Shattering glass boxes with coding
June 30, 2016

Imagine a life inside a glass box. On the one hand, you would be safe and comfortable, immune to the dangers of the outside world. But you would also be limited in your reach and potential impact. You can see, but not touch, and after a while, you will probably wonder what’s the point of it all.

For me, this idea of a glass box is a metaphor for learning. Most of my experiences in a formal classroom felt like I was being spoon fed through an opening in my glass box. I collected some information, sure, but I didn’t have the freedom or the confidence to try until I failed. And without the potential for failure, can you really learn? Take Abraham Lincoln, for example:


In contrast, when I take apart an electronic device or tinker with computer code, there is a high probability that I will “get the answer wrong.” In fact, I will typically get an error message at least twenty times before getting a piece of software to work properly. Under a traditional testing system, that comes out to a little less than 5% (1 correct answer out of 21 attempts), an indisputable F in any classroom. Fortunately, there is not a teacher grading me when I learn technology. I can try again and again, learning from my mistakes until I finally get it to work.

If you think about it, real life is nothing like a classroom and no one is graded on a 0-100 scale. Instead, you are measured on what you can ultimately achieve, regardless of the number of failures along the way. Try, fail, learn, repeat until one day, you get it right. And it feels great.

I believe in this so much that I quit my day job to start Fiero, with the goal of bringing coding to millions of people at public libraries. In the process, I hope to break down the barriers that are preventing people from learning. Here is a three-minute speech I gave about how code club can shatter the glass box and free the minds of kids everywhere.


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