From December 7 - December 13, millions of students in more than 180 countries will participate in a coding event. This global movement, known as The Hour of Code, is meant to demystify code and show that anyone can learn the basics.
At Karam, we recognize the importance of teaching students computer literacy and giving them the opportunity to learn how to code. During our last Innovative Education trip, we set up a computer lab in the Ruwwad School. Milad Kawas Cale volunteered with us to not only set up the lab but to teach the students at Ruwwad School the basics of coding. Milad is trained doctor and a self-taught programmer, who has been learning since 2003.
Milad’s motivation for teaching the students how to code was his own success. When he fled Syria, he was unable to work in first Turkey and now Sweden, where he lives. The relicensing process for doctors is a exhaustive, especially if one is seeking asylum. Milad was already an established web developer, having used his skills to put himself through post-graduate studies in Syria. In Turkey, he was able to put his web developer skills and find employment. “My experience was very successful, so I want others to repeat it if they can,” he told us. “My goal was to show them something that could be a career for some of them. If they happen to take software engineering (which is of course more than knowing how to code) as a career...then they will almost guarantee a bright future for themselves and their families.”
The coding class at Ruwwad during the IE trip was optional: the students signed up mostly out of curiosity. Milad began the first sessions by telling them how coding changed his life and helped him survive, and that is why he is teaching them how to code. He explained to them that this was a chance to acquire a skill that could help them not only survive, but be independent.
“The real magic happened when I showed them a game called RiceRocks (or Asteroids) that I implemented as the last project in a course called “An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python” which I took to introduce myself to the programming language, Python. There was remarkable excitement on their faces when they saw the game and they knew what they can possibly do,” Milad said. “The excitement that I saw in the kids’ faces when they saw the game was priceless. It assured me that I had drawn their attention and got their minds and hearts into coding.”
Milad said that seeing the students work at coding made him realize how great the opportunity really was, and how humbled he feels having taken a part of it. One student that touched him particularly was one who had very little experience with the computer: ”I found out that one of the students didn't even know how to use the keyboard, and he literally struggled to find the keyboard key for each letter. He didn't know how to use the "Delete" or "Back Space" buttons, yet he persisted on learning, and he kept re-writing the examples, that I was writing on the screen projector, into his own screen, and he managed to write them correctly eventually after a number of mistakes. It was a challenge for him and he accepted it, and it was a challenge for me too, and I accepted it.”