A lack of resources often prevents schools from teaching programming. Unfortunately, many still view programming as something unknown or scary. This means there are a limited number of people with the knowledge of when and how to teach it. Many schools lack the technology to teach programming, and are’t receiving enough funding to get it.

How can we change this?

One of the greatest changes for education in the past five years is the increase in connected educators. Teachers, administrators, parents, and others have developed relationships with other educators all around the world by connecting online. A community has developed for nearly every sector in education. When you connect with other educators online and develop relationships, you can begin to collaborate, share ideas, and support one another.

We propose creating a community for programming education. I want a place online for great educators like you to connect with others, chat about victories, hurdles, and solutions, and feel empowered to teach kids programming. At 8 pm EST we will host a twitter chat using the hashtag #KidsCanCode. The object of this chat is to build a community of programming educators to increase awareness and collaboration. Each week we will discuss new programming education topics that effect the community.

Join me every other Tuesday at 8PM EST for #KidsCanCode twitter chat.

Thank You

Thank You from Kodable

This was originally published on the Kodable blog on October 16, 2013

We started Kodable because we wanted to help prepare kids for a bright future by helping them learn a valuable skill. We are amazed at the positive impact Kodable has had on programming education in such a short time.

Since we released Kodable in the App Store last November, kids in over 70 countries have begun learning how to program. Kodable has allowed students in kindergarten all the way to 8th grade begin their programming education. The best part – over half of them are girls! Teachers are empowered with a tool to enable them to teach programming, and parents are bonding with their kids over a common interest. We are thrilled to be the first step so many take on their journey to digital literacy.

So, I’d like to thank all the parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and others who are teaching the kids they love to program using Kodable. You all are great! Keep it up! You are truly helping children form a brighter future with the concepts they learn in Kodable.

We created this blog as a way to keep you connected as we continue to grow and challenge your kids in new ways. You can come here for help, humor, programming information, Kodable news and more! We want to make this a place to learn, share and grow, so don’t be afraid to give feedback. We want to hear from you!