Code Squad



Hello! I'm Daniel, the Fall 2018 Code Squad instructor. I'm excited to tell you about the awesome work created by the students and how it reflects the work I see every day as a professional web developer.

First, a bit of personal background. I’m a web developer at Owen Jones, a creative agency based in Portland. I’m fortunate to help build websites and software tools for our clients, which include Nike, Adobe, The Nature Conservancy, and Oregon Metro. Before learning how to code I worked in education as a middle school teacher and school district finance analyst. Coming to Jackson Middle School to teach coding was a natural combination of my professional interests!

I was also thrilled when my company gave me the go-ahead to spend Tuesday afternoons volunteering as a Code Squad instructor because it’s a great opportunity to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learned to the next generation of coders. These lessons are perhaps best framed as a list of misconceptions about programming, and how my work as a developer – and the work done by the Code Squad – reveal different truths:  

  • Coding is not a solitary activity. As a professional coder, some of my best work has come out of partnering with others: fellow developers, designers, copywriters, project managers, clients. While there are certainly moments of intense individual focus, it’s nearly impossible to write effective or impactful code in isolation. The entire concept of open-source software is built on the idea that strangers will work together toward something greater that benefits all. As the Code Squad students gained confidence in their abilities and grew more comfortable with each other I saw them work ever more collaboratively, and this, in turn, improved the quality of their projects. Learning to code well means learning to work well with others.
  • Coding is not just about looking at a screen.  As they say, sometimes your best ideas come while walking the dog or brushing your teeth. The same is true with coding: the most elegant solution might occur when you’re presenting to a group or drawing a flowchart on a whiteboard. Likewise in Code Squad, the time students spent in front of their screens was largely used to implement ideas that came up outside of working in their code editors. Whether discussing a challenge during our individual check-ins, or brainstorming concepts inspired by the books, music and media that they enjoy in the rest of their lives, each Code Squad student used their whole brain when assembling their programs.
  • Coding is not just about making games. Sure, a playable game might be the result of well-written code, but actually assembling that code is a feat of patience, persistence, experimentation and creativity. When Code Squad students said they were inspired to create games, I encouraged them with no hesitation. Games might be the most complex thing to code, because a complete game involves  many things: interacting with users, tracking highly variable data and conditions, art direction and sound design, bug testing, user testing, and more. Programming a game is the sign of an ambitious  thinker who seeks out challenge and welcomes complexity.

I’m proud of the work of each and every Code Squad student, and I hope you check out each of their projects on this site. As you peruse, remember that you’re seeing the product of young minds at work, learning to become more collaborative, creative, and persistent in the pursuit of their goals.