02.28.2013 09:53 AM


My son taught himself code when he was 13. He’s really good at it, now.

But he has more to learn, he says, and he there’s no high school in Toronto that teaches it, from what we can see. If there was, we’d send him there in a minute.

In the meantime, he shared this video with me in the hope that I would share it with you. He thinks the Americans are way ahead of us on this (and they are).

Bonus: Chris Bosh codes!


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    Doug says:

    WK, it is wonderful that your son has the interest and aptitude for writing code. Whatever profession he chooses, the ability to program computers will be a huge advantage.

    While we wait for educators to catch up with the 21st century, the community has come up with some stop-gaps for non-professionals who want to learn more or get involved.

    It might be worthwhile for him to check out a local hackerspace. These are great places to connect with technology enthusiasts both professional and amateur. Here are some in your neck of the woods: http://hackerspaces.org/wiki/Toronto

    There is sure to be a user group in your area dedicated to the programming language or toolset that he is most enthusiastic about. For example, Python is a great language for beginners. There is a user’s group in your area: http://identi.ca/group/pygta

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      Warren says:


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        Andrew says:


        Your son should start off with some of the online courses available from the Code Academy or Team Treehouse. There are several workshops run in Scratch, Arduino, Processing in the TO area that your son can take. Would also have him look into a course or book on usability (i.e. Steven Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think). Its one thing to code, its another to make something that everyone cand use.

        Can provide more info if you would like.

        ~ A

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          Warren says:

          Yes please!

          Nothing within the school system?

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            Andrew says:

            I’ve approached the school boards about creating a tech school. There is an arts school; dance school, alternative school, and the list goes on and on. But no tech school. Technology still scares off too many teachers because it is out of their confort zone. Some schools have random technology courses, but there isn’t a central list of schools running them.

            There are many programs outside of the school system to choose from, but they would above and beyond your students current studies. You could hire a computer science student as a tutor.

            There are workshops by http://hackeryou.com/

            If you have any other questions, please feel free to email.



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    Cath says:

    This really hits home for me Warren. My son taught himself code too in middle-school. There was one teacher in high-school, the physics teacher and teacher who coached the robotics team who was the only teacher who helped our student find his passion. Son has just finished his Master’s in robotic engineering, and has landed a job stateside using cutting edge programs to better automate high-end arenas. Envision if you can the elimination of the zamboni, where cleaning the ice is done by automation.

    Have another story about friend’s son who got his computer engineering degree and masters from UofT. Couldn’t find work in Canada, so interviewed in Seattle w/Microsoft and snagged the job of his dreams there. Apparently the position had been posted for 2 years in the USA.

    Friend of my daughter’s, same degree stream from Waterloo coop. program just got a job in San Fran. starts the week after he graduates.

    The light for these three kids didn’t go on until high school. So, I agree with you that it should start much sooner.

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    Beth Higginson says:

    A Canadian example is Michael Furdyk who became a millionaire at 17 who started a not for profit organization called Taking it Global. He was given a commodore computer by his father when he was 5.


    His father Paul, who worked with me at NCR and died of lung cancer at 48, would be very proud of him.

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    Tom says:


    look into the Raspberry Pi, a tiny do it (mostly) yourself computer. It needs an old keyboard and mouse and a monitor. It may be available at the electronics store on Dundas near Spadina- Creatron I think. They may have a startup package of useful bits and pieces. They sell like hotcakes whenever a shipment comes in. It is intended as a base for kids to learn programming. The example programs are mostly Python. He will learn about hardware, Linux, Python and mostly how to get information from the internet.

    Lurking /on

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    !o! says:


    My high school in a small rural Alberta town of around 5000 taught it 20 years ago and still does.

    How does no high school in Toronto teach it? ….. Really? What? Is this a thing? They’re not teaching coding?

    Did I wake up in the correct universe? Everything looked the same when I woke up, but I guess you never can tell…

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    lichtik says:

    If your son wants something a bit more structured:

    You can start with a google of “open courseware” or “open courseware canada” ; you’ll have to browse the hits to see if something fits.

    You can also browse Wikipedia for the same topic. Again, follow the leads.

