Let’s get to know our wonderful educator, Salena Arsad! Having had experience teaching core subjects with the Ministry of Education, she decided to broaden her horizons and challenged herself to learn and teach programming at Coding Lab. Her bright and cheerful disposition is sure to encourage her students to learn as best as they can! 

Hi Salena, tell us more about yourself!

Team Photo - Salena, Educator
Salena, always cheery and caring, has been enriching children’s lives since 2017

Hello, I’m Salena and I graduated from Nanyang Technological University with a Master of Education specialising in Developmental Psychology!

It’s amazing that you graduated with a Master of Education! How did your passion for education ignite?

I would say that my passion for teaching appeared gradually. Just before I got my undergraduate degree, there was this period of uncertainty whereby one would decide which career path to follow. My family and friends suggested that I should try teaching because of my character and personality. I was sceptical but took a leap of faith and it kind of snowballed from there. Now, I’ve set my mind that teaching is my path.

What made you take the leap from teaching core subjects in primary schools to teaching programming at Coding Lab?

I guess a bout of bravery to dive into something entirely new. I just felt that it was time for me to challenge myself and see whether I would be able to open up and pick up a whole new world of knowledge. It’s never too late to learn a new skill!

Why do you think it is important to teach coding to our kids?

Salena looking at her student playing his app happily
With a Master of Education, Salena inspires kids to learn through fun

Over the years, there’s been this continuous shift towards a more technologically inclined society. From the initiation of coding classes as a Primary 6 post-PSLE programme to the recent Home-Based Learning during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, we can see why we need to be tech-savvy in order to survive in the coming years. 

That’s why I think that it is important to teach coding to kids as it will give them a head start to live in this type of society. Of course, in coding, there are other aspects such as analytical skills and problem-solving skills, and all these are relevant in everyday life too.

What encourages you to keep teaching?

What keeps me going is the determination to learn as much as I can (in coding, teaching, and even from my students!), my intrinsic motivation to nurture the future generation and the sense of satisfaction I get when I see positive end results. Plus, where else would you get a group of children who would look at you starry-eyed and wowing as they realise that they are learning interesting materials? But classes are not always fun and games! There are some instances of seriousness, and there will also be excitement and laughter. 

“Where else would you get a group of children who would look at you starry-eyed and wowing as they realise that they are learning interesting materials?”

What is your most memorable teaching experience thus far?

Salena teaching two excited students something on the laptop
Educator Salena excites her students in their learning journey

One of my most memorable teaching experiences was during a Young Computer Scientists class. Our project that day was one that would draw circles in different sizes and colours. When I showed my students the demo project and pressed random keys to create a random artwork, they were immediately mesmerised and couldn’t wait to programme it. 

As they coded, there were countless “Wow”s and “Wah”s from so many students. One particular student was so intrigued and touched that he got to learn something so cool that he started thanking me for teaching him this fantastic project. I was so amused at his reaction that I remember it to this day. 

Finally, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I’m an avid reader so I enjoy reading a variety of materials such as fiction books, manhwa (South Korean comics), and manga. Random fun fact: I finished reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 8 hours straight back when I was in Primary 5. I was such a bookworm even as a kid. Besides reading, I also enjoy exploring new places like cafes and limited-time attractions. It’s so fun to wander around new locations and get lost along the way. What an adventure!

Thank you, Salena, for sharing your exciting journey with us! We know that you’ll continue to inspire and impart worthwhile coding knowledge to our young and budding coders.


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Thinzar is one of our beloved adjunct educators with a big heart. In this interview, we get to hear more about her non-conventional journey into the tech education industry.

Hi Thinzar, could you share a bit about yourself and how you embarked on this coding journey?

Team Photo - Thinzar, Educator
Thinzar has been an educator with Coding Lab since 2019

I am currently a Year 3 Sociology student at the National University of Singapore (NUS). I have always had an interest in the education sector and wanted to work with children, so Coding Lab was perfect for me!

Personally, I never had experience with coding before coming to Coding Lab so I had to pick it up along the way. During the interview, I was told about the training given to adjunct educators like myself. The moment I stepped in on my first day and realised how comprehensive the training given was (from personal tutorials by the founder, Yong Ning, to role-playing), my fears evaporated and I gained great confidence in teaching coding!

Coding is really fun to learn! But also, it is an important skill that trains important abilities like critical thinking and problem-solving.

