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Ideas in the Wild: How Michelle Sun is Preparing a New Generation of Coders

If you’re a parent, you’ll be confronted with a myriad of choices and decisions regarding your children’s education and ways to better prepare them for the future. According to Michelle Sun, computer coding should be one of your first choices. There’s a huge demand in today’s job market for people who know how to code. […]

If you’re a parent, you’ll be confronted with a myriad of choices and decisions regarding your children’s education and ways to better prepare them for the future. According to Michelle Sun, computer coding should be one of your first choices.

There’s a huge demand in today’s job market for people who know how to code. Practically every industry today is touched in some way by coding. The technology industry continues to be in a stage of hyper-growth, which in turn fuels the need for coders. If technology is a canvas, coding is its paintbrush. It is where creativity meets practical job skills.

The only problem is that many parents don’t know where to start with coding. Michelle wrote her new book, First Time Coders: A Definitive Guide to Coding for Children, to help alleviate that issue and guide parents who wish to introduce their children to coding. I caught up with Michelle to learn when she decided to write the book and her favorite idea that she shared.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

Since I started my company First Code Academy six years ago, we have interacted with tens of thousands of parents. The questions on how to start teaching their child to code, at what age, and with what tools, have repeated over and over throughout the years.

Indeed, coding is different from other subjects in that parents do not know as much about it as math or english. In fact, many parents simply did not learn it back when they were in school!

Yet they all realize that coding is now the world’s second language and they are keen to have their children learn to code. After interacting with so many parents who felt this way — yet had no idea where to get started — I decided to write a book to introduce parents to coding.

This book is designed to help acquaint parents to the understanding of the topic of coding, provide practical tips to become involved in their child’s learning, and answer common questions about computer coding. We believe it is important that each child learn programming skills and develop a love of coding by engaging creatively with the age-appropriate tools and software.

When you teach your child how to read, it opens them up to new worlds. With this book, I want to equip parents to open up a similarly exciting world for their children through coding.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

Coding is a global second language that allows us to communicate our ideas to computers and phones. My favorite actionable idea is to solve a problem around you through coding. Coding is a powerful tool that can be applied to create solutions to make our lives easier.

One of our students, Sarah, created a family calendar app for her big family of six, with the help of her four siblings. Her mother was tracking her family’s calendar on a huge piece of paper on the kitchen wall. Now with her custom made app, she helped everyone in her family stay in sync on the go, not just when they’re in front of the kitchen wall!

What’s a story of how you’ve applied that idea in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?

I love being active and trying different workout videos on YouTube. I created a simple app that randomly selects a workout video on Youtube, which keeps my workout routine fresh and fun!

I love creating little projects through coding that suits specific needs of mine or people around me. That’s also what we believe is a critical component of a coder’s mindset: always be creating. Coding allows you to give creativity back to your child by allowing them to create a game or an app or anything that they imagine. The sky’s the limit when it comes to coding, and this is empowering for children when they’re at an age where their imagination is running wild. They are always exploring and imagining stories. In a digital childhood, coding gives the child an opportunity to create with a blank canvas, only with a computer instead of with paper.

For more advice on teaching your children to code, you can find First Time Coders: A Definitive Guide to Coding for Children on Amazon.

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