Teaching Strangers to Code

At first, coding was just a hobby to me. I learned HTML and CSS in sixth grade so I could make webpages for my virtual pets. Years later, after I became a programmer, I opened the site where I had first started and posted a new thread: “Who wants to learn to code?”

I set a time for the tutorial to begin and waited to see if anyone would show up. Within half an hour, a dozen people had joined. I was surprised not only by the number of students, but also by their overwhelming enthusiasm. They thanked me emphatically and even helped me draw attention to the thread.

Some participants were coding for the first time, some had only built web pages by copying and pasting code, and a couple were fairly experienced with the languages and offered to help. Because of the forum’s demographics, almost all of my learners were young women aged 13-23, and I was delighted to encourage them in my field.

One step at a time, I showed them how to make a simple webpage. I explained what each part of the code was called and what it did. With help from my generous volunteers, I helped troubleshoot when students got stuck and answered all kinds of coding questions. “What’s the difference between <i> and <em>?” “How can I make a picture stay in the corner?” “What’s the difference between HTML and CSS?” We covered images, links, divs, classes, IDs, and a few CSS properties—just enough to make a simple page, and, more importantly, just enough to be able to learn more.

When the lesson was done, I posted links to HTML and CSS guides and left my inbox open. Everyone thanked me again, and some, to my gratification, kept working on their pages and asking me questions. The whole experience was fun and rewarding, and I hosted more tutorials soon afterward.

Sharing knowledge I already had wasn’t difficult or time-consuming for me, yet for the people who wanted to learn, it made a big difference. 

Consider how you can share your own areas of expertise with your own online communities. Are there people on your gaming forum who aspire to make their own games someday? Could one of your Twitter followers use help in a programming class? Do the artists in your creative community want to learn app development? Find out! Chances are, you’re surrounded by people who know the value of coding skills but won’t start learning without your guidance and encouragement. You can make all the difference just by opening the door to programming.

Share how you teach coding in the comments, or, better yet, teach coding in the comments!