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Lynn Langit and her partner Llewellyn Falco firmly believe that programming should be a core skill taught in middle and high schools across the globe. Together, they combined years of professional programming experience to create Teaching Kids Programming (TKP). TKP is an open, online course that walks students through the basics of programming. They offer students experiential learning opportunities that keep kids engaged and they do it with the help of Camtasia Studio.
Meet Lynn and Llewellyn
Lynn is a former Microsoft employee who now acts as a BigData consultant. She first began piecing together the outline of what would eventually become Teaching Kids Programming a few years ago when she started a local series of events for Microsoft’s Digigirlz program. A resident of Orange County, Calif., Lynn was very keen on doing whatever she could to better technology education for young girls.
“Being a woman in technology with a young daughter, I felt I had to do my part in opening doors for young girls, “ said Lynn. “When I worked for Microsoft, I was able to work on both Digigirlz and my other responsibilities. So I used my professional background and modeled lessons off of what I thought my daughter would want to see in technology courses to get the Orange County group up and running.”
At the same time, Llewellyn was volunteering at a middle school in his community, teaching students how to program as well. Though Llewellyn wasn’t affiliated with an official program, he had tons of lessons and information to share with his students.
A mutual friend noticed that both Lynn and Llewellyn were teaching similar subjects to similar students and introduced the two shortly thereafter. Lynn notes that she had a few lessons that were highly researched and scalable and that Llewellyn had a lot of lessons that he hadn’t yet broadly researched or measured for scalability. So, the two were a natural fit together.
Building the program
Lynn and Llewellyn specifically designed Teaching Kids Programming to be easy to set up and replicable by nearly anyone. For example, they created screencasts with Camtasia for each of the recipes (or lessons) that quickly and clearly walk teachers through the each set of concepts. They share frequently asked questions and common pitfalls for students, which make the lessons easy to teach for programmers and non-programmers alike.
“We made simple videos on purpose,” said Lynn. “We do the videos quickly and occasionally add effects to draw attention to key areas. But other than that, Camtasia makes it easy to create, update and share our videos online.”
Llewellyn grew up in a household that placed an emphasis on making technology education both fun and engaging. Growing up, his family often played games (his mother invented the popular card game Set). His father was a university professor of fluid dynamics and both of his parents made scientific and mathematic exploration a joyful experience at home. He carried this mindset over to TKP, which is why their recipes often feel more playful than traditional schoolwork.
While TKP has its roots in some of Lynn’s work with Microsoft’s Digigirlz, the organization is no longer connected to Microsoft. TKP is now a designated project of the global education non-profit, the Mona Foundation.
To date, more than 1,500 kids across the world have been introduced to programming via the TKP library. Because the courseware is modular, some kids fly through the TKP library in a few days, while others have taken upwards of a year to complete the program. And yet 95 percent of students who provide feedback on the recipes say they “want more.”
“It’s really encouraging to see and hear from students who take the recipes home with them and continue to code for hours after school,” said Lynn. “They might try to write their names or draw new shapes, but they are so excited by the idea of programming on their own that they don’t want to stop as soon just because the school bell rings.”
Teaching yourself programming
For those interested in learning more about TKP, visit their website. Lynn and Llewellyn have provided information for teachers, parents and students, and further explain their teaching methods on the site.