The KidsCode program offers a healthy opportunity for employees in the technology field to give back to the communities they come from. Originally founded by XANT CEO, Dave Elkington, KidsCode now includes five companies that have adopted seven schools in the Utah Valley. Every Friday, employees spend a few hours with the children teaching a programming class based on the Code.org curriculum.
Teaching Coding in Schools as a Rewarding Volunteer Activity
We spoke to one of the volunteers at KidsCode who are engaged in sharing with kids how cool it is to work in tech. Tasleema Lallmamode, Senior Product Manager at Domo, shared her experience on working with kids.
Why did you decide to join the KidsCode program?
I really wanted to do something, and be involved with the community here in American Fork, because this is my community. I work here and used to live here as well. I really wanted to be able to help kids have some sort of passion, or understand a little bit about what’s possible with technology. This program is sponsored by Domo, so it fit like a glove.
Where did you teach coding?
I taught at Greenwood Elementary, which is a Title I school, so it was a really good place to start trying to get back involved with the community. The school has a high percentage of students coming from low income families. We help kids start down a path of being able to understand what technology is, and how they might fit into the technology community later on in life.
Do you believe that teaching kids how to code is going to help them get a head start in life?
I think it’s definitely going to help inform their choices later on. Hopefully, they grow up and they want to go to college, and maybe after that, or maybe as part of their aspirations in college, they want to be part of the tech community or work in tech. I think starting out and giving them some of this basis will help inform their choices later on.
Technology these days isn’t just about coding. There’s a lot more that goes into it. So if you’re wanting to be part of the tech scene, you could become a developer if you wanted to, but there’s also things like developing rich user experiences, developing things that are meaningful for people. You’re not just doing something because it’s cool, but doing something because it has an impact.
How do you feel the program is rewarding for you as a person and as a professional in the tech space?
It was really rewarding to go into this room full of kids who don’t really have any preconception of whether or not they can code, or if they can code, what can they do.
They start by not really knowing anything at all, and then you see them as they start to code within that Code.org framework. You see them go “Yes! I can do this,” and see their confidence and excitement grow when a computer does what they’re trying to tell it to.
So that’s very rewarding, just knowing that you’re giving them the confidence to say: “Yes, this is something that I can do.”
That confidence might carry along down future, allowing kids to grow up saying, “Being part of the tech community is not something I’m not going to be scared of it, because I already know part of it. I already understand it.” That was very rewarding for me.
What advice would you have for anyone who wishes to join KidsCode as a teacher?
First thing is that kids are really smart. You think you’ll go in there and you’re the adult, and you know coding or you know technology, but kids are very smart and they see things from different angles. So don’t go in there with preconceived notions that you will be the one teaching the kids all the time. They will teach you quite a bit as well.
Secondly, it’s very important to remember that the way that you present coding to kids and what’s important to teach kids is very different from what’s important to teach adults. So make sure that you understand how to frame those concepts in a way that the kids learn it and they relate to it. The Code.org curriculum was great because it had already done that and is written to be taught to kids.
And then finally, you’ll go into a classroom, and you just have to remember they’re kids, so some of them will take to certain aspects of technology really well, and some of them won’t.
The Code.org curriculum started out with a lot of the basic concepts, and then it moved on to having the kids create their own game. Some of the kids who had issues with some of the basic concepts of logic actually did really well when they tried to create the game. Kids will show you where exactly their proficiency is and where their interests lie.
Is it hard to get involved with KidsCode?
We used the Code.org curriculum, which is created especially for children, so it wasn’t a huge effort to get it up to speed. You don’t need to know how to code to be part of the program, but rather be familiar with the concepts taught in the curriculum. This makes it easy for anyone to get involved.
Private Companies Are Seeking to Close the Tech Skills Gap
Over 1,500 children benefit from the KidsCode program every year courtesy of the Do Good Foundation. The program, initially started by XANT’s CEO and founder Dave Elkington, now includes five companies that have adopted seven local elementary schools.
Health Catalyst and Nuvi are the latest companies to join XANT efforts in 2018. Their employees teach programming and the fundamentals of computer science in public schools. The program is meant to help close the skills gap. It also helps raise awareness among young children about the possibilities that programming and STEM education opens up for their future careers.
“There is a clear tech skills gap, and for Silicon Slopes to advance its standing to a global tech hub, we need to close it. This can only be achieved when private companies partner with public schools,” said Dave Elkington, CEO of XANT, according to a company press release.
Joining the KidsCode Volunteer Program
He is hoping that more companies, including those from other states, will follow suit and adopt more schools. KidsCode recently launched a new website, where companies wishing to adopt schools can ask for guidance.
Anyone wishing to be part of the program can sign up and fill out the form for more information.