Why coding is the skill you should learn during quarantine

Senior high school student and co-founder of The Coding School, Sieh encourages young people like herself to up-skill by learning basic coding during quarantine

By Isabel Sieh

Illustration by Stella Sieh

Like most kids, growing up I loved playing games. I spent hours playing Brickbreaker on my parents’ Blackberry and Cut the Rope on the iPad. So when my math teacher first introduced me to coding when I was 10, my world broadened as I realized that coding gave me the power to make these games, and that was more exciting than any game I ever played. At 10 years old, I had more free time at home that allowed me to spend time delving into coding. With this enhanced community quarantine, I am reminded of that period in my life, spending hours at home learning to code.

Technology has become an essential part of our lives.If in the past technology was seen as a tool for advancement, today it is seen as a tool for existence. businesses and schools rely on video conferencing and other online platforms to function and our form of connection is through messaging services and social media.With social distancing as the new normal, coding has become a valuable skill as we cross the threshold to an almost entirely digital world. Being able to understand technology through the deeper lens of code allows us all to better interact with it and find where it is best used in our lives.

In my experience, what makes coding really exciting is simply how fun and creative it is. Being stuck at home, it is easy to become bored and lose motivation. A new coding project might be just what you need. With coding, the possibilities of what you can do are endless. Experiment with digital art through code using Processing, learn how to make your own game using Scratch, or create your own blog using Django! Seize this opportunity that we have at home to take up this new skill.

Coding can also be a brain workout. There are many online coding problems and competitions on sites like Hackerrank that pose questions that challenge your mind, reaching even greater depths. It is important to challenge yourself with tasks outside of your comfort zone. It is when you attempt new and complex tasks that you are able to learn and grow. Coding teaches problem-solving and risk-taking skills that are necessary in life.

Unlike other activities, all you need to code is your computer, a phone or tablet, and a willingness to learn, the perfect activity during these social distancing times. There are so many resources online where you can learn to code, and many for free!

My own tech community, Girls Will Code, which is an organization that encourages girls to get into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), has put together resources and created a website so that students can #CodeSaBahay. What’s more, even while practicing social distancing, you don’t have to be socially distant from people online. There is a large tech community of enthusiastic learners from around the world online: from the comments of Medium articles about technology, to coding forums on Reddit and StackOverflow, to the active posts on Facebook Groups. With everyone at home and turning to the Internet, the online community is as active as ever.

One of the most common questions I get asked is what is the best age and time to learn how to code. Personally, I am an advocate of making sure girls learn how to code between the ages of 11 and 15 because that is the optimal time for them to develop an interest in the STEM fields. But in my experience at The Coding School, which I co-founded and where I sometimes teach, we have had children start as young as six and others as young as 70 years old. And now we are offering online classes for people to try their hand at coding during quarantine. There are so many uses of coding, from building your own website or game or training to become a data scientist. So whenever someone asks me what is the best age, I say any age is good. But whenever someone asks me what is the best time to learn, well, the best time is always “now.”