Kiki Prottsman Q&A: How To Be a Coder

You don't just need computer skills to be a coder. You need logic, creativity, and a lot of presistence. We had a chat with the coding expert and the author of How To Be a Coder Kiki Prottsman to talk about all of your coding related questions!

What led you into the world of coding?

I got started quite young. My dad used to pick up coding projects for fun and he taught me early.

Do you remember what your first coding project was? Were you satisfied with it?

I do!  I was home sick one day and my dad handed me a book on BASIC and showed me how to code on the console.  By the time my mom got home from work, I had made a program that would tell you which member of my family you were if you entered the colour of your eyes and hair. I thought it was amazing. The rest of my family wasn’t as impressed.

What’s the importance of teaching coding to kids at a young age?

There are two really important reasons to get kids coding as soon as possible. The first is to help them develop a persistent way of thinking. Coding helps kids learn to solve problems and not give up in the face of failure. The other great thing that happens when you teach young kids to code is that they begin to picture themselves as someone who can write a program. The sooner this happens, the better, because it gives them an increased chance of taking on the jobs of the future—jobs that will be powered by computer science.

What is your favourite activity from How To Be a Coder?

How To Be a Coder was such a labour of love, and I was involved with this project from the beginning. I developed each activity, so it’s really hard to choose a favourite. That said, I absolutely love the idea of using recipes to teach programming, and the scone input/output activity does a great job bringing computer science ideas into everyday life.

You’re a part of some great organizations that advocate for girls in STEM and coding. Do you think there is a special connection between girls and coding?

I absolutely do. Coding is a great way to express yourself, and it’s also a fundamental part of changemaking. Girls are so powerful. It only makes sense to give them the tools they need to help make the world a better place.

Can you suggest some ways that parents can encourage their kids to get excited about coding?

The best advice I can give is to keep it fun. Play at coding with your kids. You don’t have to jump straight into classes and camps. Buy appropriate books and work through them together. Choose online coding games that you can work on side by side. Keep it light and stop before it gets boring. Those are the best ways to keep children excited and motivated.

How To Be a Coder includes some activities that don't require a computer. What are some of the benefits of non-computer coding activities?

Programming on a computer adds an extra layer of complexity to the ideas behind computer science. It’s usually much easier to process new concepts (like variables, functions, or conditionals) if you can explain them in terms of things that kids already understand. Good educators meet kids where they are in order to bring them to where they need to be. Unplugged activities are a vehicle for doing that.

Do you have any advice for kids who want to get started in coding?

My best advice for someone who wants to learn to code is to start at the very beginning and don’t worry about the difference between where you are and where other people are. Do what you like and what you’re comfortable with. Treat it like an art and respect your own style. Don’t feel like you have to go any faster than you want to. Everything will start to click with practice.

Can kids apply the skills they learn from coding to other areas in their life?

One of the best things about coding is that it gives you practice solving problems that don’t have a clear answer. Through programming, you learn to try things, see what happens, then make changes. In education, that’s a superpower! The kids who are willing to try lots of options without giving up start to feel in control of their own education, which eventually translates into feeling more in control of their lives.

About Kiki Prottsman

Kiki Prottsman is a coding expert. She develops computer science activities for students of all ages and creates educational coding videos on her YouTube channel KIKIvsIT.