That’s quite interesting that you have no coding background! Could you tell us more about how you came to teach coding, specifically?

Well, I was not particularly looking out for coding-related opportunities. I knew I was interested in teaching, so I researched and came across Coding Lab. I did not have experience in coding back then, but I have always liked math and solving problems (yes, even though I am currently studying social science)! Since coding is related to that, I thought I would enjoy learning and in turn, teaching what I have learnt.

Cool! So, what’s your teaching style like?

For me, I’ll first like to spark interest in my students. I ask them what kinds of cartoons, games or characters they like, then suggest some ideas that suit these interests. Often, I’ll get them to create projects that are similar to their favourite games or shows so that this will motivate them. However, I ensure that it’s not just copying what has been done. Instead, I encourage them to try out more things on their own beyond what is being taught. For instance, I challenge them to try adding features like making their Scratch sprites change colour even if we have not covered that in class. This way, it feels more like their achievement and it shows that they understand rather than just following what I do.

What’s even better is when my students ask whether I can be their teacher again for the next course that they plan to attend. That’s when I know that I have been an effective teacher to them!

What advice would you give to children who want to learn coding?

Thinzar in Junior Coders Programme
Thinzar enriches the lives of coders – even Junior Coders!

Coding is really fun to learn! But also, it is an important skill that trains important abilities like critical thinking and problem-solving. For example, you will have to think about what you want your program to do, then think about what to code to achieve that goal, and in what order they should code.

This kind of logical thinking is important, even outside of the class and even if you do not pursue computing in the future. You will always have something to take away, including skills that can be applied in other areas such as Mathematics and in your daily life too.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just try out new things because that’s how you (and I) learn!

Do you intend to continue teaching coding in the future?

I love teaching coding and interacting with my students! I believe in giving them a voice and our small class sizes allow that. Each student will have his/her own way to solve the problem, and I encourage them to show and tell their ideas to the class so they can learn from each other. Sometimes, they even come up with ideas that I didn’t think of! I look forward to my continued journey in understanding the younger generation and pushing them to explore, expend their curiosity and gain the confidence to speak up and share it with others.

What do you like to do outside the classroom?

Image of team with President Halimah Yacob
President Halimah Yacob with (from left) Ms Low Tze Hui, Manager, Infocomm Media Development Authority and her son, Thinzar, President of Tiny Thinkers, Candice, Co-Founder of Coding Lab at the at the National Library Board’s kidsREAD 15th anniversary carnival

I really enjoy putting my skills to impact others, whether its youth or kids. I was really grateful for the opportunity to be appointed the President of Tiny Thinkers under Coding Lab. The exposure was invaluable; I had the chance to work closely with the founders themselves (who were my mentors) and the tutors to curate a curriculum at low cost to impact preschoolers, to guiding a team of volunteer teachers in introducing preschoolers to coding fundamentals, to conducting briefings to a 100-strong audience at the National Library of Singapore. The skills I learnt while being in charge of Tiny Thinkers’ core team were invaluable as I used them in organising a virtual career fair under my university CCA.

Furthermore, Tiny Thinkers let me step out of my comfort zone as I had to interact with parents! This increased my self-confidence that allowed me to pursue organising large-scale events that included overseas participants. I am indeed thankful for the opportunities, mentorship and training I received at Coding Lab which helped shaped my mindset and allowed me to grow and gain lifelong skills along the way.

Finally, any words of wisdom for your students?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just try out new things because that’s how you (and I) learn!

And for your fellow educators?

I would say to be adaptable because while we are trained to teach a syllabus, we will have to modify it on the spot if the students cannot understand your initial way of teaching.

Thank you, Thinzar, for sharing with us about your coding education journey! We’re glad to have you with us on Saturday afternoons as you fruitfully translate your passion and talent for coding into the bright young minds of children ages 4 to 18.

Interested to join the Coding Lab team? Click here to find out more!

Read next: 3 Things I Learnt as an Educator at Coding Lab

(Written by Nicole)


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My journey at Coding Lab first began about 3 years ago, back in 2018. Fast forward to today, where I’m now teaching the Scratch, App Inventor and Python curricula and occasionally writing blogs in between. I was also given the opportunity to be the Head of Marketing for Tiny Thinkers, Coding Lab’s social initiative for children aged 4-7, where we reached out to thousands of children regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Lakshmi - Nurturing Future Leaders in Technology
Nurturing Future Leaders in Technology

I was just a Year One Business student at the National University of Singapore (NUS), with an interest in technology and community service, when I chanced on the opportunity to teach for the summer holidays. I’m now a proud summer intern of 2018 who returned in 2019, then again in 2020 as part of my NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) Programme internship.

