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Want to Teach Kids to Code? Send 'Em to a 'Hack Jam'

A new initiative in Los Angeles is providing a venue for up-and-coming nerds to tinker with technology.


We know that if we want kids to be more than consumers of technology, we have to give them the tools they need to build things themselves—and that means teaching them coding. But if most schools aren't actually teaching coding to kids, how are they supposed to learn it? Enter the Hack Jam, a fun way to make digital literacy and hacking accessible, social, and fun.

What's it like to be at a Hack Jam? Last Saturday, three members of GOOD's product team—you’ll see our senior UI designer Doris Yee in the video above—joined up with other designers and developers and headed to Los Angeles' Wildwood School to serve as mentors at the LA Youth Hack Jam. The public event, which was inspired by the Mozilla Summer Code Party and facilitated by the Los Angeles Makerspace Working Group, attracted over 100 kids between the ages of 5 and 18-years-old and their parents.

Depending on their ability coming in the door, participants were able to learn tech basics like how to upload a video to YouTube as well as lessons on programming languages. Yee says she "taught kids who were already getting their hands dirty with mobile apps, gaming prototypes, and gadgets."

Wildwoods physics teacher, Ariel Levi Simons, described the Hack Jam as "a huge meet and greet for our up-and-coming nerds." Indeed, there's no doubt getting to work on DIY projects in a low-stakes, fun atmosphere under the tutelage of professionals in the field goes a long way toward encouraging kids to get involved.

To keep the learning going, the Makerspace group wants to make the Hack Jam an ongoing thing in the city. To that end they're looking for an open a space in L.A. that "enthusiasts of all ages" can come to and "learn how to make cool stuff." Let's hope they find one—and that the Hack Jam concept keeps spreading—so that our kids learn the tech skills they need.

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