It’s ComiCon 2016 in Silicon Valley and Steve Wozniak (Woz) is being interviewed on stage about his early days of tinkering with technology.
‘I liked [technology] because I could know something other people didn’t know… I could build little devices that could trick people,’ says Woz with a laugh.
I find myself tapping the words into my iPhone, the device Woz invented as co-founder of Apple with Steve Jobs.
He continues talking about the small steps you take to building technology. Completely in awe, I resolve to keep growing the TinkerTech program I started to help kids do the same.
‘Do the right things and sometimes you can make money,’ continues Woz and I dutifully type it into the Notes app.
Because the stuff you enjoy isn’t necessarily the stuff that makes you money. Usually it’s the stuff that costs you money. But in the case of TinkerTech, it really could make money for the students who come to class. If kids learn to code, and they like it and can do it well enough, they can get a job. If kids learn to code but they don’t want to pursue it further, it’s still good because they’ve learned a very useful thought process. It’s a mindset that will serve them well in just about anything. Tinkering with technology helps create innovators, the kind who have potential to create something as powerful as the iPhone.
There isn’t really an argument against learning to code. Coding, tinkering with code, is problem-solving. Problem-solving is seeking solutions. Seeking solutions is how we’re going to fix a lot of problems.
The last few years have seen an explosion of great programs encouraging and supporting people of all ages who want to learn to code. In TinkerTech’s previous incarnation as CodemakerClub, we used a fair few of them. But here in Marin in San Francisco’s Bay Area, most of the kids have iPhones in their pockets and family iPads back at home, so I was always craving a program that taught them code on and for the devices they use most. Importantly, it had to work as a group class, encouraging collaboration as the students share their learning experience.
A year ago, Apple brought out Swift Playgrounds. We tested it in class and it was great, but for the impatient types, it seemed like too big a leap from the fun coding challenges to actually building apps - for most TinkerTech students, the final destination in learning to code.
'Code should be everyone's second language,' says Harald Batista of ilumina Tech. 'The Swift programming language is easy and fast to learn, yet it also gives you the most power and impact in today's technology environment.'
With Apple’s updated education program introduced this year, there now feels like a continuous program and TinkerTech is diving straight in. For the 2017 school year, we’re offering a program that leads students from intro to coding with Swift to using Xcode for building apps.
‘Follow your heart and your instinct,’ says Woz and I’m sure he’s right.