Today we are thrilled to talk about the newest addition to the classes we offer to our kids at LLI—Computer Programming. We are equally psyched to introduce our very versatile volunteer—John Michael Zorko.
Meet John, a visionary thought leader and a philanthropic programmer, who is now teaching our kids the craft of coding. John is also a dedicated “Alpaca Club Member” and has been supporting our initiatives with much appreciated & needed financial aid. More on the Alpaca Club here: http://lightandleadership.org/donate.html
Programming classes are held twice a week with three different groups of kids. For four weeks, each group will study computer programming using Scratch, an online learning tool. One class is held in an Internet cafe and the other two classes are held in our Zone D classroom using our newly donated Chrome Books (thanks John!)
Let’s see what makes these classes special, in words of John:
LLI: What inspired you to teach this class with LLI?
John: When I volunteered this past Feb with LLI, I didn’t know what to expect. What I discovered, though, was that these kids were creative, intelligent and interested in the world they’re growing up in. To me, programming has always been a creative exercise as well as a technical one, and it has brought me a lot of joy as well as opportunity. Many of these kids are as smart – if not smarter – than I was at their age, so I wanted to introduce them to that which I have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) so much. They deserve as much access to this kind of learning as any other child.
LLI: How many students are showing interest in the program? How old are they?
John: So far, about 20, though there may be a few more. The ages range between 7-12 years.
LLI: How long is the program?
John: I think the program itself is 4 weeks, though I am here for 5 and will gladly tutor individual students outside of class during my stay here.
LLI: How’d your LLI students benefit from learning programming?
John: Firstly, coding can be a lot of fun! Making your own videogame or telling your own story in an interactive comic strip or cartoon can be incredibly satisfying and empowering. Also, learning coding now can make it easier for the kids to learn professional coding later in life if they so choose. Even if they don’t want to pursue it as a career, though, it teaches the kids to look at problems in a different way i.e. as something they can solve by creative thinking vs. something that they’re powerless to do anything about.
LLI: We heard that you donated Chrome Books for this cause, is that true? Why? (Cheers!)
John: Yes, it’s true. LLIs Zone D classroom has 4 computers, but I wanted to introduce as many kids as I could to the joy of coding. The language I’m teaching the students is a web-based kid-friendly programming language called Scratch, which runs well on the ChromeBook laptops. The ChromeBooks also allow access to Google Docs and other tools, so I bought 7 of them and donated them to LLI. Three words: Heaviest. Backpack. Ever. 🙂
LLI: When did you develop interest in programming and how did it affect your career graph?
John: I was just a kid, about 13 years old. I discovered programming quite by accident, and found that I really enjoyed it. I didn’t know at the time that it would lead to anything at all; I just had a lot of fun. As I did it more and more, people started asking me to help them, and I soon started doing it professionally, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I still very much enjoy it 🙂
LLI: So far how many classes have you taught for LLI? Has it affected your outlook on teaching? How?
John: I’ve taught (with a -lot- of help from Lara and the other volunteers) 4 classes so far. I’ve never been a teacher before, so this is definitely a learning experience for me. The kids, though, seem to really enjoy it so far, and that affects my outlook positively quite a lot. The world we inhabit now will be their world soon enough, and they deserve every affordance we can give them to prepare them with the world we’re leaving for them. They will face problems we can only begin to see now, but they will also make discoveries and reach heights that we can only dream of. Humanity moves forward always, and it is the children who are the leading edge of that.
Incredible. We couldn’t have said it better, John! We are glad that you find teaching with LLI a positive influence. And, thank you from the entire LLI family for giving our kids an edge of technology!