For Educators: The Importance of Being Bad at Things


My ego got bruised today. See, I think I’m a pretty good dancer. I took dance classes as a kid, and even worked as a fitness instructor for a handful of years. I definitely think I can keep a beat. Generally I feel in control of my body and like I have coordination.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when I showed up for a drop-in beginner-level hip hop dance class today and made a fool of myself. There were a few problems. First, I just couldn’t make the moves look cool. Even simple stuff, like step-touches, just didn’t look right, at least, not as good as they looked when the instructor demoed them. And there was no avoiding this realization – you’re dancing in front of yourself in the mirror. The second problem was the choreography. Keeping a sequence of 12-15 physical movements in memory isn’t something I’ve done in a while, and I totally sucked at it. I had to constantly watch the instructor, so I was always just a little behind everyone else. Which didn’t help the “looking cool” thing either.

By the end of the class, I really wanted it to be over. And I pouted for a bit afterward. I was bummed. And interestingly, that was exactly the feeling I was looking for.

At HackerYou, we now train about 350 students per year – about 100 full-time students, and then another 250 or so part-time students. What we’re teaching those students isn’t always easy. Getting started can be intimidating. There’s a bunch of stuff you have to learn before you can take on projects that are really cool or interesting, and there are so many little things that can trip you up throughout the learning journey – even just syntax.

As HackerYou’s CEO, it’s important to me that I remember what it’s like to be a beginner, because I want to make sure I can empathize with our students. And one of the best ways to do that, I’ve found, is to do something so completely out of my comfort zone that at the end of the first day, I almost want to quit.

Two years ago, I learned how to snowboard. All I can say is, ouch. Earlier this year, I learned to drive stick. I hired an instructor – someone whose job is to teach people who know how to drive automatic vehicles to drive standard ones – and still found it to be one of the toughest learning curves I’ve ever endured.

So was I kind of bummed today when I discovered that I’m not going to be busting out some sweet new moves and choreography this weekend? Sure. But I’m actually happier to have discovered something new that I’m going to have to work really hard at. Some days, I’ll want to give up. And every time I go through an experience where I have that feeling I become just a little bit better at counselling and guiding our students at HackerYou.

The other cool thing about being bad at something is that the only direction you can go is up. And that’s a fun journey, too.

How I would learn to code if I was starting today


Sure, I’m biased, but hear me out.

I’d start by taking a couple of Ladies Learning Code workshops, just to make sure that I enjoy coding enough to become decent at it. I’d probably start with HTML & CSS and then JavaScript. Total cost: $50 per workshop plus tax.

Then I’d enroll in HackerYou’s part-time web development courses. The next part-time HTML & CSS course begins on January 20th, and the part-time Intro to Responsive Design (a worthwhile add-on) begins on March 3rd. Led by Wes Bos, HackerYou’s part-time web development courses always sell out. You’ll learn HTML5, CSS3 and Responsive Design from the ground up, and by the end of the courses you will have built three full websites from scratch. Total cost: $2477.88 plus tax.

Then I’d apply for HackerYou’s full-time web development immersive. The first cohort in January is sold out, but the second cohort begins on April 14th so the timing is perfect. Because going from the part-time courses into the full-time course makes tons of sense, HackerYou actually offers graduates of our part-time web development courses a $2000 discount on the full-time course. Total cost: $3982.30 plus tax.

Total time: Approximately five months
Total hours: Approximately 450
Total cost: $6560.18 plus tax ($7413 including tax, or about $1400 a month)

Sure, it’s a time commitment and it’s definitely a financial commitment. But after five months with HackerYou, you’ll be ready for a job as a professional developer. And if that’s something you’re going to love, it’s worth it.

To learn more about Ladies Learning Code, click here. To learn more about HackerYou, click here.

