Chilliwack's Moxie Club hoping to crack the code
On Colin and Raven Schmidt’s dining room table, there are tablets and laptops in place of plates and dinnerware.
The blinds are drawn and a projector lights up the screen at the head of the table, while they wait for guests to arrive.
On this Tuesday, like most, the couple has transformed their dining space into a classroom for children ages eight to 18 to learn computer coding.
“I think there’s a little bit of an idea out there in the world that programming is something that’s really hard —that only a select range of IQs can manage,” says Raven. “But actually it’s something that anybody can do.”
The pair run private classes called Moxie Club out of their home based on the curriculum of Code.org, a website with a mission to get everyone coding.
“Their attitude—and what the tech industry is lobbying for—is that it needs to be a core academic subject just like math and english,” says Colin. “And that it’s not necessarily that every kid is going to become a programmer.”
But being exposed to code in school will better prepare kids for their future in what is an undeniably digital world, says the Chilliwack tech entrepreneur.
They use Code.org as a base for their teaching because the organization has created their own interactive graphical language. Its aim is at teaching transferable skills rather than focusing on particular languages that might come and go over time.
Colin is no stranger to the concept, having taught himself computer programming starting in Grade 8 after a very early inspiration.
“My first introduction to programming was kindergarten,” says Colin. “The local Chilliwack library, I kid you not, had a programming course for pre-schoolers.”
The library course of his youth used a language called Turbo Logo, which Colin says is conceptually similar to the Code.org language.
And if that short-lived library course did nothing but plant a seed in a young Colin Schmidt’s mind, it will now serve to spark him to do the same for a future generation.
“It has the potential to inspire the minds of young people to do more with computers than just search the Internet and play games,” says Alex Jarman, father to four of the students in Moxie Club classes.
Jarman adds that the Schmidts have developed an effective way of teaching more complicated concepts through easy-to-play games and other strategies.
“The public and private school systems would greatly benefit from such a program and it would be an asset to a well-rounded education,” he says. “There is nothing like it out there.”
Kirk Savage, Director of Instruction at the Chilliwack School District notes there are existing courses in secondary schools.
Chilliwack Secondary has courses in Flash and Sardis Secondary teaches C++ and Java, according to Savage.
However, at the elementary level he says the focus is on the fundamentals of digital literacy: etiquette, dos and don’ts, and interacting with computers and technology.
“If you look at the program offerings of a secondary school they’re far more specific and varied,” says Savage. “Programming and coding falls into that kind of a specificity.”
He compares those skills to many other specializations available at that level such as drafting and design or trades.
But for parents who don’t want to wait for their kids to reach high school, Colin and Raven Schmidt’s Moxie Club is there ready to teach children the fundamentals of coding.
w Visit moxie.club for more info.