With my background at NUS Business School, I was offered a dual-track programme at Coding Lab where my job scope involved both marketing and teaching. The variety in my job scope allowed me to challenge myself and hone my creativity while making a difference.

With each internship, I learned new lessons every time. Here are the 3 main lessons that I learnt:

1. There is strength in vulnerability

When I first scored my internship at Coding Lab, I wanted to grasp the opportunity to learn as much as possible! I started off with my tutor training – first with the founder, Yong Ning, then with the Lead Educator Lynn Kiew – where I learned some of the curriculum and tips to teach effectively.

Join Us photo - Adjunct Educators
Students from my very first Python class

My Data Analytics background gave me a strong technical grounding, but I had some doubts about my ability to teach in class. Coding Lab’s comprehensive training, which included small group sessions, learning assessments and role-playing, gave me first-hand experience on how it felt like to be a student too! My mentor, Lynn, also reached out to me to shadow classes and coached me on classroom management so I easily got the hang of it. Whilst I enjoy challenging the faster students, I always make it a point to approach a shy student who seems to be struggling so that I am able to extend a helping hand!

Nevertheless, every week is a new experience with different students. I learnt the most while I was on the job, when I had to think on my feet to adapt and to embrace new ways of teaching. Whenever I was stumped, I would turn to my mentors and fellow interns for advice. I’m so glad that they were always there to listen to me and offer their advice. I slowly learnt that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, and there is nothing wrong with saying that I need help!

2. Communication is key

As a full-time intern by day and a student by night, it was essential that I kept the team in the loop on my timetable and deadlines. It was not easy to juggle my commitments, but I’m glad that I pulled through it and I’m thankful that everyone at Coding Lab helped me to work around it! This was only possible with effective communication.

Interns Lakshmi and Kelvin
A taste-testing session with Kelvin, another intern! (Note: this picture was taken as snacks were being eaten, masks were worn otherwise)

I also learnt the hard way that it is better to clarify my doubts than to let it snowball over time. As an intern involved in both teaching and marketing, I was in constant communication with different mentors. Be it teaching my first App Inventor class or tackling the next blog, I made it a point to ask for feedback from my mentors beforehand, which helped me be fully prepared before class started and also to keep track of my progress.

Building and nurturing relationships with my mentors and fellow colleagues are extremely vital. It allowed me to experience the company culture and made my internship more enjoyable. Moreover, it is fun to get to know my colleagues beyond meetings and projects. I would personally like to thank Yong Ning, Candice, Lynn, Cheryl and the Coding Lab team for helping me through the finals season and my internship!

3. Be yourself!

In my opinion, every experience has a purpose whenever we look back on them. It may not be obvious right now, but remember to not compare your internship with that of your friends. You were chosen for your internship for a reason! Bring your own unique style to your work, and put your best foot forward.

After much trial and error, I now like to personalise my teaching style to fit what my students love (most recently, that has been the game Among Us). It’s especially rewarding and I love it when my students from the entry-level courses pop up in my advanced courses, excitedly greeting me in the first class!

Lakshmi in KAP Room 4 (Van Rossum) with a Thank You card from her student
A Thank You card from my students!

I’ve also learnt that edutech (education technology) is a sector that greatly interests me. Given the recent shift to a digitised economy and the potential impact we can make in the future, I hope to be more involved in this sector as an entrepreneur in the future.

I greatly enjoyed my internships with the team at Coding Lab – and you’ll still see me around in some Saturday classes. I truly love coming back during the holidays to make my impact on and to nurture future leaders in technology from different walks of life. Here’s to more meaningful learning experiences both in and out of the classroom! 🙂

Interested to join the Coding Lab team? Click here to find out more!


Best-in-class Curriculum for Coding

Awards (600 x 129)

We are honoured to be the winner of multiple awards
Thank You for your support.

Hop on board the Coding Lab train! Click here to get our monthly newsletters straight to your inbox.