On Education and Regulations and Innovation


Yesterday, Bitmaker Labs announced via their website that they have discontinued operating their web development program. This action is due to an ongoing investigation from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), which may have led to a cease and desist and potential fines, even prison. The MTCU regulates certain programs – including those longer than 40 hours that also cost more than $1000 – and their objective is to look out for the public interest.

Although in some ways Bitmaker Labs and HackerYou are competitors, we’ve always had a positive relationship with them. Maybe it’s because we’re the only two organizations of our kind in Canada. Maybe it’s because Matt, Tory, Andy and Will are all Ivey grads, and so am I. Or maybe it’s because we always just sort of knew that our biggest threat wasn’t each other – it was the industry that we’d chosen, and the status quo. And, as it turns out, that threat is very real.

First, I want to say that we are sad and disappointed that Bitmaker was given no option but to discontinue operations (and we’re glad it’s only temporary). We believe that Bitmaker Labs has made HackerYou a better company, by keeping us on our toes and showing us what is possible. Bitmaker Labs has done great work since they launched last fall – they are legitimately helping people and making our city and our tech and startup communities a better place. We want both HackerYou and Bitmaker Labs to continue to exist in Toronto and beyond, and we want to do whatever we can to make this happen, including working together. Ontario needs these types of programs.

Next, because there have been a lot of questions about this, I’d like to explain why HackerYou does not anticipate an investigation by the MTCU. Private Career Colleges are regulated by the MTCU in accordance with the Private Career Colleges Act. From a factsheet provided by the Ministry:

“Exemption under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 means that an institution is not required to be registered with the Superintendent of Private Career Colleges and/or a program offered by an institution does not require approval before being offered to the public.”

There are a number of exemptions under the act, but there are two in particular that are the easiest to work with. Programs which are less than 40 hours long are exempt, as are programs that cost less than $1000. Although we have not always been perfect, we have generally abided by the regulations and now have ensured that all of our programs fall within one of these two exemptions. Additionally, I have documentation from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities stating that we’re in the clear, based on these exemptions. It is certainly a workaround – we’ve modified our offerings solely because of the regulations. If we could offer a longer program and charge more than $1000 for it, we would. This is one of the reasons we, like Bitmaker Labs, are considering becoming a registered Private Career College, though we haven’t made that decision quite yet.

As many of you know, my team and I also run a non-profit called Ladies Learning Code (which also runs Girls Learning Code and Kids Learning Code). Again, Ladies Learning Code is not at risk because none of our programs are more than 40 hours or more than $1000. What about Girls Learning Code summer day camps? Don’t worry – programs exclusively for youth are also exempt under the Act. There are other exemptions, too. For example, organizations without a physical presence in Ontario are also not required to be registered (for those wondering about programs like those offered by Treehouse or US-based MOOCs), nor are corporate training programs (where it is a third party that pays for training, not the students themselves).

I’ve learned quite a bit about the Private Career Colleges Act over the past little while, and I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned with anyone interested. My email is heather [at]

Finally, I’d like to share some of my personal thoughts on education, regulations and innovation as it relates to the work that I do. First, I understand why the Ministry and the Act exist. Bitmaker Labs and HackerYou are great organizations, with solid teams who are doing good work. We may not be able to say the same thing about the next bootcamp program that pops up. And I’m sure there are lots of beauty schools and locksmith schools and truck driving schools that are run by sketchbags. These fly-by-night “career colleges” take money from students and don’t deliver the goods – that is what the MTCU is trying to protect people from. Fair enough.

That being said, while I believe in regulation for the protection of students, I find the Private Career Colleges Act anti-startup. To offer a program like the one Bitmaker Labs offers requires registration with the MTCU. It takes six to eight months, usually, and a bond (a letter of credit from a bank) is required. For a school bringing in about $1 million in revenues, the bond amount is $150,000. Suddenly, a startup is looking at a six- to eight-month process before they can even advertise (because advertising before you’re registered is not allowed), plus they have to find cash for the bond. Did I mention that they haven’t even had the chance to validate their idea? This is one of the main reasons I urge Bitmaker Labs to go through the registration process – they have traction, so in some ways, the hard work is already done.

