In a previous post, I covered the Junk Food of Code and explained why the Four C’s (Concepts, Context, Capability, and Creativity) are important for developing healthy and sustainable coding habits - helping kids to build lifelong skills, passions and perhaps eventually, careers, in technology.
In this post, I cover who is cooking - or in other words, who is the teacher and how can parents figure out the difference between high-quality coding classes and poor-quality coding classes? Coding is rapidly becoming a requirement in schools in many countries, but there is still a great variety of providers, some of whom are extremely good but others who hire the cheapest teachers available to try to make a profit.
Why does this matter?
In the food world, we know the difference between fast food and custom prepared food. In addition to the difference in the ingredients, these foods also differ in who is cooking. Fast food restaurants have largely pre-prepared food which employees with minimal skill can re-heat or fry up. It is a cookie-cutter preparation and the preparer has no special cooking skills. Food made by a chef, on the other hand, combines not just the ingredients but the chef’s likely years of experience in creating dishes with varieties of taste, nutrition, and calorie value. A good chef can adapt a dish to meet the customer’s needs and also explain exactly what is in the dish and why it works. Good chefs can create varieties of dishes for their customers to enjoy and can help customers explore food and ingredient combinations.
The same applies to coding classes. A low-quality coding class is the equivalent of fast food preparation. The teacher is minimally qualified and is only able to deliver the prepared material in a rote manner. They cannot answer questions about Context - how the material can be used in real life and how real-life software programs work. They do not have the experience to inspire the Creativity of students, and they may not have enough training to build strong Capabilities in the students. It is possible that advanced students will outstrip the capabilities of the teachers.
A great coding class, however, is like working with a chef of code. The teacher is an expert on the material and can answer questions and adapt the material to meet the needs of the students. They have the industry knowledge and real-world experience and can help students see Context, the relevance of what they are learning to how programming works in real life. They have the background knowledge to inspire Creativity, suggest ideas for students, and help students develop ideas into workable solutions. Finally, their Capability is so great that an advanced student will find inspiration, not frustration.
So, how do you find out if your kid is working with a fast-food preparer or a chef? Ask a few questions of the class provider.
Who are the mentors that the student has access to? A great coding class will inspire students by giving them access to teachers or mentors with deep experience.
What real-world experience do they have? Coding is critical to virtually every industry. Can your kid’s teacher show students how what they are learning is used in real solutions? Does the teacher have industry or research experience?
What custom projects are students able to build? Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding (to use another food analogy). Good coding classes enable students to advance and build success. Ask what successes previous students have demonstrated. How many students went on to build advanced applications and custom projects of their own choosing? Did they win any competitions? Did they get any internships?
At AIClub we employ several master coding chefs who have PhDs in computer science, decades of industry experience, and years of experience working with kids. Our sous-chefs are highly trained and work with our master chefs to create engaging coding experiences, to date for over 3000 kids and counting. The proof of student success is in the competition wins of our students (13 over the last 1.5 years and counting), over 500 custom projects, and several internships, and countless testimonials from happy parents and happy kids who have discovered a love of coding and technology. Learn more about AIClub and our approach to teaching technology to kids here.
We all love fast food but we all know that too much fast food is not good for our kids. The same goes for coding classes. A bad coding class can turn kids off of one of the most fun and valuable things they can explore to build opportunities for the future. Hopefully, this article will help you find a coding chef to help your kid along the way.