Today, we will get to know one of our most passionate and dedicated educators, Tan Yin Xuan!

With a love for working and teaching people, Yin Xuan’s foray into the tech industry to empower and educate her students definitely makes for an interesting story! Find out more about why she brings a unique perspective to her classroom!

Hi Yin Xuan, can you tell us more about yourself and your journey into teaching?

I am a graduate from NUS Sociology and I love to playing games or watch shows. I’m currently hooked onto the Animal Crossing video game and I also like to watch K- Dramas. I’m passionate about working with and teaching people, especially the kids! I participated in a community service project where we were mentors for low-income children back in 2019, and felt very inspired and had a great sense of fulfilment whenever my mentee manages to understand my guidance in her schoolwork. From there, I realized that I would love to teach children in the future!

Team Photo - Yin Xuan, Educator
Yin Xuan, our cheery and passionate educator!

Interesting! What made you decide to journey into teaching coding?

I was first exposed to coding at Coding Lab, through Scratch, the visual programming language. I was really amazed at the things we can do with a language meant for beginners and children, from simple things like controlling the actions of the sprite, to difficult challenges like making a game with different levels. From then, I learnt to program on other platforms like App Inventor, Thunkable and Python, and discovered the immense possibilities that you can achieve through coding!

It’s really remarkable that you decided to take up the challenge to learn coding. Why do you think it’s important to do so?

I think the logical way of thinking and problem solving behind coding (computational thinking!) is something that we can use in our daily lives! We often encounter problems in our lives that seem extremely difficult to solve, but coding skills help us to solve them. Back in school, I took a module on computational thinking where we had to make use of computational thinking to solve a real-life problem. Only then did I realise the importance of such skills.

What was your experience like picking up coding?

I was quite excited to be learning something new as I knew that coding is something that is very useful. Initially, I was a little apprehensive but I decided to give it a shot since I had the opportunity (along with great resources) to teach and continue to learn about coding!

With a background in Sociology, do you have a unique perspective that you bring to the classroom?

Sociology is a multifaceted discipline that trains us to think critically about social issues and relations. This has allowed me to view teaching and learning as a dual-way relationship, where teachers are not just simply instructing the students, but that the students also play a role.

“I believe that forming good relationships with them will help them to do well in their coding journey!”

That’s amazing! How has your journey been in Coding Lab as an educator been like?

Yin Xuan doing what she does best, teaching with utmost care and attention!

I have been with Coding Lab since 2020 during the circuit breaker, so my first few months of teaching were all online. Initially, it was definitely challenging having to get used to the Zoom functions, and having to make sure that the students can focus while being at home is definitely an issue. That being said, comparing that to physical classes, teaching online has its perks as well, as some of the students, especially the older ones, who may be shyer in physical classes, are more willing to interact online!

That’s really wonderful to hear! What motivates you to keep teaching?

Everyone working here is really friendly and I’ve met many lovely students and parents over the years! The challenge of learning new things is also something I’ve enjoyed. I love seeing the smiles on the students’ faces whenever they manage to apply what they have learned, such as the Scratch students making their own project that they’re proud of, or having the Python students run their hundred lines of code successfully.

Do you have any stories you would like to share from your classroom?

I had a Scratch 1 student who “complained” from the start that coding was so hard as there were many blocks and sprites to code, but at the end of the day, when she successfully made her “I Can Touch and Count!” project (which was split into two lessons), she was so excited to show everyone her project! When I asked her if she could make something like that again, she happily told me “YES, it was fun” and was eventually able to make something that she was proud of in her Hackathon as well.

“Be friendly with them and joke around with them (but at the same time, establish some rules so that they won’t be out of control)!”

Photo of Yin Xuan with smiling student (Yin Xuan's educator feature)
Educator Yin Xuan putting smiles on her student’s faces

Last but not least, is there any advice you would like to pass on to other aspiring educators?