This brings me to another issue, also related to Bitmaker’s next move – also a potential next move for us. If you become a registered Career College, will you ever truly disrupt education? At that point, you’re part of the system. You’re having students complete exams and keeping transcripts on file (but off-site, in an approved facility) for 25 years. You’re applying to have your advertisements and programs and instructors approved. You’re not updating your content as often, because each time do you it’s a huge pain in the ass. But you don’t say anything, because after all, you have to renew your registration with the MTCU annually and there’s just too much at stake. You’ll probably become a dues-paying member of the Ontario Association of Career Colleges or the National Association of Career Colleges, or both. Maybe you’ll join their board. You’ll scrutinize startups in the space who haven’t registered – can you report them for one reason or another? Anything to protect yourself and the status quo, right?

So, yes, while I am unreasonably supportive of Bitmaker Labs and want to see them back in action, I also understand where the Ministry is coming from. At the same time, Bitmaker Labs and HackerYou are doing great work, and that should count for something. Young people are getting jobs – could anything be more important than that right now? I have issues with the way the Bitmaker Labs investigation was handled (couldn’t the Ministry have allowed them to wrap up the current cohort?!) and I have issues with the system in general. I wish there was some middle ground. I am torn when it comes to the decision whether or not to register HackerYou as a Private Career College. On the one hand, it seems to be the only way to create a truly impactful business, since right now we’re limited when it comes to the length and cost of our programs. But on the other hand, I really don’t want to deal with any bullshit. And neither do our students. So another option is to just do what we’re doing (offer only programs that are exempt due to length and cost), at least until the MTCU and the Ontario Government realize that the Act and their enforcement of it are going to result in a new form of “brain drain”. If we can’t provide options here, it won’t just be our engineers and software developers who head south – Ontarians who want to learn to code may have no choice but to do the same. And maybe they won’t come back.

How to turn your WordPress site into a Windows 8 app – for free!


As part of Ladies Learning Code‘s partnership with Microsoft this year, we’re working on helping beginners to launch apps in the Windows 8 app store. Part 1 of our effort involved workshops in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa on Windows 8 app design and/or development. The team at Nascent (one of our silver-level sponsors) did an incredible job of developing the content for those workshops (as well as an awesome to-do list app) and leading both a design and development workshop in Toronto. Thanks as well to Kharis O’Connell (@rmtwrkr) for leading our App Design workshop in Vancouver, and to Barbara Spanton (@_b_a_r_b_) for leading it in Ottawa.

Part 2 of our plan involves a cool tool developed by IdeaNotion that makes it easy for anyone – even beginners – to turn their WordPress site into a Windows 8 app. It’s called IdeaPress, and you can access it on any laptop, running any operating system that has an up-t0-date browser. We’re taking things one step further by offering to publish apps using Ladies Learning Code’s Windows store developer account (which costs $99 annually) using a Windows 8 device that we’ve borrowed from Microsoft. We’re aiming to help 50 beginners publish apps in the Windows 8 app store by April 5th. If you’d like one of them to be yours (and we hope you do!), please follow the simple steps below.

1. Make sure your website is compatible with IdeaPress

IdeaPress works with WordPress – both self-hosted as well as sites will work! If you have a self-hosted WordPress site (aka., there’s just one tiny extra step that you need to do…

2. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site (aka., you need to install the JSON API plugin.

Log in to the admin dashboard of your website and click on “Plugins” on the left menu bar. Click “Add new” at the top of the page. In the search bar, type “JSON API” and click “Search Plugins”. The JSON API plugin we’re looking for should be the first result (it’s the one by Dan Phiffer). Under the title, click “Install Now”. Activate it. If you don’t see an option to activate it, go to “Plugins” and then “Installed Plugins” and activate the JSON API plugin from there. Finally, go to “Settings” on the left menu bar. Click on “JSON API” and activate “Core”, “Response” and “Post” by clicking “Activate” under each word.

