Journey in Coding (from nothing to Khan Academy)

I have spent the past 3 years teaching coding in my middle school class. I started my journey in coding with absolutely no coding experience. I remember in college I had a friend that took a business class where they had to create a resume using html. I was so impressed and wanted to learn, but alas never did.  I taught myself basic css and html by reading books and had units of this about 10 years ago in an 8th grade advanced computer class. But I wanted to go further than html and css and explore other computer languages, but I didn’t have the resources to learn more on my own (fast forward another 7 years).

In 2011, I did the week of code with my students from It’s a really great intro to coding and perfect for beginning this journey into code. My students loved it as it’s very animated and fun. For them they feel like they are playing a game. It uses blockly and utilizes great videos and high interest characters like Angry Birds. While great for 6th grade learning, I wanted to have my older middle school students actually write code….

In  2012, I used the resource of Codecademy in my classroom. Students went through the lessons there to build nice webpages about the computer program they were studying. I have more thoughts about some pros and cons of the program, now that I’ve explored others. But I will discuss that in a later post. (stay tuned!)

I spent a few weeks in Iceland in the summer of  2013. I stayed with a friend I had met a few years ago and her 12 year son. Besides being an absolute genius as far as all things Rubic Cube, he had created the most amazing video games by learning on his own through Watching Youtube videos. He had taught himself various languages like C++ and Javascript and it blew me away. These are not basic games, they were amazing and he designed intricate background scenes and each character in the game as well.

Ironically he was horrible at math. Close to a D average in fact! How could such a brilliant boy be bad at math when he obviously gets deeper math understanding and logic.  He had a disconnect between math and what he likes to do and no teacher had yet to understand his interest in code to help him relate his favorite pasttime with the school subject.

I left Iceland jazzed. I thought if a young boy could teach himself to code all by himself, then I could learn as well. I got home from Iceland and began learning Javascript on my own through codecadmy. However, after a few lessons I got stuck, and worried that if I got stuck, how could I teach this to my students……

Enter Khan Academy!

Steps of Learning highlighted in Khan

Incremental steps include videos, challenges, quizes, projects and reviews. Once the lesson is complete the circle turns green (as you see in example all of these lessons have been completed)

Khan academy is a fabulous open education resource. You can use it for a wide spectrum of education skills. But as a computer teacher the computer programming component is of my value in my curriculum. It has the most amazing platform to engage students and teach coding.

Like codecademy it brings students through lessons and incremental steps, there are also project built in called Challenges. What makes it better is hands-down the videos. The videos are kid friendly, yes… But most importantly is an advanced feature that they have in their videos.  At any time you can pause the video and manipulate the code in the video. So if the video says to make a rectangle rect(30, 20, 100, 35); You can pause the video and now you can play with the code on the screen.  I could change the 30 to 300 and learn that the first number changes the x position. If I changed the 35 to 45, I will learn that it make the rectangle get taller. The ability to manipulate the video is incredible to learning.

=Here’s a better explanation: Khan programming 101: A Tour of Programming on Khan Academy

It’s brilliant!  I have gone through the entire Introduction to JavaScript lessons to teach myself code. I have not yet guided students through the entire course, we have gotten through about half the javacript course (As I also teach other skills in my computer class). But students that show high interest often go on and learn on their own. Next year, I plan to run a Coding club at my school. Students will be able to do lessons at their own pace with help from me if they get stuck.

Here are a few projects that my students have done with Khan Academy in the Javascript lessons. I will write a later post comparing Khan and Codecademy  for HTML/CSS Learning:

Drawing in Javascript:

zachExample   SophieBear

Animation project:

Spin-off of “Project: Public Transportation”

Made using: Khan Academy Computer Science.

Categories: Coding

3 replies

  1. Dear Kari,
    Thank you so much for sharing your journey of growth and learning. It is inspiring to hear not only that you learned to code, but that you have now creatively found a way to get kids into coding. Teachers like you demonstrate what it means to LEARN. You are an autodidact, you proved that by teaching yourself, but again, modeling that is powerful for kids and not routine or perfunctory teaching. I’ll keep watching, and am now on my quest to code!


    • I’ve been spending a lot of time recently studying about growth mindsets and your story of struggling with remedial math in college and transforming into a math teacher is very inspiring. I appreciate your comment, especially knowing what an accomplished learner your are! You obviously demonstrate what it means to LEARN as well, and if you need any help or pointers on your quest to code, please contact me!


      • I have Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset. But honestly we’ve all known how important it is for students to be persistent, and persevering. Calvin Coolidge said, “persistence alone is omnipotent.”
        I just love to LEARN, and like to support teachers as best I can!

        Liked by 1 person

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