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone! I did not expect myself to be teaching years ago, much less teaching coding, something that seemed extremely foreign just a couple of years ago!

Thank you for sharing your journey with us Yin Xuan. We look forward to seeing you inspire and nurture the future generation into becoming future leaders!

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Rachel is our nurturing and patient educator. With her enduring passion for teaching and guiding young students along the path to coding literacy, our Educator Rachel is here to share about her teaching experience with Coding Lab.

Team Photo - Rachel, Educator
Teacher Rachel – as her students fondly call her – has been an Educator with Coding Lab since 2018!

Hello, Rachel! Could you share about yourself and how you embarked on your coding journey?

My background in coding originates from my Diploma in Electronics, Computer and Communications Engineering at Nanyang Polytechnic. Coding actually wasn’t my first choice, but having been given the chance to enter the course, I decided to make good use of the opportunity.

I picked up programming languages such as C++, C# and VHDL (Very High-Speed Integrated Circuit Hardware Description Language is a description language used to describe hardware). I then went on to complete my final year by featuring on the Director’s List!

Overall, my learning experience throughout the course highlighted the importance of coding as a future-oriented skill to me. It also inspired me to venture into hardware electronics and coding as a career.

“I’ve watched so many of my students learn and grow. It truly makes teaching a really rewarding career, and it’s heartening to know that I contributed to their learning journey in their lives!”

Photo of Rachel With Students And Certificates (Rachel Educator Feature)
A very special moment at our Parkway Parade campus: the end of a course is always a bittersweet moment, but it’s all worth it to see her students with their hard-earned certificates!

That’s amazing! What inspired you to teach?

Since my teenage years, I had always considered teaching and early childhood-based careers. I also used to participate in volunteering events for beneficiaries, such as food drives and spring cleaning, and found joy in helping and interacting with others. What I love the most is being around kids – their infectious energy makes me feel like a kid again myself!

When my older brother also suggested teaching as a career to me and I came across Coding Lab, I decided to give it my best shot. This was back in 2018, when I officially joined the team. I still remember when I first entered the Parkway Parade campus, I was pleasantly surprised by the ‘chill’ environment! The green beanbags really added to the comfortable learning atmosphere and made me feel right at home.

Fast forward to today, where I’ve watched so many of my students learn and grow. It truly makes teaching a really rewarding career, and it’s heartening to know that I contributed to their learning journey in their lives!

What do you enjoy most about teaching at Coding Lab?

The flexibility of my schedule is something that I really like. I also enjoy conducting Coding Lab’s curriculum! From teaching preschoolers to older coders and hands-on hardware, knowing that there will always be subsequent batches of students who can learn from it is endlessly exciting.

I do get attached to my students, so it does feel a little sad when they graduate from a course – especially my term students, who I see weekly for months. But it is truly bittersweet as I know that their learning experiences and knowledge will be with them for life!

“Our courses show children little glimpses of fields they might choose to pursue in the future, opening up potential career paths.”

Educator Feature Rachel Header (1800x1200px)
Teacher Rachel is always there to lend a warm guiding hand!

Why do you think it’s important for children to learn coding?

Coding hones logical thinking. It involves programming computers to make logical decisions – but as the programmers behind the coding, the children’s thought processes are strengthened too. There are applications beyond practical usage too – it can help in making rational life decisions, such as weighing the pros and cons about their future.

Coding is also beneficial to students regardless of their intended career pathways in the future. For instance, Scratch encourages creativity and inspires them to explore other things such as animation. App Inventor gives kids hands-on experience in creating games and software. Python trains students in statistical analysis. Our courses show children little glimpses of fields they might choose to pursue in the future, opening up potential career paths.

Are there any memorable moments you’ve had with your students?

Yes, I’ve definitely had many! Once, a student baked a box of homemade cookies as a show of thanks at the end of a course. Another student drew a card depicting me at my table with a laptop – she even included the detail of my ponytail!