Ages 4-6 | Ages 7-9 | Ages 10-12 | Ages 13-18

Call us at +65 6528 2282
Email us at learntocode@codinglab.com.sg
Chat with us via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger

Today, we get to know our educator, Edmund! He is a common sight in many of our Python classes, and it’s hard to miss his hearty laughter when you’re on our campus. Armed with a Masters in Mathematics, Edmund is always jovial and ready to lend a helping hand to his students.

Hi Edmund, what was your first encounter with coding like?

I would say that my very first experience with coding was during my tertiary days when I went to find out how to create a game similar to MapleStory with added features like PVP (player versus player) to play with my friends.

Cool! Did this inspire you to take Mathematics in university?

Since young, I have always loved solving challenging problems and I wanted to know more behind mathematical concepts. I competed frequently in Primary and Secondary school at the Australian Mathematics Competition (AMC), International Competitions and Assessments for Schools (ICAS) as well as the National Mathematical Olympiad of Singapore ( NMO∑) where I scored Distinctions and won various awards for my school. Thus, it was only natural that I went on to complete a Masters programme in Mathematics. My Math background led to a strong understanding of Computer Science as I was exposed to programming languages such as MATLAB and R. The training I underwent enabled me to fully understand the reasoning and process of mathematical concepts. With that, I am able to explain to my students exactly what we are coding when I teach.

Edmund Feature 2
Edmund, always cheerful!

Wow! Okay, so are there any differences or similarities between the studies of Mathematics and Computer Science?

Coding is very similar to Mathematics where we make use of our problem-solving and logical skills. The thinking processes for both are very similar. The thinking and algorithmic logic is more important than which programming language we choose to use when coding (there are many that go in and out of fashion). Also, coding problems often require the usage of math. For instance, to code up a function that calculates x and y coordinates of a point might require mathematical concepts such as the Pythagoras Theorem. Many students we put up for the National Olympiad in Informatics also have very strong background in Math Olympiad. The two are indeed deeply connected.

So how did you go from Mathematics to teaching coding?

I always enjoyed teaching and instructing. During my National Service, I was an instructor for the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps (NCDCC). I taught my recruits lifesaving skills, brought them through foot drills and exposed them to outdoor adventure activities. It was a great motivation to see my cadets’ faces light up with joy and pride when they graduated from a course or successfully completed an activity. Even before my National Service, I was an assistant teacher for an enrichment programme provider which held quality programmes and holiday camps for preschools to secondary levels. So, I guess it was quite natural for me to move towards a career in teaching.

I heard that you taught yourself Python, which is pretty impressive! Could you take us through what that was like?

I learnt Python with the help of online platforms like YouTube! I was interested to know more about programming languages and researched online. I found out that Python was one of the most widely used languages. Then, I spent many hours watching tutorials, some videos were even 13 – 17 hours long, where I had to watch them at 2x speed. 🙂 It also helped that Coding Lab has very comprehensive teaching materials for Educators to grasp, practice and stay abreast of the latest curriculum and the community we build with other fellow tutors and students is a warm, close-knit one. I’m glad that I could easily depend on my teammates to help out if I needed anything!

Coding excites me, especially when I have spent a long time trying to debug a program and it finally works. This satisfaction is what I seek to inspire in my students for them to excel in coding!

What do you like best about teaching coding?

The best part about teaching coding is that I am able to continue learning even while I am teaching. You will be amazed at how creative and innovative the students can be with their ideas and the way they code. Some of them even have ideas that I would never have thought of!

What’s your teaching style like?

I try my best to always make my lesson fun and enjoyable. For instance, I’ll relate the lesson to topics that the students are into, making it more interactive. Sometimes I even use terms and references from games they play, or popular and trending videos they are likely to watch!

What did you think was so important about coding that you decided to join this industry?

I personally think that kids should learn how to code as technology is always advancing. Understanding how the computers work and learning coding helps the kids appreciate how things work and the ability to solve problems is a life skill that will stay with them!

We all know that motivating children can be tough, so how do you do it?

I believe that encouragement motivates people. A little goes a long way and every small encouragement will make the student feel more motivated to continue coding. I set goals for my students and support them in meeting those goals and even challenge them to go even further.

What is your most memorable teaching experience thus far?

My best teaching experience at Coding Lab so far would be one class where my students were all fans of the online comedian character, Uncle Roger, who makes parodies of cooking shows. We had programs done by the students under humorous names like “Egg Fried Rice”. They even compared me, “Uncle Edmund”, to “Uncle Roger”! It was a lot of fun and laughter while still being able to teach the skills and know-how of Python.