(If you have a site, you don’t have to do this step! Also, if you’d like to have me do the rest of these steps for you, I’m happy to! Just send me an email and let me know the URL of your WordPress site, and I’ll go right ahead and create an app for you!)

3. Go to IdeaPress.meClick “Get Started” on the homepage, and enter the address of your WordPress site as well as your email address. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site ( and you have the JSON API plugin installed, it will move you on to the next step.If you are converting a site, it will ask for one more piece of information – your Client ID and your Application Secret. To get those, follow these instructions (instructions coming soon!)

4. General Info

Give your app a name and a description. It’s worth spending some extra time on your description, because an unclear description that doesn’t clearly explain the value of the app will be rejected by the Windows 8 App store. Here are a few examples of descriptions that were accepted by the app store:


“Welcome, friends. You have reached the personal blog & portfolio of Wes Bos. I’m a designer, developer and entrepreneur from Toronto, Canada. Please take a look at my work gallery, read my blog or get in touch!”


“HackerYou, based in Toronto, Canada, offers the city’s best part-time courses for people who want to learn to code. The recipe? Hands-on, project-based learning from industry-leading professionals. Small classes and a 10:1 ratio (or better!) of students to instructors. And a learning environment that’s social and collaborative. Make this year the year you finally learn to code – HackerYou can help get you there.

App features:

  • Check out upcoming courses
  • View upcoming workshops
  • Inquire about corporate training
  • Learn about the team behind HackerYou
  • Meet HackerYou’s advisors”

Make a note of your app description in a Word document or draft email – you’ll need it again later!

5. Content Configuration

Now is your chance to customize how your app looks. First, start by choosing which pages should be included in the app. For best results, choose pages with lots of content, as well as a unique image. I recommend avoiding including your “Home” page, if you have one, unless your homepage has content that is significantly different from what’s on your about page.You’ll also select which categories to include, and whether or not you’d like to include recent posts. I usually include all categories and recent posts.

6. Theme Configuration

Now is your chance to change the layout and colours of your app, and add images. This is where you can make your app look really polished. You’ll need a few different images – click here to download a file that includes blank files for each of the images you’ll need. You can use a program like Pixlr to add your logo, etc. to them.

  • Background image: 1366px by 768px (I usually just upload an image that’s completely white.)
  • Title image: 300px by 80px (This should be your logo – it goes on the top left-hand corner of your app)
  • Default article image: 252px by 168px (this image will appear anytime one of your posts or pages doesn’t have a photo)
  • Logo: 150px by 150px (kind of like an app icon)
  • Wide logo: 310px by 150px
  • Splash screen: 620px by 300 px
  • Screenshot: Later, you’ll also need a screenshot of your app which should be 1366px by 768px. You can create one by simply pasting your Splash Screen image onto an image that is 1366px by 768px. This mimics what the splash screen of your app looks like when someone first opens it.

7. Accept the terms of use and generate app package

Be sure to select “Generate App Package” from the options on the left side of the screen. In order to have Ladies Learning Code publish your app, you’ll need to enter the following information:

Privacy policy: If you have one of your own, you can modify it to be suitable for your app. Otherwise, just use the general one that we created for all apps published by Ladies Learning Code. Here’s the link:

Identity Name: This has to be in the format of “MyCompany.OurAwesomeApp”. So, if Ladies Learning Code is going to publish your app, and you named it “Coolest App” (back in Step 4), your Identity Name would be “LadiesLearningCode.Coolest App”.

Publisher Name: If we’re going to submit your app for you, the Publisher Name should say “Ladies Learning Code”.

Publisher ID: Enter the following: CN=0332249A-B178-470E-8455-17DC36E0D37E

Terms of use and privacy policy: Tick the box if you accept!

Click “submit” to generate your app. It will be emailed to you.

