When kids learn to code, they’re not only starting themselves on a successful career path — they’re building entire worlds, engaging with creative and visual skills. We talked to David Dodge, the founder and CEO of CodaKid, one of the best kids coding programs available.
Kids love CodaKid. Parents love CodaKid. We love CodaKid! We spoke to the founder of CodaKid (the genius who figured out a way to get kids coding — and have fun while doing it). David Dodge commends his team who had a hand in developing the program, from its earliest stages to now, with 4 programming languages already available to learn, and many more to come! Above all, Dodge emphasizes the thousands of kids who tested and used the program in the past and today — after all, they’re the reason CodaKid works. Did we mention that CodaKid is super popular and helpful for teaching kids professional coding languages? It’s serious stuff. To learn all about CodaKid’s inception, read on.
What inspired you to start CodaKid?
Our team set out with a mission to build the kind of academy we would have wanted as kids.
I wrote my first computer program at age 13 on an Apple II computer, and fell in love. I wanted to go further, but struggled to find teachers or tutorials to help me in the small midwestern town where I grew up.
CodaKid would have been my dream location – a safe online community where I could learn how to code amazing games and apps using professional languages and tools. I would have especially loved to interact with live engineers and designers to help me when I had problems or questions.
Can you tell us about your first big success with CodaKid?
Before I talk about our first big success, I’d like to mention our first big failure. Our first month at CodaKid was tough.
We tried teaching friends’ kids how to code using lesson plans we created, and after just a few days, our friends informed me that the kids no longer wanted to come back.
After numerous disappointing visits, we finally decided to change tack and try a new approach. We asked the kids what they wanted to build and created our lessons around this.
A few nights later we invited the kids back for a workshop on how to build a custom Minecraft mod using the Java programming language. By the end of the night, the kids were so happy that they were jumping on the chairs.
Since then CodaKid has had lots of successes. We were named a 2017 CODiE Finalist for Best Coding and Computational Thinking Solution and we were also awarded two 2017 Parents’ Choice Gold Awards. We now have thousands of kids in over 60 countries around the world taking our courses.
But in my eyes, our first big success was getting it right that first month. It changed everything for us, and has framed how we will approach product development for years to come.
What is your background in education or working with children?
I spent most of the 1990s in Silicon Valley building video games for the Sony Playstation, the PC, and various SEGA platforms. As I was primarily working on games for kids, I led lots of focus tests where we would bring children in to try our levels and provide feedback. I learned a lot during this time about how to make software fun and engaging.
After Silicon Valley, I decided to go back to school and become a teacher. I then taught English as a Second Language all over the world, including Mexico, Argentina, and Quebec. After this, I met my wife Lauren and we decided to start a tutoring company together. We ran this together for almost a decade and learned a lot about how to deliver effective private and small group instruction.
I think that the combination of these two experiences has really helped me create a uniquely fun yet effective service at CodaKid.
What is special about your programs?
CodaKid is one of the few programs out there that teaches kids how to code using the same professional tools and languages used by leading companies such as Google, Facebook, and Intel.
But what really makes CodaKid stand out are our teachers.
We are also one of the few companies that provides messaging, screen share, and even phone support for our customers. This really helps kids learn how to build complex projects in a safe, supportive environment. Our courses are self-paced, so you can take them when you want to – but it is really helpful to have a helping hand when you need it.
Lastly, CodaKid teaches coding using things that kids are already interested in like Minecraft mods, Roblox levels, 3D games, apps, and drones. We now offer hundreds of hours of student projects with 8 online courses and will be adding 10 more courses in 2018.
How has CodaKid changed over time?
CodaKid started as a small brick and mortar kids coding academy in Scottsdale, Arizona. When we started we had no idea we would eventually go online.
While our online division is certainly our fastest growing, we still consider our brick and mortar academy a special garden where the magic begins. Our academy allows us to try out all of our lessons with our kids here, learn what the kids would like to create, learn what works, and of course what doesn’t or what can be made better.
As we’ve grown we’ve also been able to hire some phenomenally talented coders, artists, and designers who have created a fantastic community.
What do you love most about creating with CodaKid?
CodaKid is one of the most creative communities that I’ve ever been a part of. My favorite day of the week is Friday afternoon when our product development team does their weekly Show and Tell. The entire company gets together for the event, and provides feedback, constructive criticism, and encouragement for our team who are creating cutting-edge courses for 21st-century kids.
What are you planning for the future?
CodaKid will continue to build out exciting pathways for kids to learn how to code using professional languages and tools.