Photo of ACS Class
Edmund with his curious Advanced Computer Scientists students

Do you intend to continue teaching coding in the future?

Definitely! In fact, ever since I started coding and teaching it, I have a slight regret of not taking more modules in Computer Science during my Masters. I’m glad to be at Coding Lab, where I have the opportunity to pick up as much coding as I want and even impart this to many others. Coding excites me, especially when I have spent a long time trying to debug a program and it finally works. This satisfaction is what I seek to inspire in my students for them to excel in coding!

Finally, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I am still a volunteer with the NCDCC. It was through this organisation that I had the opportunities to learn so many skills (lifesaving, rescue, outdoor adventure, etc). I’ve had many memorable experiences in the Corps. I once mentored a cadet who almost went astray due to family issues and bad company. He felt unappreciated back home and felt that he was being forced to attend the course that he had no interest in. I told him that if he wants others to appreciate him, he should first learn to appreciate himself. “Don’t try to change others, change yourself,” I said. When he graduated from secondary school, he even came back as a Cadet Lieutenant volunteer. On the day of his passing out parade, he asked me to be the one to help put his rank on for him. The moment I buttoned his rank on, I was overjoyed! NCDCC is my way of giving back to the society, by teaching, training and being a role model for the future generation 🙂

Thank you, Edmund, for taking the time to share your journey with us! We hope you continue to inspire our future generation of coders and be the role model that you already are, as a teacher, mentor, and more!

Sarah will be starting her first year as a Computer Engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) – which is ranked #18 globally for computer science subjects – on a 4-year scholarship! Read on to find out how she managed to achieve this incredible feat. 

Image of Sarah Go

From our previous interview with Sarah Go in 2018, we got to know about how she clinched the Honourable mention at the National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) within just less than six months of learning how to code! Fuelled by her passion for coding, Sarah spent her winter holidays as a student tutor volunteer at Coding Lab to inspire the next generation of coders.


Q: Hey Sarah, it’s been a while since our last interview with you. Congratulations on getting a scholarship to UT Austin! What were your feelings when you first got to know about the scholarship?

Sarah: I was definitely very happy! Initially, I wasn’t expecting a scholarship because I was applying as an out-of-state student to UT’s Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program. 90% of spots are reserved for in-state students, and UT’s ECE program is considered prestigious in the US. So even admission is very competitive – not to mention a scholarship! – and this knowledge makes me feel incredibly fortunate and grateful to my school as well. 

Q: What did you do to ensure that you stood out from the rest of the other applicants?

Sarah: There were many other qualified applicants, and even the admissions committee can’t specify what ensures an applicant will receive a scholarship.

I didn’t have to go for any interviews or submit any additional materials as I was automatically considered for a scholarship with my application to UT. I can say that I put a lot of effort into maintaining a good academic record and producing quality work in school, especially in my research projects.

And outside of school, my extracurricular activities – particularly my experience in Coding Lab, which I wrote about in my college essays, certainly contributed as well. 

Image of Sarah Go and student
Sarah as a student tutor volunteer explaining a concept to her student.

Q: What were the Coding Lab classes that you took and how have they brought you to where you are now?

Sarah: I took the Python Meets Mathematics course and honestly if I didn’t take that course I wouldn’t even have chosen ECE as my major! I went into Coding Lab as a total coding newbie and honestly was feeling quite ambivalent towards coding when I went to my first lesson.

I found the course material accessible and easy to understand, and I got to use the programming knowledge I learned in fun mathematical applications right from the start.

At the end of my first lesson, after just a couple of hours, I was so enthralled with coding that both my parents and I were surprised! But beyond the course material, what truly sparked my interest in coding was my teacher Mr. Yong. He’s an incredibly dedicated teacher, and his guidance and enthusiasm towards coding not only made me look forward to every lesson but, three years later, has ultimately motivated me to go into computing in college and maybe even as a career. 

Image of Sarah Go and her class
Sarah and her bright students!

Q: How do you plan on making the most out of your time, now that things have changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Sarah: Well, like many other students around the world, I am pretty much stuck at home this summer due to Covid-19. Fortunately, there are so many readily available resources be it educational and recreational on the internet that I have hardly been bored! I’m reading ebook versions of classics that have always been on my reading list, and have also been self-studying Chinese. I have also stuck to my goal of learning at least one new computing-related thing every day, which has definitely helped keep me busy and productive. Today, for example, while doing some problems I encountered a neat algorithm called the Boyer-Moore Majority Vote Algorithm. While reading about the algorithm, I learned that it was a UT professor that co-invented it, which is super cool!