8. Get Your App Published

Shortly, you’ll receive an email from IdeaPress that includes a download link. Forward that email to me at heather [at] and include the following:

a) Your app description (just paste it into the body of the email). If you forgot to make a note of your app description in Step 4, you can log in to IdeaPress, open your app from the dashboard and use the arrows to navigate to the app name and description page.

b) Your 1366 by 768 px screenshot (attach it to the email).

Once I receive your email, I’ll submit your app to the store and let you know when it’s live! Thanks for helping us reach our goal of 50 apps in the Windows 8 app store!

If you have any questions about the steps involved in turning your WordPress site into a Windows 8 app, feel free to get in touch with me at heather [at] And if you have a WordPress-based website, please help us to reach out goal of helping 50 beginners publish apps in the Windows 8 app store by April 5th!

Girls and Video Games


Last summer, we ran a week of Girls Learning Code summer camp that focused on game design. Once again hosted by Mozilla, the camp gave 40 girls the chance to collaborate in teams to design and develop their own platformer game using Stencyl. We split the girls into groups based on their age: nine-year-olds worked together, 13-year-olds worked together, etc. With the help of a group of amazing mentors, the girls created some truly awesome games and showed them off at the end of the week at their very own Demo Day.

The fascinating thing? Nothing about any of the games the girls created indicated that they were designed by girls. There was no pink, there were no unicorns or hearts or rainbows. For the most part, an uninformed gamer would have no idea who created the adventure they were enjoying – girls, boys or a mixed group. We had games where pieces of bacon had to avoid being fried, popsicles had to fight fire and collect ice cubes, turtles had to go up against sharks and crabs, and of course, the token celebrity game where Hannah Montana had to avoid the Bieberbots. You can check out all of the games our campers created here.

What does it mean? I’m not sure. After all, our sample size is small. But for adults who interact with girls, it’s worth noting because perhaps our assumptions about girls and what they like  – especially when it comes to games, and maybe even technology – are wrong. My ask to parents, as well as grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brothers and sisters, and anyone else who interacts with children, is to simply not assume anything. Or assume everything. Assume that your daughter is just as interested in learning how a lawn mower works as your son is. Don’t ever automatically exclude her from that lesson, because it will send totally the wrong message – trust that she’ll let you know if she’s not interested. And at that point, you might want to teach her anyway.

Mind = Blown


I met 10-year-old Keegan back in February, at the first event for kids that I organized as part of my current gig with the Mozilla Foundation. His aunt is Vicki Saunders, someone I’ve known (and admired) for many months now. I’ve seen Keegan a few times since then – at the Hive Pop-Up in June, and then again today, at the Intro to Webmaking workshop that I’m running.

He just showed me his new website:, which is full of “Guides for Geeks” aka. tutorials for people who want to learn to code (or maybe do other things, too). So far, he has a Python tutorial + video, a clock background tutorial + video, and a lesson on creating an HTML web page. Currently, he’s writing a post called “Spreading the HTML Gospel” about today’s workshop.

Seeing this kind of thing makes everything that I do totally worth it. Keegan – you’re a rockstar. Keep it up!

UPDATE: If you’d like to get in touch with Keegan or compliment him on his excellent website, you can contact him at info [at]

Now I’m Really an Entrepreneur


I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur for a long time. Not when I was in university (back then, I wanted to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company), but sometime between graduating and landing my first real job, I realized that I just wasn’t going to be able to make a career out of working for the man. Even after that realization, it’s taken me a long time to get here. As of today, though, I’m really an entrepreneur. And I’m effing excited about it.

(Want to skip to my new venture? It’s called HackerYou. Click here to visit the site, click here to read our press release, and click here to follow us on Twitter.)

When I moved to Toronto in May of 2010 (you know, after living in China for 15 months and then dropping out of grad school), I wanted to join a startup. But, of course, I didn’t know a single person in Toronto’s tech or startup communities, and as a recent grad, I didn’t exactly have people clamouring to hire me…to do anything. I was lucky to land a job through Laura Plant (yes, the one from Ladies Learning Code) and I worked for a year at a big company. And that was enough of that.

