Microsoft’s #WeSpeakCode campaign aims to empower young people across Asia Pacific to learn coding and realise their potential. We spoke to several individuals who are passionate about coding and involved in encouraging others to discover the fun and excitement of learning to code.
In 2011, Gatot Wahyudi, a Universitas Indonesia lecturer, played an instrumental role in revamping the Microsoft Innovation Center Universitas Indonesia (MIC UI), transforming the campus into a hub for nurturing the next generation of coders. At the MIC UI lab, students have access to the latest technology such as Kinect to learn the basics of game programming. They can also take the learning a step further by creating their own apps.
Like many computer science teachers, Gatot Wahyudi has encountered his fair share of young people who are intimidated by coding languages. To keep his students motivated, he often shares his own experiences in overcoming the obstacles he has faced by picking up another programming language. For example, his first exposure to Haskell programming language gave him the confidence to approach coding with a completely new mindset.
What are the main hurdles faced by students today in learning to code?
The biggest hurdle is the general perception that coding is a difficult skill to pick up. To overcome this mindset, educators need to take different approaches to make their lessons enjoyable, and to be able to explain technical coding concepts in a manner that students can easily comprehend.
Can you give us an example of how you make your training sessions interesting for coders?
I usually start sessions with some real-life application examples. When students are able to see the expected results, coding becomes a more enriching experience because they are able to better understand and relate to each component of the development process.
Are there any particular program or coding platforms that you have found especially useful in teaching code to young students?
There is a wide range of programs and developer tools, such as Visual Studio, that enable students to master some basic coding concepts. More importantly, students can tap on the expertise of large developer communities to address any problems they might encounter. As an educator based in Indonesia, one of the challenges I face is the lack of localised language interfaces in some of these programs, therefore, the support provided by these experienced developers is invaluable.
What are some recent coding projects you have mentored that give you the most personal satisfaction?
I am proud of the diverse range and creativity showcased in the hundreds of apps that have been developed through MIC UI. For instance, I mentored an Imagine Cup team in 2013 that developed an ecosystem to help deaf people learn how to communicate with a mobile app. I was impressed by how the students were able to work together to develop their concepts, and I believe the experience they gained will be helpful for their future projects. As a mentor, I also encourage my students to become trainers themselves to teach other young coders and to play an active role in supporting MIC UI activities.
What is your advice for budding coders?
Code is not just a series of random alphabets and numbers. Like spoken languages, code enables you to convey many ideas in a few simple lines of code. Just as becoming an accomplished writer or poet takes a lot of hard work, there is no shortcut to becoming a great coder. You just need to keep on coding, and you will get better with practice.