Q: What are you looking forward to the most when you start university?

Sarah: I really look forward to meeting other students at UT; not only ECE students who share the same interest in computers as me, but also other students in different majors, all of whom have very diverse cultures and backgrounds. I also look forward to meeting professors at UT, who have done amazing work in their fields! As for my classes, I’m quite excited about learning more about the hardware aspects of computing, because I’ve really immersed myself in programming these few years. I believe these aspects of my university experience will be a real eye-opener for me. 

Q: Any words of advice for budding programmers out there?

Sarah: My first advice to budding programmers is, honestly, to keep coding! That may sound kind of silly, but coding is one of those things where the best way to learn is by doing, or in this case, programming. Every time you learn something new, grab some problems or projects off the internet – or maybe think up something yourself – and create a program to try it out! I also think it’s good to keep challenging yourself. Sometimes, easy programming problems can be tempting, but you learn the most from hard problems – problems that seem complex and maybe even beyond your abilities.

By continually pushing your boundaries, you’ll expand your knowledge and eventually problems that you once found difficult will become doable.

And also – it’s completely fine to encounter difficulties and spend hours debugging a program. Just keep in mind that coding is a lifelong journey, and like a rollercoaster ride, while there may be ups and downs, it’s a lot of fun as well! 

Lynn Kiew is one of our dedicated educators with a passion for teaching and a love for numbers and solving challenging problems. 

At Coding Lab, she seeks to excite students in programming and empower students to excel through technology. Read on to find out more about this amazing educator!

Lynn with her students in a Home-Based Learning class!

1. Tell us about yourself!

I graduated with Distinction from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with a Bachelor in Mathematical Sciences. I really enjoy learning and teaching Mathematics and always thought that I would be a Math teacher in the future… I never imagined myself teaching coding to children! Given the fact that I had some difficulty in computer classes when I was in secondary school, and had to seek help from the partner beside me (haha!) But look at me now – a coding teacher! I guess when life throws you lemons, you make lemonade?

2. Wow, it’s interesting to learn that you had difficulty in computer classes – how then did you start teaching kids coding?

I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher because I love being in the company of students and to know that I have positively impacted their lives! Back when I was in NTU as a Math undergraduate, Computing was one of the compulsory modules that I had to take. To my surprise, I came to love the subject and discovered that I have a flair for it.

I guess it’s thanks to my early exposure during my secondary school computer classes – it really did me well! In hindsight, I believe that it’s due to the early struggles that I went through during those classes that have really helped me and eased my learning for university. I also like how Computing requires some form of logical thinking and practice, which can be challenging, and I’m always up to solve challenging problems!

Lynn conducting an online class via Zoom.

3. What motivates you to teach?

The moment when students get the eureka moment ‘Aha!’. It’s really satisfying to see students understand what I have taught. The smiles on their faces make me forget all those moments when I was pulling my hair out because they forgot a simple concept. Also, their cheeky antics definitely bring joy to my life – 82.75% of the time. 

4. Describe how a typical class would look like – what would we be able to see and hear?

Ask any of our teachers, and they will all be raising their hands and FEET in agreement – ‘TEACHER HELP! MY CODE HAS AN ERROR!’ You have no idea how many times we hear this in one lesson. But with that, we train and teach our students the concept of TRYING! We don’t simply just run to them to provide them with the solution but we let them explore and attempt to solve the error by themselves first, before providing hints and guidance.

Lynn assisting her students in class.

5. In your opinion, how would kids benefit from learning how to code at a young age?

Coding helps to train children’s problem-solving skills (which is useful for their Mathematics in school) in a fun and exciting manner! There is no one way of solving questions, thus it exposes them to think out of the box and find different ways to solve a problem. With the rise of the digital age, we can see how AI is becoming more and more popular these days – hence, coding will really give a head start for young learners.

6. How do you keep track of your students’ learning progress?

Educators at Coding Lab keep track of our students’ progress with our online system – students use it to submit their work between classes for us to grade, and from there it informs us of their level of understanding of the topics taught. We are also always in close contact with our students’ parents – we have a WhatsApp group for every class to send parents a brief summary of the topics covered, the homework required and address any other concerns after every lesson. Parents are always kept in the loop and updated about their child’s progress!