Just before I left BigCorp Inc. to join a startup as employee #2, I was in LA for work. And if you’ve heard of Ladies Learning Code, you know the story. I stumbled upon an event via Women 2.0. Run by the PyLadies, it was a workshop designed for women who were beginners to Python but ready to learn, which described me perfectly. It was their first workshop ever, and it was great, and I returned to Toronto and tweeted about how we should have a similar group here. Almost immediately, I started receiving emails from people who were interested in the idea, and when I’d received about a dozen, I planned this event. 85 people registered, there was a great turnout, and as a group we decided to run our first workshop exactly a month later. About 20 people were involved in pulling that first event off – it sold out in a day, and was definitely a success! I was surprised, and really excited.

We started planning workshops every month, and they started selling out faster and faster – like, sell-out-in-five-minutes fast. By the end of 2011, my team (by now, four of us) made the decision to start offering two workshops a month. Now, almost 2000 women (and men) have participated in a Ladies Learning Code workshop. Over 400 developers and designers have signed up to volunteer their time. We run a March Break and summer camp for 9 to 13 year old girls. And just yesterday, we announced that we’re going to be offering a couple workshops in Vancouver this summer.

But although I definitely accept the compliments offered to myself and my team for the job we’ve done in starting and growing Ladies Learning Code, and although I truly appreciate being considered an entrepreneur, I haven’t felt like one. Not until today.

Maybe it’s because Ladies Learning Code is a not-for-profit. Maybe it’s because I got lucky, stumbled onto the idea, and just held on for dear life. Maybe it’s because the point of Ladies Learning Code was never to find a repeatable and scaleable business model (I mean, the thing has a business model, but it sure as hell doesn’t scale. Not easily, anyway.) Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things. It might even just be in my head. But I just haven’t felt like an entrepreneur yet.

Either way, it all changes today. Today is the day that I’m making a specific decision to bring something into this world that wouldn’t exist otherwise. I’m putting my money where my mouth is by making an investment in turning this idea into reality. In line with Steve Blank’s definition of a startup, my purpose now is to find a repeatable and scalable business model. And this time, I want to do something that will have a positive impact and make a profit, because I believe it’s possible to do both.

Want to see what my team and I built? Check it out: And be sure to follow us on Twitter – we’re @thisishackeryou.

What is a Hive Pop-Up?


For the project I’m working on for Mozilla, we’re exploring whether or not there’s an opportunity for Toronto to create its own Hive Learning Network. So far, it seems like we have the right ingredients: kids and parents who are interested in participating in the sorts of events that a Hive Learning Network would support, and organizations who see the power that comes from collaborating and sharing resources. The model for Hive Toronto might be similar to the network that exists in New York City, or we might put our own spin on it. But either way, I’m excited about the potential.

What is a Hive Learning Network?

Hive Learning Networks are coalitions of youth-serving organizations dedicated to transforming the learning landscape, creating new opportunities for youth to explore their interests, develop new skills and follow their passions through the educational application of digital media and technology.  They collaborate on projects that leverage digital tools around youth interests from science, art and social justice to filmmaking, hip-hop and skateboarding.

Core beliefs:

  • School is not the sole provider in a community’s educational system
  • Youth need to be both sophisticated consumers and active producers of digital media
  • Learning should be driven by youth’s interests
  • Digital is the glue and amplifier for connected learning experiences
  • Out-of-school time spaces are fertile grounds for learning innovation
  • Organizations must collaborate to thrive

Hive NYC was founded in 2008 and currently has 38 members ranging in size and focus, from The American Museum of Natural History and The Museum of Modern Art to Girls Write Now and Tribeca Film Institute.  Through the Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in The New York Community Trust, network members have access to grants every six months to support their innovative and collaborative ideas and projects.

So, What’s a Hive Pop-up?