Oh, and one more that comes to my mind – after physical classes first resumed (during the pandemic), a student and his mother gifted me a homemade unicorn mask after a 5-day camp. I keep these heartwarming moments close to my heart, and it’s also great fun to see each and every student’s different talents and abilities outside of classes!

You mentioned the break in physical classes – the pandemic has shifted some Coding Lab classes online. How has this transition been for you?

Photo of Rachel in Zoom Class (Rachel's Educator Feature)
Online classes with Teacher Rachel are always brimming with enthusiasm!

It was actually a smooth transition for me! I’m well-practised at using my computer for work, so there wasn’t much of an issue – I was already comfortable with online communication, webcams, chat monitoring and other features. Multitasking with two devices was a big learning point for me though! Overall, working from home has allowed me to comfortably save time on travelling.

But physical classes are good too! It’s good to be back at the learning centres. When students that have been attending classes online for months suddenly transition to physical classes, it almost feels as if we’re long-lost friends being reunited! Some students are more silent during online classes, but become really active and participative in physical mediums. It’s like seeing two sides to the same student!

Apart from being a Coding Lab Educator, how do you enjoy your free time?

I create art – drawing sketches, and doing arts & crafts. I’m currently in the process of completing a pixel canvas piece. I also like to collect K-pop albums – especially those by Red Velvet and NCT. As for gaming, I’ve assembled a custom-built desktop PC from selected parts.

I love to spend time doting on my pets, too – I used to have hamsters when I was young, and I’m thinking of adopting another. I also go crazy for Corgis and cute characters!

Lastly, do you have any advice for your fellow educators?

Keep Calm and Teach. The best learning and teaching is when you’re having fun with your students! Don’t be deterred if you don’t have much coding experience; you will be able to learn programming in your own time. Even if you are new to a certain curriculum, the Coding Lab team will always be there to support you – so, don’t be afraid to seek help if you have any questions.

Thank you so much for sharing your Coding Lab experience with us, Rachel! Your passion and dedication for education is an inspiration to us all. We look forward to hearing from the many more children you’ll continue to guide along the path towards coding literacy!

(Written by Cheryl Tang and Lixin Foo)

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Meet Ryan, our upbeat and passionate educator, who brings a wealth of experience to his classes from his time teaching overseas to his impressive work at the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). With a knack for breaking down complex coding concepts, he aspires to inculcate an exploratory and forward-thinking attitude in our students so that each child will be prepared for the digital world ahead!

Team Photo - Ryan, Educator
Ryan was a Senior Engineer at DSTA for 5 years and was also involved with system used by leading data scientists for MINDEF.

Hi Ryan, can you share with us how you first got interested in coding?

I have always believed that technology will be key for the future economy and decided to take a plunge into it when I first applied to Nanyang Technological University to do Computer Science. I had many chances to be exposed to different types of programming languages, so I learnt that there were many different applications of coding.

Now that I’m teaching coding, it requires me to keep learning to keep up with the changes in technology. I love the way technology is able to make life easier and more seamless!

How did you discover your passion for teaching?

When I volunteered at church as a Sunday School teacher for Primary 1 to Primary 6 students, I received a lot of great feedback. I generally enjoy communicating with people and teaching, so I decided to serve the kids overseas as well and gradually started to consider teaching.

Together with my degree in computer science, it was a good job fit when I came across Coding Lab. I love the subjects that I teach and now that I’m given the platform to share about them, it’s only natural for me to do so passionately!

“It gives me great joy to make things simple and easy to understand, so I have lots of analogies, examples and illustrations that interest and help students to grasp the coding concepts.”

Photo of Educator Ryan at our Parkway Parade campus with two students in a Scratch class
Educator Ryan is enthusiastic in educating his students!

Why do you think that learning to code from young is important?

Learning to code gives the child space to explore many different aspects of technology, such as creating simple games, solving puzzles, to coding more advanced programs. Most importantly for all programmers, it’s fun and doesn’t feel like work!