For me, I always provide a target for my students in every class – of course, every student’s target is different. Once they have met it, I will definitely give praise when it’s due. However, for students who are falling behind, I will nudge them and provide feedback to their parents if needed.

7. What has your experience with Coding Lab and teaching coding been like?

It has definitely been an enriching journey, with a lot of learning, testing and experimenting with new things! I am also glad to know that the Coding Lab team has my back – they have made work more enjoyable and memorable! Coding Lab truly has a nurturing environment where we are constantly giving and receiving encouragement. If you have been a part of Coding Lab’s team, you would definitely have remembered using this word constantly – “GREAT!”, it’s just a common word that our team always uses that has become sort of a catchphrase for us.

8. What are some words of advice that you would give for children/teens who have just started learning how to code?

Lucky you, you have made the right choice to start coding! The process is definitely not going to be easy – there will be lots of ups and downs, but NEVER GIVE UP! The joy when you finally see your program running without any errors is going to be AMAZING!

Just like how I initially faced some difficulties with computer lessons, I later realised that it was my calling – hence I believe that students should be exposed at an early age as it would definitely be beneficial and ease their learning in the future!

9. What are your interests/hobbies outside the classroom?

I watch a lot of Korean dramas – ask me any, and I would probably have struck them off my list. Other than that, I started to pick up crocheting during the circuit breaker period! I must say it’s a really good pastime and it’s really satisfying to see the final products that I have created. I made a few pouches and cute keychains (which I can ‘bribe’ the students in the future…)

At just 21 years old, Zhang Guangxuan is a competitive programmer who has represented Singapore in the International Olympiad in Informatics, attained 2nd Place as a Gold Medallist in the National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI), and guided many others down the same path as Singapore’s National Coach.

Get to know one of Coding Lab’s youngest but most accomplished educators.

Guangxuan and his students in class
Guangxuan and his students in class

Hi Guangxuan, how did you get started on coding? 

My journey began in the primary school robotics lab, where I tinkered with drag-and-drop “programming”. I took on the job of lead programmer, creating combinations of basic operations to accomplish missions. The joy of discovering new functions and alternative methods of programming the robot helped us to clinch top prize in programming at the National Junior Robotics Competition. Little did I know that these experiences would form my passion for artificial intelligence.

Fast forward to high school, I kept pursuing my passion by attending programming electives. These courses expanded my arsenal of programming languages, which included Python, C++ and Java, forming the foundations of computation. Learning about Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taught me much about what I truly enjoy. I am fascinated by the endless potential of AI in problem-solving and I enjoy discovering novel ideas used in AI to model problems. I will continue discovering more about AI, for as long as my passion takes me, and I hope that I can contribute to AI in the future for the good of mankind!

“In my opinion, everyone who wants to code should at least try their hand at competitive coding.”

Guangxuan has represented Raffles Institution and Singapore in numerous prestigious Olympiads in Computing, Physics, and Mathematics.
Guangxuan has represented Raffles Institution and Singapore in numerous prestigious Olympiads in Computing, Physics, and Mathematics.

How did you start to teach coding?

In 2015, I joined my NOI teammate in teaching the December NOI training course. Initially, I was concerned by my teaching capabilities as I have never been a trainer. However, the trainer community was welcoming and I picked up teaching skills along the way. I learnt to explain concepts in an easily digestible way to newcomers, challenge assumptions and to teach from first principles. 

Tell us about how a typical coding class would look like. If I walked into your classroom during a lesson, what would I see and hear? 

Students discuss while solving problems on the interactive whiteboards located in each classroom. Students collaborate while solving problems, sometimes even helping each other debug.

In your opinion, what is the most important takeaway for kids from coding class? 

Students learn Computational Thinking while solving problems. Computational Thinking can generalise and transfer the problem-solving process to a wide variety of situations, such as confidence in dealing with complexity, persistence in working with difficult problems, the potential to deal with open-ended problems, and the ability to communicate and work with others to achieve a common goal or solution.

“Build a strong foundation, and you shall be able to conquer the Olympiad.”

Guangxuan has trained countless medalists in Olympiad in Informatics Courses
Guangxuan has trained countless medalists in Olympiad in Informatics Courses

What are you up to these days?

