For Kid’s Day at Open Source Summit, Banks Family Tech organized a 4-hour long workshop to introduce children to coding. (Image courtesy: S. Bhartiya)

The Linux Foundation strives to make Open Source Summit one of the most inclusive tech events in a variety of ways, offering activities such as the “Women in Open Source” lunch, a diversity social, a first-time attendees get-together, and more. They have activities focused on children, too. Not only does Open Source Summit offer free on-site childcare for attendees’ children, they also sponsor a Kid’s Day.

At this year’s Kid’s Day in Vancouver, the primary goal was to introduce the kids to coding via HTML, and very little computer knowledge or experience was required to participate. “The basics, typing, browsing the Internet and minor computer operation, are all your child needs to participate,” according to the website.

For this event, The Linux Foundation collaborated with Banks Family Tech, who organized the 4-hour long workshop. This workshop was geared toward children ages 9–18 and was open to children from the community as well as those of event attendees. The kids that participated actually ranged in age from 5-13 years of age, and, many already had some coding experience. Some had tried Scratch, and others had written scripts for games.

“We are going to teach how to go from nothing and become coders,” said Phillip Banks, founder of Banks Family Tech.

HTML workshop

The workshop focused squarely on HTML, one of the easiest computing languages. “It’s close to English and it’s not hard text and syntax to learn. It allows us to squeeze a lot of things into a day and get them excited so that they can go home and learn more,” said Banks. “After that, maybe, you can go to Python but HTML is so easy as they get a quick return by manipulating objects, text color and other things on a web-page immediately.”

This Kid’s Day event had a great mix of participants. While some of the kids accompanied their parents who were attending the conference, the majority were from the local community, whose parents learned about the workshop from social networks like Facebook. Khristine Carino, Director for Communications of SCWIST (Society for Canadian Women In Science and Technology), not only brought her own kids but also invited families from underrepresented minorities in Vancouver.

In the workshop, the children learned HTML basics like font tags, how to use fonts and colors, how to add images and videos, and how choose a background for their website. They also had the opportunity to share what they created with the whole group and learn from each other.

“It’s not so much about learning to code, just to be a coder; it’s learning to understand how things work,” said Banks. You can hear more in the video below.

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The Kids Day Workshop at Open Source Summit in Los Angeles was organized by LA MakerSpace in conjunction with The Linux Foundation.

At this year’s Kids Day workshop at Open Source Summit in Los Angeles, The Linux Foundation collaborated with LA to provide kids with an introduction to coding ideas and approaches. The LA MakerSpace is heavily influenced by the maker culture, so they have a very hands-on approach when it comes to teaching coding.

Hands On

That hands-on approach was visible at the workshop through the use of a lot of real-life accessories. For example, the space featured a huge ball pit with sensors installed so kids could program the sensors and collect data. A cup of water was used as a switch; when you dipped your finger in the water, it sent a signal to turn a device on or off.  And, the kids used an open source Scratch program to learn coding.

Excitement at the Kids Day Workshop at Open Source Summit in Los Angeles.

I talked to some parents who accompanied their children and they were excited about the workshop. Most of the kids had some previous exposure to coding, but they said this experience was unique and fun.

One of the mothers I met at the event had a very strict policy about screen time and access to devices like the iPad. But she brought her daughter, Penelope, to the workshop so that she could be exposed to the “creative” side of such platforms. Penelope had tried coding in second grade and was very excited to be at the event.

Shelton and his mom at Kids Day. (Photo by Swapnil Bhartiya)

Shelton’s mom learned about the workshop from a Swiss friend that she hosted as an exchange student years ago. This friend knew of Shelton’s interest in coding and recommended the workshop. Shelton’s mom also suggested there could also be coding classes for parents so adults could also venture into new areas.

Alex’s dad is a system engineer at Walt Disney, and he brought Alex to the workshop to expose him to coding and software development. Alex plays a lot of games and his dad hoped that this workshop might help Alex develop an interest in that side of technology.

Mya Stark, Executive Director of LA Makerspace, who organized the event with her team members, said, “What LA MakerSpace does is that we are dedicated to everybody having equal access to learn technology skills.”

“The way that we are doing that primarily right now is that we work with the LA city and county public library systems, and we take our instructors, like you see there, out to the branches and we help kids learn things like coding, robotics, e-textile, stop-motion animation.”

Open Source Approach

However, Stark said, they came to the Kids Day workshop with a different approach, since it’s about Linux and open source. They looked at different possibilities to find something that was meant for kids. They picked Scratch because it’s a platform on which kids are collaborating all over the world. And it’s open source.

“Scratch is basically like GitHub in that you make a project, somebody else makes a project, and then you remix it, which is essentially like forking. And then kids are kind of interacting through that whole sphere with each other,” said Stark.

Stark’s team also invested a lot of time finding ways to create a group coding project at the Open Source Summit. Their focus was on something that was also going to be able to be played with kids around the world and contributed upon as well.

“What we’re hoping they take away is that they really learn how fun Scratch is, and that they want to continue it when they get home. If they didn’t have a Scratch account, now they’ll have one. They’ll be familiar with the platform. They’ll understand the collaborative nature of it and all the different things that they can find already on there that they can play with and tweak and make their own. So that would be the goal,” Stark said.