Our students will show you why programming is for everyone, one story at a time.
There’re really no excuses for anyone to say “programming is too difficult to learn.”
The bright-eyed Sik-kin Chan, or “Sik Sik” as his peers and teachers would call him, is one of the first coding students at Preface. At the age of ten, he has already been coding for two years. “I’ve never thought that I could build an app for the grown-ups to use, in an actual shop. Not when I just started coding two years ago. Now there’s an app up and running in Preface Coffee and I was one of the builders behind. The 8 year-old me wouldn’t believe that this is happening.”
Like any other post-millennial kids, Sik Sik grew up with many mobile devices around him. Although gadgets are common, something was boggling his mind — how are these games made inside a screen? They don’t look like other physical toys at home. He raised this innocent question to his parents — that’s how he first heard about “programming”, and all the wonderful things that could follow, if he knew how to code.
However, the computer class at school didn’t teach him how to code. It’s a class of 32 kids. To make sure everyone’s mind was present in the classroom, the teacher spent about ⅔ of the time keeping the classroom orderly.
For the precious time left, the teacher showed them how to use the PowerPoint. There’s no programming elements in the class.
Outside school, Sik Sik takes his Chinese tutorial class at Preface. Surprisingly, it’s also where he first discovered the kind of programming classes he wanted to take.
Sik Sik usually arrived early for his Chinese class, and he saw some kids doing something on their computers in excitement. “They were putting some puzzles together on the screen. It looks like a game but there’s a teacher in the classroom.” It was the first time he saw someone coding with a tool called “App Inventor”, building the “things” that live behind the screen of his iPad.
He then decided to take the App Inventor classes at Preface. It was a bit of a learning curve at first. “The first thing I had to learn was how to think like a programmer, which is quite different from the usual way of thinking. It was a bit awkward at first and I couldn’t get used to it. There were always a few steps missing in my program and it was frustrating. But Mr Sam guided me how to think in a more systematic way. ‘Remember how you talk to your 3 year-old brother? How would you ask him to get a pencil for you?’ Although he never really gave me the answers directly, I would eventually find the answer myself with the method he taught me.”
“I think the best thing about learning coding at Preface is the Hackathon. I get to test what I learn by finishing a project in a very short time.” In the monthly Hackathon at Preface, all the coding students had to churn out and present finished products on a stage. Everything happens in 2.5 hours and there was no time to waste.
“It was nerve-wracking every time, and collaborating with other kids is very challenging! I feel really satisfied though every time I finish a project.”
It’s a question we ask almost every kid: what do you want to be in the future?
Sik Sik painted a self-portrait in words about his future self, with a cheeky smile, “I picture myself as ‘the Man in the Chair’ type of guy, you know, like a hacker behind the scene, tackling hard problems in order to close the security breach of some important systems, working inside a confidential building.” His voice raised a little bit in excitement as he continued, “I want to be a professional coder when I grow up, and teach young kids about coding, like Mr Sam.”
It’s probably still a long way for our little Sik Sik to become that “Man in the Chair” he talked about, but we’re properly proud of how a 10 year-old has been coming along. He gives me one less excuse to procrastinate, but keep on trying and trying, until that status of “Man in the Chair” is achieved.