Reflections of Teaching My First Coding Camp

By: Brandon Harden

Before I got into tech, I always wanted to teach. I've been in tech for a few years, and until now, I still haven't attempted to teach tech-related topics because I have been afraid to. I feared not having the answer when a student asked a question. I would get nervous at the thought of making a mistake in front of a student and having them question my credibility. So I thought that being a teacher's assistant was an excellent opportunity to experience what it's like to teach others about technology without feeling too much pressure. Before I knew it, I was the person I wanted and needed along my own journey to learn how to write software.

We had thirty-eight high schoolers on our first day. When we started talking about some of our projects, the students were surprised to hear that hacking is not always done for nefarious reasons but could also be a force for good. Next, we talked about the main components of the Internet and how machines communicate over it using IP addresses. We then facilitated the student's learning of computer programming using the gamified learning platform Code Combat. The students enjoyed the material, which consisted of using commands written in Python to maneuver their characters through castles while battling monsters along the way. Finally, we concluded the class by introducing the students to symmetric encryption by having them encrypt and decrypt a file that contained a secret message. At the end of class, we asked the students what they planned on doing with their new hacking skills. The students smiled and laughed at the thought of being hackers. One of the students near me told me he wanted to use his newly developed skills to stop online bullying. I was not expecting that response; his response stuck with me. It reminded me of when my friends and I would get called racial slurs and encounter racist imagery and Gamertags while gaming online in middle and high school. I would report the people and just end up coming across more racist players. It was as if the game developers didn't care. It's something that even affects me to this day. As a remote worker, I have many virtual meetings in "lobbies" with people who do not look like me. Sometimes I do not participate as much in conversations because it reminds me of not wanting to talk in game lobbies so I don't get profiled and endure hate speech.

By participating in the coding camp, I learned that I'm capable of teaching others about technology or any other subject I might have experience in. As long as I let go of the fear and focus more on the help and inspiration I can provide. It reinforced this idea in the tech world that it's never too late to get into tech and to never get too comfortable once you're "in" because technology is constantly changing. I left feeling thankful and inspired to continue to help others use technology to create a more inclusive world around them.

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