Can you share about your previous experiences at DSTA and MINDEF?

Oh, it’s highly classified information at my previous full-time jobs! I can share that I was involved in doing documentation and training staff to pick up skills for the job, so the familiarity of it all helps now that I’m teaching children to code.

What do you do apart from being a Coding Lab Educator?

On Saturdays (and some school holidays), you can find me teaching at Coding Lab. On weekdays, I’m a student (of the Bible)! Other than that, I have a love for the art of making coffee and pizza. From intricate coffee tools to having my stone oven shipped over from Italy during the pandemic, I would say I’m pretty serious about it.

Photo of Educator Ryan and his 3 students at Parkway Parade campus, with the male student playing the violin and two female twin siblings watching him
A glimpse of Educator Ryan’s most memorable class.

What is the most memorable class or student you’ve had?

There was this particular Young Computer Scientists class that had a pair of twins and this other kid (whose names I shall not disclose). The twins requested him to bring his violin to class and they started a mini-concert playing and singing along to their favourite song “Faded” by Alan Walker. What a start to the coding class!

Even during the Heightened Alert when classes were fully online again, they continued to virtually jam together with their violin, piano and singing over Zoom! And when it was time to code, they were serious and focused. It was truly unforgettable to see them enjoying their coding classes, getting together to have fun and learn at the same time.

If I stepped into one of your classes, what would I experience?

It gives me great joy to make things simple and easy to understand, so I have lots of analogies, examples and illustrations that interest and help students to grasp the coding concepts. I also love to interact and encourage students to speak up, especially the teens, so you can expect a lot of that – especially from me!

Do you have any final words of advice?

To all the students who are thinking of coding or currently coding, I would say to “Do it now!” To teachers, always think of ways to get your students interested and enjoy your time spent with them!

Thank you, Ryan, for taking the time to have this conversation with us! We hope that you will continue to inspire and nurture many more students with us on Saturdays and in all your other endeavours.

Read Next: Meet Hovan, our passionate and personable educator

(Written by Cheryl Tang and Amanda Soh)

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Hovan is one of our passionate and personable educators. A graduate from the NUS Computer Engineering course, he finds great purpose and satisfaction in nurturing the talents of youths. At home, he is also the oldest of 4, with three young brothers ages 14, 16 and 23.

In this interview, we learn more about the remarkable coding journey of the former Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student who did the International Baccalaureate programme (one of the most prestigious courses in Singapore)!

Hi Hovan, could you share with us how you first started coding?

Team Photo - Hovan, Educator
Hovan has been teaching and guiding our students at Coding Lab since 2019.

I started coding very late. I only began at the start of my undergraduate journey when I majored in Computer Engineering at the National University of Singapore. I still remember the struggle I had to go through in the early days, where I had to compete with new students like myself and veterans of the trade. However, programming soon became a passion for me, and from the struggle came one of the greatest senses of achievement I’ve ever felt after completing a project.

Cool! Since you had no prior experience in coding, what drew you to major in Computer Engineering in the first place?

Computer Engineering was actually my second choice. My first choice was Electrical Engineering as I loved to tinker with hardware and electrical components. In hindsight, I’m glad that I got to do Computer Engineering, which is a hybrid between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. This allowed me to enjoy the best of both worlds of programming and hardware.

The most important lesson I learnt from my time in university is that software alone is not enough. Coupled with hardware, a lot more can be done. The same goes for my teaching – it’s not one-dimensional; I approach each student differently.

“Coding can be colourful, unrestrictive, and imaginative. It allowed not just my students, but also me, to express our creativity and build something special.”

That’s great to hear. Have you always aspired to teach coding?

As a mischievous and playful kid, I had always been the bane of my teachers’ existence. It was only when I had matured and became wiser with age that I understood the passion that drove my teachers to come to class every day – the love, sweat, and tears as they saw us both fail and succeed. Then came along two small boys, my youngest brothers, who are ages 14, 16 and 23 today. I took on the responsibility as an elder brother and guided them through their early years of life. As time went on, I realised that I wanted to care for and guide children professionally as a teacher.

