Ever since I stopped working at the Saxion University of Applied Sciences in 2006 I’ve been trying out ways to stay teaching. I enjoy seeing people unlocking their potential in new areas, regardless of it being something traditional like software programming, or something out of the ordinary like kite surfing. I also found that transferring whatever knowledge I have increases my own understanding of the topic. I totally believe that teachers get the most out of class.
A couple of months back I saw a video of someone explaining how to apply the model of martial arts schools or ‘Dojo’ to the field of teaching programming skills. As a teenager and in my college years I’ve practiced several martial arts myself, so the concept of a ‘Coding Dojo’ instantly appealed to me. I contacted a group of friends from the Flash community to see if they’d be interested in learning how to write code for Objective-C and Cocoa in this setup. The pilot event titled “Coding Dojo: Objective-C for ActionScript developers” was held yesterday, in the wonderful office space of Fonk Mobile here in the city of Appsterdam.
After an introductory talk of about an hour we spent two sessions of 90 minutes writing code. Two people would be writing code or ‘sparring’ together, while the other attendees could see the progress on a central screen. At intervals of 10 minutes the person at the keyboard, the ‘pilot’, would scoot over to become the ‘co-pilot’ for the next interval. This way every attendee participated in writing code and talking about writing code. The other people would be sitting around the external screen, following the writing, googling for solutions and reading the Apple reference guides.
Having spent quite some time in classrooms both as a student and a teacher, this was the best setting I have yet come across for teaching software programming techniques to a group. Because every attendee had to overcome the same hurdles in figuring out how to write the syntax, the pacing was a little slower than I had estimated beforehand, yet it proved to be the right speed for the attendees. In addition, because everyone was preparing for their sparring moment, everyone was paying attention and participated in finding solutions to the problems at hand. I was amazed by the group dynamics and only occasionally found myself explaining concepts that would take too long to acquire as a group.
I had a great time preparing and guiding this Coding Dojo session and when my current commercial project is done, there will for sure be a second installment. Thanks to all my ‘students’, I learnt a lot yesterday and hope you did too!
If you reached the end of this post and are interested in participating in the next Coding Dojo, please fill in this form so I can keep you posted!