A Hive Pop-Up is a style or format for an event organized by members of a Hive Learning Network, or by groups who are exploring the possibility of forming a Hive Learning Network. (Currently, there are groups exploring this in Toronto, San Francisco and London, UK, among others.) The main feature of the Hive Pop-Up is that it is made up of different stations (usually between 4 and 10). Each station is run by a different organization (or a couple of organizations collaboratively), and at each station kids have the opportunity to work on a different project. At the Hive Pop-Up that I organized in February, we didn’t have a set schedule or “rotation plan” – kids could wander around and join in the fun at any station that caught their attention. Lots kids tried all the stations, many tried a few, and some kids stayed at one station the whole time.

Although there are lots of ways to run Hive Pop-Up events, here’s my recipe:

Venue: Select a space that isn’t a traditional classroom. I love holding learning events in the Mozilla Community Space and at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, but if you don’t have spaces like these in your city, a community centre or library will work.

Time: 1 pm – 4:30 pm (Offer attendees a snack around 3:30 pm, and do demos at 4 pm)

Number of participants: Depends on the size of the space. If you’re not charging for the event (most Hive Pop-Up events are free), you should be prepared for some drop off. At the Hive Pop-Up event that I ran at Mozilla in February, 55 kids signed up, and about 50 kids came. (There was less drop off than I expected.) Since we had six stations set up, this meant that there were 5-10 kids at each station at all times, which worked well. Also, if you’re expecting parents to accompany their kids, you may want to consider setting up a “Parent Zone” – a place for parents to go and socialize, which can help kids feel more comfortable as they explore the different stations. We offered coffee, tea and snacks in the “Parent Zone” at the February Hive Pop-Up, and also had Mark Surman run a sort of focus group with the parents to talk about digital literacy and web making skills.

Computers: All of the learning events I’ve run so far (except for Girls Learning Code) have been BYOL – bring your own laptop. This isn’t a great answer (there are a lot of kids who don’t have access to laptops), but it’s the best most of us can do for now. It’s a good idea to try and have a few extra laptops on hand for kids who aren’t able to bring one. You can also try having kids work in pairs.

Signs: Make signs so that it’s clear to the kids what each station is about.

Volunteers: Have tons! You need to have pretty close to a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of kids to volunteers when teaching new digital skills (at least, that’s what I’ve found to work best), and you’ll need some extra people to help with registration, set up, take down, etc. I usually make “Volunteer” one of the ticket types on the event’s registration page, and found that it’s worked really well.

Handouts: It’s a good idea to have handouts at each station to help kids get started with their projects more quickly, and help them if they get stuck. They should almost be step-by-step recipes, including some additional challenges for kids who complete the basic project quickly. Handouts can make the job of the volunteer instructors at each station a little easier.

Connect the dots: Look for ways to have the different projects play into each other. At a Hive Pop-Up in Tokyo, they had kids create games in Scratch and then remix a popular gaming website to include the game they’d created using Hackasaurus. Collaborations at Hive Pop-Ups a great way to start getting Hive Learning Network members to start thinking about ways their organization might be able to collaborate. You never know where ideas for interesting, collaborative projects might come from!

Use it as a chance to get the word out about what Hive members are doing: One of the cool things about Hive Pop-Ups is that they are really effective for showcasing the work of a whole bunch of like-minded organizations. It can be a great opportunity for Hive members (or potential members) to get the word out about what they’re doing to a new or expanded audience. Encourage each station to have brochures, business cards, etc. about their organization and what they do. A Hive Pop-Up can be really worthwhile from a marketing perspective!

I’ll other things as I think of them, but that’s a good start! I can’t wait to put together another Hive Pop-Up event in Toronto!

Defining the role of a teacher


(From Seth Godin’s “Stop Stealing Dreams“)

It used to be simple: the teacher was the cop, the lecturer, the source of answers, and the gatekeeper to resources. All rolled into one.