Tutor Hovan with students
Hovan doesn’t only inspire his younger brothers, but his students too!

At first, I only wanted to teach – it didn’t have to be coding. However, while studying Computer Engineering, I wondered if I could take what I have learnt about coding and educate others on it. That’s when I joined Coding Lab, and I truly enjoyed teaching children to code.

When I first started, I viewed it as methodical and rigid, but after interacting with students of different backgrounds, I realised that coding can be colourful, unrestrictive, and imaginative. It allowed not just my students, but also me, to express our creativity and build something special. Seeing my students finish their personal projects after finally understanding their code, and the happiness, relief and accomplishment they feel when they test their programs and have it finally work after debugging never gets old and continues to drive me to teach coding. 

Aside from teaching, I also contribute to the curriculum and had the chance to guide our students for the MIT App Inventor Summit 2019 (where they won numerous awards in the USA). Having the ability to exercise my imaginative mind inspired me to keep teaching and working on further projects. I’m excited to meet both new and returning students, hoping to not only teach them, but also to become good friends with them along the way!

“Be humble. Never stop learning. And your programs are never ‘finished’; it’s always a work in progress.”

We’re glad that you’ve found your love for teaching coding here! Why do you think that learning to code is important?

Learning to code is essential in this day and age of technology. Therefore, starting young and getting a feel for programming serves as a crucial skill that can be used for the future. Beyond that, it trains children to think logically and be independent in finding solutions to problems, not only in school, but also in life.

Hovan and Student Sean S200 (900x600px)
Educator Hovan is always enthusiastic and excited to teach students of all ages!

What’s your teaching style?

When teaching concepts, I ensure that I have everyone’s attention and am loud enough for everyone to hear. During practical parts of the lesson, it’s the students’ turn to up the volume and voice out their questions, errors and more.

Overall, I’m serious during classes, where I expect discipline and commitment. But during breaks, before and after class, I am goofy, just like every other kid and like to chat and laugh with my students.

Could you share about a class or student that had made a deep impression on you?

It’s hard to pick favourites or even long-lasting impressions because I’ve had so many classes and students that I had a great time teaching. But if I were to pick one, I would share about my student who was so advanced that he even helped teach and lead the class together with me. I saw a leader and a future coach in that student, and as a teacher, I welcome that.

Gif of Hovan affirming his student's project
Our supportive educator is as invested in his Young Computer Scientist student’s project as his student is.

If a student came up to you and asked for any piece of advice, what would you tell them?

Be humble. Never stop learning. And your programs are never ‘finished’; it’s always a work in progress.

Finally, what do you like to do outside the classroom?

I’m a gamer. I also play the piano a bit, work out, and I enjoy spending time with my family and loved ones.

Thank you, Hovan, for taking the time to share your journey from coder to educator with us. We’re so thrilled to have you with us as an educator. We hope that you’ll continue to warm the hearts of your students, guide them and ignite their passion for coding with your zeal and dedication to your calling!

Read Next: Get to know Thinzar, our educator with a big heart

(Written by Amanda Soh and Edited by Cheryl Tang)

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Today, we meet Evan, one of our educators at Coding Lab! Since he was in secondary school, Evan has honed his expertise in coding. He is patient, focused and loving, constantly encouraging his students and shining a spotlight on them. Like all our educators, he finds purpose and passion in teaching coding to children.

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

Team Photo - Evan, Educator
Meet Evan, our passionate educator, who has been with us since November 2018

In secondary school, I had to select an elective, and that was when I found out that I could take up Computing as a GCE O-Level subject. I gave it a shot, and that was when I discovered that it was so interesting to learn about technology and the different things that I could create.