    Harvard and MIT are collaborating on edX, touted as a “massive open online course” or MOOC.

    If he’s interested in Java I can recommend the Java Tutorials at http://docs.oracle.com/javase/tutorial/java/index.html.

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    Luke says:

    Despite our recent war against one another, https://www.coursera.org/course/digitalmedia

    He/you can check out a number of courses, for which he will receive some sort of credit for most.

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    C says:

    No school in Toronto teaches coding?

    I took a class to learn to code at Agincourt Collegiate Institute some 6 years ago.

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    Patrice Boivin says:

    I went to high school in Ottawa in the 80s, graduated in 1984. My high school (Charlebois) had a Computer Math teacher and an electricity/electronics teacher, who offered courses. So I took Computer Math in grades 11 and 12, and Computer Technology in grades 10 and 11. Computer Technology used Heathkit workbooks and taught me logic, logic circuits, electronics, etching boards, and some machine language programming on an Apple IIe (LOL). Nothing much came of that I think, the school board administrators are too paper-oriented and bureaucratic to really care.

    Leo Laporte on This Week in Tech (http://twit.tv) mentioned that he was on a parent-teacher council for his kids’ high school in Petaluma, CA, and was trying to get the school to teach Java. I don’t know if he was successful.

    Oracle set up a program for Java programming for high schools, I don’t know if any school boards in Canada are really interested, they get paid regardless right? And besides, there are so many extraverts out there that it kind of scuttles the whole thing. http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/press/1534490

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    David Bronaugh says:

    Here’s my suggestion: he should get involved in an open source software project that interests him. This will give him two things:
    1) A community of people online who are knowledgeable and experienced about programming, and
    2) Exposure to the code of experienced programmers, which is invaluable in teaching you how to structure your code for readability.

    I say this as someone who makes their living as a computer programmer and holds a B.Sc in comp sci. I’ve worked on, and released, a fair bit of open source code at this point; and being exposed to that is -great- because it shows you both the many ways things can be done, and forces you to think about -how- something’s been written, and -how- it manages to work. It makes you get outside your own head and your own ideas and consider the ideas of others.

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    Phil Terrell says:

    The causal link between learning to program and becoming a billionaire is as tenuous as the link between virgin sacrifice and volcanic eruption. I’d remind everyone that Bill Gates didn’t actually code the OS he first licensed to IBM. And the value proposition in facebook is not Zuckerberg’s code. If you doubt that I’ll gladly sell you your own facebook for a fraction of what facebook is currently valued at.

    Coding is a trade that requires constant learning and explicit knowledge – more so even than engineering and law. Poor ROI. But unlike other trades – plumbing, dry-walling and electrical, it doesn’t require physical proximity – you can outsource it to China or India for a fraction of the cost. You have to be a rather skilled and disciplined project manager to do so effectively, but it can be done. Nobody makes t-shirts in North America anymore because it’s cheaper to do so oversees. No one would ever encourage their child to learn to sew because Tommy Hilfiger is a billionaire, or become a leather worker because Prada purses go for a thousand dollars a pop.

    The reality is our wealth and standard of living come from the successful exploitation of cheap labour and more increasingly cheap foreign labour. So why aren’t we teaching kids how to exploit other people effectively or amicably. Why aren’t we teaching how to outsource coding in schools? Why are we teaching kids how to say pencil in French when we should be teaching them how to say “your cost per unit is too high” in Mandarin?

    Knowing how to code will more often than not sentence you to a life of habitual learning. The minute you master one language and one OS there will be a new and novel platform to master. And that’s programming, if all your child masters is HTML, CSS and J-query he or she will earn just enough to stay a hair above the poverty level. And if they learn a language they will never be able to stop. There are not a lot of jobs out there for Fortran and Perl programmers. Yes it’s neat to be able to get computers to do things. And programming is a rewarding trade. But it’s not an easy one, and it’s not one without severe downward pricing pressure.

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    Brad Young says:

    A bit late to comment, but the fact is, with so many IT jobs are going to India that it really is a career without a future in Canada.

    All major companies are using people in India for all sorts jobs that used to be done in Canada.

    Your son may enjoy it as a hobby, but try and dissuade him from doing it as a career.

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