Inspiring Young Coders
A CoderDojo with Sensei Javeria Masood
Writer & Photographer / Kara Kavensky Reibel
Javeria Masood draws from her passion of sharing technology with children and young adults by facilitating an exciting, interactive coding education program. Masood is the lead volunteer for the CoderDojo held monthly at Launch Fishers. CoderDojo Indiana oversees this and many other coding clubs across the state.
CoderDojo Director Courtney Lambert, with her office inside TechPoint Foundation for Youth and sponsored by Eleven Fifty Academy, seeks volunteers like Masood to lead the local CoderDojos. Currently there are 15 CoderDojos in Indiana with an anticipated 35 by the end of this year.
Like the Launch Fishers CoderDojo, most CoderDojos meet monthly. There is a lot of fun mixed into the coding lessons, which provides kids hands-on learning. Through efforts like CoderDojos, Masood, along with CoderDojo Indiana, firmly believes we can improve the future. The popularity of these coding clubs is catching fire.
CoderDojos are popping up all over the country, and thanks to a grant from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Eleven Fifty Academy implemented a statewide outreach program. “By the end of this year, Indiana will have more CoderDojos than any other state,” says Stephanie Castleman, Director of Outreach for Eleven Fifty Academy. “Throughout this year, we are holding Cool Coding Awareness Weeks in under-served communities in Indiana. A CoderDojo remains in place after the Cool Coding Awareness Week, enabling the spark to grow.”
The success of these coding clubs for kids depends on the volunteers, all of which are like Masood is one way: they share a passion for programming.
It was through studying Information Science and Technology that Masood knew she had found her calling. Being the lead volunteer for the CoderDojo at Launch Fishers is her way of giving back and inspiring others to find their passion. “My two favorite quotes are: ‘Learn, Reflect, Grow and Repeat…always!’ and ‘Be brave and passionate!’” shares Masood. “These two ideals have helped me greatly in life. If you met me a few years ago, you would not recognize me as the same person.”
Masood shares that it took a lot of effort to become brave and overcome her fears. By discovering her passion, she now resonates confidence. “Passion can create so many opportunities for anyone! If you have passion, you have persistence and the motivation to keep moving forward. I always keep Steve Jobs’ words in mind, ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.’”
She adds, “Kids are capable of a lot more than we think. In some parts of the world, 8-year-olds are supporting their families. Their intellect and drive can be astounding. They are the future! When all the states decided to move to online standardized testing and started distributing devices in schools, I decided to help them use those devices to be even more productive. Hopscotch is one of the programs we use for the CoderDojos. Hopscotch even provided me their official curriculum and letter of support when I detailed my plan to them.”
Kids gain confidence through coding. This positively impacts public speaking skills and self-confidence, and according to Masood, the kids all leave the CoderDojo sessions with smiles on their faces. One key element is that guest speakers who hold jobs in the tech sector speak to the kids about what they do.
“To me, the most exciting opportunity for kids who attend a CoderDojo is the chance to work alongside coding professionals on hands-on projects. One of the most common reasons students cite for not going into computer science fields is that they don’t know anyone who works in those fields, and they don’t know what those people do,” states Lambert. “At CoderDojo, students are given a space to build relationships with active computer science professionals and to explore their interest in coding with the full support of these industry volunteers.”
In a few short months, the CoderDojo led by Masood has close to 40 kids in attendance, ranging in ages from 7 to 17. A mom of a student coder recently tweeted: “Javeria, I wanted to thank you for introducing Hopscotch to my 8-year-old. He is hooked and even coded a ‘scene’ for his teacher for Teacher Appreciation Week! This is the first coding program that he really gets and likes!”