This led me to choose a related course in polytechnic, which then led to my posting at the Ministry of Home Affairs for my National Service. I was tasked with creating different technological solutions for people in different Home Team departments, and I was fascinated at how technology could benefit people in so many various ways. Hence, I decided to major in Business Information Systems in university to learn even more about technology – and it is ever-changing, so I am still always learning!

What inspired you to teach coding?

While I was doing my internship in my polytechnic days and serving my National Service, I realised that a lot of people were still handling typical work tasks manually in very traditional methods when automation could easily be performed to make it more efficient. Many people still do not know about it and think of coding as something that is very complicated, something that can only be done by programmers. This inspired me to share my knowledge with others to help them understand that coding isn’t something that is complicated, and that anyone can learn to code.

I then chanced upon an opportunity to teach at Coding Lab in November 2018, and I thought, why not? Seeing my students come in with no knowledge of coding in their first lesson and watching them grow as they start to passionately show me what they have coded at home brought me immense joy.

Photo of Evan and his students holding up the new Augmented Reality textbooks for P11S-AR
Evan with his pumped Young Computer Scientist students

From there, I discovered my own passion for teaching. I decided to continue my journey with Coding Lab as an Adjunct Educator throughout my education and upon graduation, where I can continue doing what I love.

“It’s great seeing them grow from making minor errors in codes to creating big projects on their own without much help!”

Why is it important that children learn how to code?

In today’s digital age, technology is an integral part of most of our lives. Coding allows us to train our computational thinking skills, applying it to areas like math, improving logical thinking and problem-solving for creative solutions. Even if students do not become programmers in the future, it would still be beneficial to learn to code. These computational thinking skills can be applied in school and in their daily lives as well. Today, it’s great that more parents and students are witnessing the digital transformation in our world and are valuing the importance of learning to code too.

Zoom photo of Evan and his P201 App Inventor students
Evan teaching online and connecting with his students

What motivates you to keep teaching?

One of my favourite moments that keep me going would be seeing my students grasp the concepts taught in class and they are then able to apply them on their own. There is no one answer when it comes to coding and it’s always interesting to see how they independently code with their new knowledge. Some of them can get really creative and have unique ideas of their own!

What is your most memorable class experience thus far?

My most memorable class experience would be seeing some of my Python 1 students advancing on to Python 2 and 3, and eventually to our Advanced Application and Electives programme. It’s great seeing them grow from making minor errors in codes to creating big projects on their own without much help!

Photo of Evan guiding his students through their code
Passionately guiding his students through their codes

In particular, I used to teach a few students in my Python Perfect classes who were initially not that strong in their Python coding. Through their lessons, they slowly made improvements, and gradually grew their interest in coding. Some have progressed to the more advanced courses, and even taking the initiative to create their own personal projects at home!

What advice would you give other teachers on how to manage a class?

Keep calm and cope with the situation! Often different situations could arise in classes, so it’s important to observe the students and adapt accordingly.

Thank you, Evan, for taking the time to share your experiences with us. We know you will continue to care for and inspire our future leaders in technology, both as their teacher and role model!

(Written by Amanda Soh)

Read Next: Coding Lab Educator Feature with Edmund Teow

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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.

(Written by Zulaikha)

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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 Loo)

Best-in-class Curriculum for Coding

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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!

(Written by Lakshmi Suresh)

Best-in-class Curriculum for Coding

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

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Ages 5-6 | Ages 7-9 | Ages 10-12 | Ages 13-18

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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?

Edmund Feature 2
Edmund, always cheerful!

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.

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?

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

Before I joined Coding Lab, 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. 🙂

When I became an Educator, it greatly 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!

I always try my best to 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!

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

GIF of our Young Computer Scientists doing some deskercise - with grandpa joining in the fun!
Edmund and our Young Computer Scientists doing some deskercise – with grandpa joining in the fun!

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.

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 know you will continue to inspire our future generation of coders and be the role model that you already are, as a teacher, mentor, and more!

(Written by Nicole Loo)

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! 

(Writen by Zulaikha)