In my free time, I enjoy keeping up with developments in technology. After exploring various computational fields such as web development and security, I realised that I enjoyed machine learning the most as it involves both the rigour of Mathematical theory and the creativity of practical application.

Just as AI must train to improve their performance, I must train myself to get better at AI. As such AI courses were not offered in high school, I have enrolled in structured online machine learning courses from Stanford University. The courses constantly challenge my thinking and helps me to gain new perspectives about coding and how to teach it to students. Currently, I’ve been learning about Machine Vision (the ability of a computer to see) by following the Stanford CS231n course.

“I will continue discovering more about AI, for as long as my passion takes me, and I hope that I can contribute to AI in the future for the good of mankind!”

How is competitive programming different?

Competitive programming is a mind sport. A lot of people are engrossed in competitive coding for the sheer thrill of it — the adrenaline rush and the satisfaction of getting your solution accepted. In my opinion, everyone who wants to code should at least try their hand at competitive coding. It has a very large and diverse online community including school and college students and even people working in big tech companies. The skills picked up can be applied directly to technical interviews for big tech companies!

What advice do you have for children/teenagers who want to participate in the NOI?

Build a strong foundation, and you shall be able to conquer the Olympiad. The course is difficult, and you will be challenged. Long-term commitment to the competitive programming sport will lead to great rewards.

Guangxuan is our educator with a passion for AI and teaching future leaders in technology.

Today, we have our Lead Educator, Ms Mona Tan, with us to share why coding is the new literacy and why it is critical for parents to start their children on it. Mona is an experienced educator who caters the class according to the needs of her students. 
 
Q. Tell us about yourself! 
I graduated from NUS Science with a major in Statistics and a minor in Computer Science. But really, I spent way more time in the School of Computing as opposed to the Faculty of Science.
 
Q. What are your hobbies?
I play computer games. A lot of computer games. In fact that’s mostly why I like computers.
 
IMG_2646
Mona the tinkerer working her magic on the school’s laptop 

 

Q. How did you get started, teaching kids coding?
I first started teaching robotics and math, during my pre-university days. I later got an internship to teach coding at an education startup, and from then on I fell in love with teaching coding to kids.
 
Q. What keeps you going? Why do you enjoy teaching kids?
Teaching, in my opinion is one of the most important jobs around. Why? Because we nurture the next generation. We inspire children not just academically, but also on a personal level. Nothing beats the satisfaction of knowing that students look up to me as a role model. 
 

“We nurture the next generation. We inspire children not just academically, but also on a personal level.” 

 
Q. Why do you think kids should learn coding?
We live in a complicated world. Being able to understand how computers works helps kids to understand complexity and learn how to manage it. Coding does not just apply to computers, the logic that goes on behind it can be applied to many situations in life.
 
Q. If a child is talented and passionate in programming, how will this help him in his everyday life, school, or future career?
Programming is an essential skill in today’s society. Everything we do is largely driven by technology. From the social media apps we use, to work efficiency tools, every aspect of our life is intertwined with technology. Knowing exactly how technology works and how to create technology provides an edge in a competitive society.
 
“Knowing exactly how technology works and how to create technology provides an edge in a competitive society.”
 
Q. Tell us about how a typical coding class would look like.
There’s no one-size-fits-all “typical” coding class, it all depends on the students and their learning needs. Given a small class size, each class differs depending on the students that are in it. It is important that every student feels comfortable in class so that they can get the most out of each lesson. 

 

IMG_0441 (2)Putting on their thinking caps

 

Q. If I walked into your classroom during a lesson, what would I see and hear?
A whole lot of learning, interaction, laughter and fun. 
 
Q. In your opinion, what is the most important takeaway for kids from Coding class?
The most important takeaway is learning how to manage complexity.
 
Q. Describe a bit more about what you teach. If I had 2 kids, one 8 and one 14, what would they learn and how would it be age-appropriate?

For the 8 year old, I would recommend Scratch if the kid has never done programming before. Scratch is a user-friendly interface that teaches kids how to think like a computer without the messy syntax that goes on behind the scenes.

For the 14 year old, I would recommend Python as it’s a powerful real world computer language and it will enable the kid to go deeper into computing concepts to understand more complex algorithms.

 

IMG_0460Bright smiles after completing the class with Ms Mona
 
Mona is our lead educator who delights in translating her passion and talent for coding into the bright young minds of children.