Teaching Teenagers to Program

Had an interesting week teaching a couple of teenagers to program. In fact it wasn’t a week but only four days in which to impart some knowledge and get them to complete a small project so that they felt they had achieved something. For this I decided that they should create a form and then save the details entered on the form to a database. This meant teaching some HTML, SQL and PHP – in four days to two youngsters that had no prior experience of coding.

So the programme went something like this:

Day One: What is the internet and how does it work? Basic HTML and the concept of it being a mark-up language rather than a programming language. Finally the creation of an HTML form.

Day Two: SQL – how to create a table and insert and delete rows. The we looked at select statements and joins between two tables. Finally we talked about some general programming concepts that are relevant to most if not all languages, such as structure, commands, functions, operators and procedures.

Day Three: Beginning PHP and the inevitable Hello World! exercise.

Day Four: Joining it all together – taking the data from the form created on day one and inserting it into the table created on day two.

I guess a few questions come to mind. Why did I do it? Was it successful? What happens now?

I did it because we have a need within the business for someone to be able to do small programming tasks and particularly SQL. Also my younger son as off school this week and so it was an opportunity to keep him busy too – hence the need to complete in four days.

Was it successful? Yes. They both completed the exercise and have a good grounding from which to build. Which sort of answers the final question of what happens now. As with all training if you don’t continue what you have learnt it just drains quickly away and it will have been a waste so it will be important to find a way to keep it up even in a small way.

One thing I found quite interesting was what they struggled with. I had assumed that the difficult bit would be SQL but the thing we had to spend the most time going over was the concept of variables. In the end I used the analogy of a series of pigeon holes which you could label and put things into. I am not sure that was the best way of describing ti but it seemed to do the trick. Of course we were trying to pack a lot into a very short space of time and I am not a teacher by any stretch of the imagination but they claimed to enjoy it and they did complete the project.