Posts Tagged ‘Kids Coding’

My next adventure! New job helping kids learn to code

I think I'm quite ready for another adventure Bilbo Baggins quoteIn a time of pandemic, protests, and riots, it is somewhat surreal to be sharing news that I start a new job today. But, in many ways it makes me more excited about my new role, because underrepresented and underserved communities are some of those suffering the most in these difficult times, so I look forward to a chance to try and give them some new hope and new opportunities.

So what exactly is this new job? Well as of June 1, 2020, my job title is Head of Amazon Future Engineer-Canada. I’ll be leadiing the Amazon Future Engineer program in Canada.

Amazon Future Engineer is a childhood-to-career program aimed to increase access to computer science education for children and young adults from underserved and underrepresented communities.

Those of you who know me read that sentence and said “Well that has Susan written all over it!” Yes it does! I have spent over 20 years of my career in various aspects of technical education:

  • Working as a technical trainer
  • Writing courses, labs
  • Delivering presentations at conferences
  • Working as a technical evangelist/advocate
  • Running workshops, hackathons, and coding competitions
  • Creating live and on-demand video content
  • Promoting and designing certifications

Many of you also know the last 10 years of my career has focused primarily on students. I started out teaching professional developers who were already working and just needed to learn a new technology for their jobs. I was originally assigned to work with students because no-one else on the team wanted to do it. (do you remember that conversation Ryan ?). Shortyl afterwards, my career choices were driven by the opportunity to work with students.

Working with students was the happiest accident to befall my career. I was able to teach students how code and technology opens new doors, new doors that would give them new opportunities, and they ran with it! They say give someone a fish and you feed them for a day, teach someone to fish and you feed them for a lifetime. Teach someone how to be comfortable with coding and technology and you potentially give them a career!

Am I rambling, probably, it’s just my way of saying, yes I am excited about my new job, a chance to work with organizations to give those who might otherwise never have the chance, the opportunity to discover coding and technology, the chance to discover new career options.

So off I go now, I have my first meeting with the boss in a few hours, in a time when it the news is downright depressing, and I often feel so powerless, I am going to print out the quote below and put it above my desk, and each morning I’ll be reminded why I chose this job

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” + – Nelson Mandela

Wish me luck!

(PS. at this point my geeky brain immediately pictures Heath Ledger as the Joker saying – “and here we go…” but only because I loved that movie, and Heath Ledger’s Joker)

How do you help someone discover coding?

One hour at a time!

HourOfCodeNEwsletterImageI am very excited to be a part of the Hour of Code. Hour of Code was created by as a way of getting kids interested in coding.

“more than 50% of today’s jobs require some degree of technology skills”

Did you know more than 50% of today’s jobs require some degree of technology skills? That number is likely to increase not decrease! Some of the greatest innovations in technology seem to occur when someone in a field that is not necessarily viewed as technical (e.g. music, fashion, journalism, healthcare) learns how you can leverage computers and technology to solve problems and applies those tools to solve problems in their field.

Let me give you a couple of specific examples


When a musician wants to compose a piece of music on a piano, they typically start by playing the piece, and then they have to transcribe it. This can be done using a midi keyboard so you can generate a midi file that captures the music as you play. But what about the concert pianist on the grand piano, who finds themselves having to record the music and then listen to it afterwards and transcribe it. transcribing the music is a tedious process. There is software out there that tries to convert audio to midi file or sheet music but no-one has really nailed it yet. Enter ClaVision, students from Lethbridge Alberta who were inspired by Beethoven to create software that could analyze a video of someone playing a keyboard and generate a midi file which can then be used to create the sheet music!


Nonny de la Pena has taken the technology used for virtual reality game to find an entirely new way to share stories. This could really change the way we think of learning history or journalism. Storytelling becomes more powerful than ever. You can learn more here. (warning the video at that link contains recreated footage of a bombing and a beating that may be  unsuitable for young viewers)


Fashion is a multimillion dollar industry, obviously technology is used during the manufacturing, but how about technology being part of the finished product? Here’s a neat little story by Sage Franch (@TheTrendyTechie) that talks about a wearable display you can integrate into clothing! Or what about the girls from Oman d=who saw their sister carrying a huge pile of nail polish bottles trying to find ‘the perfect color’ and designed an app and printer that would allow you to design and print a single application of your own custom nail color.

New people bring new ideas!

When we break down the barrier that technology and coding is for ‘geeks’ we invite people with different ideas and different problems to solve to explore the capabilities of technology. That’s why the hour of code is so important! If we can get kids to explore coding before they develop the mindset ‘Coding is for geeks, I am not a geek so therefore I am not a coder’ then perhaps a 10 year old with a passion for drawing and painting will find a new way to share art with the world. perhaps a 14 year old who dreams of trying to solve world hunger will find a better way to feed the world! The more people we have with different backgrounds and different interests learning the capabilities of technology, the more problems we can solve with technology.

Monday December 8th, 2014, I will be co-presenting a webcast on how to get started coding with Sage Franch. You can see it here.
I am also presenting it to a grade 8 class, to a group of kids at Pathways to Education, and last year I presented it to a grade 5 and a grade 6 class. Anyone can do an hour of code, and that includes you! Just deliver your own hour of code at a school or community group near you, or maybe just share it with a son or daughter, niece or nephew, one of my coworkers shared it with her parents! Who would you like to introduce to coding?

Here’s a few resources to get you started:

  • Check out for a self guided tutorial
  • You can also visit to find other courses aimed at helping kids explore the world of coding (Warning: you may be subjected to me as a presenter in a couple of those courses Smile, there are few things I love more than helping people discover the power of code!)
  • You can also visit and find more tutorials for kids young and old!

If you have discovered the joys of coding, consider introducing it to a new generation! You might even have a little fun on the way!

Not convinced yet? Check out this great little video and see if it inspires you to share an hour of code!