A teacher might be the person who is capable of delivering information. A teacher can be your best source of finding out how to do something or why something works.

A teacher can also serve to create a social contract or environment where people will change their posture, do their best work, and stretch in new directions. We’ve all been in environments where competition, social status, or the direct connection with another human being has changed us.

The Internet is making the role of content gatekeeper unimportant. Redundant. Even wasteful.

If there’s information that can be written down, widespread digital access now means that just about anyone can look it up. We don’t need a human being standing next to us to lecture us on how to find the square root of a number or sharpen an axe.

(Worth stopping for a second and reconsidering the revolutionary nature of that last sentence.)

What we do need is someone to persuade us that we want to learn those things, and someone to push us or encourage us or create a space where we want to learn to do them better.

If all the teacher is going to do is read her pre-written notes from a PowerPoint slide to a lecture hall of thirty or three hundred, perhaps she should stay home. Not only is this a horrible disrespect to the student, it’s a complete waste of the heart and soul of the talented teacher. Teaching is no longer about delivering facts that are unavailable in any other format.

[Note from Heather: This post from Seth Godin makes me think about what we’re doing at Ladies Learning Code. Somehow, we’ve made almost 1000 women (and men) into passionate learners – for a day, at least – about a topic they otherwise might not explore. Sure, we use slides. But there’s something about the experience that puts Ladies Learning Code workshops in a new category. This isn’t school.

I find it pretty interesting to note that most of our Lead Instructors and Mentors are in a teaching role for the first time ever when they join us at a Ladies Learning Code workshop. And no one on the Ladies Learning Code team has a background in education. The funny thing about that is that it might be why what we’re doing works.]

So, Who’s Instructing the First-Ever Ladies Learning Code Workshop?


For more info about Ladies Learning Code, follow us on Twitter or check out our Facebook Page. We also have a Tumblr account here. If you’d like to join our email list (180+ subscribers already!), click here.

Ever since launching #ladieslearningcode a bit over a month ago, the support from Toronto’s developer community has been incredibly heart-warming and super encouraging. Our developer email list (for people interested in helping us as instructors) has grown to over 50 people in just a few weeks. Even though we launched our August 6th workshop (and guaranteed a 4:1 student-to-instructor ratio) without confirming with any potential instructors about getting involved, we felt confident that the developer community would come together and support us. And have they ever.

So, who’s instructing the first-ever #ladieslearningcode workshop? Check out the bios below to find out!

Lead Instructor: Pearl Chen (@androidsnsheep | Google+)
Research & Tech Manager at CFC Media Lab

Why is Ladies Learning Code important to you?

For my entire professional career (especially while freelancing as a web developer), I have never found myself working with another professional female developer (except once when I was involved in the hiring process). So…where are you, ladies? What scared you off? I hope Ladies Learning Code will help me answer this.



Crystal Preston-Watson (@jadedskipping |
Owner, Discrete Signal

Why is Ladies Learning Code important to you?

#ladieslearningcode is important to me because I think it can be it a key element in destroying the myth that women can’t (or don’t want to) be programmers. By reaching out to women who are interested and desire to learn programing and giving them not only the tools but a supportive environment to learn, we not only shape their futures but the future of tech as a whole.


Amrita Mathur (@amritamathur |
Director, Marketing at PriceMetrix Inc.

Though Amrita won’t be instructing (she started her career as a developer but is a marketer now), she has been an enormous help in planning and prepping for the workshop.

Why is Ladies Learning Code important to you?

Having worked in the high-tech sector all my life, I had almost come to accept a work environment that was male dominated. I was on a lot of sports teams as a kid, plus I took Computer Science in University (with all of 11 women in my class), so working and dealing with men has never been an issue.

What has been a problem though is a lack of the female perspective in product development, design and user experience. As more and more consumer apps and products come out, I find myself thinking – hey, wouldn’t it be better if women designed this stuff?! So many of these products are social, and women currently dominate social media and social product usage. Then how come women aren’t developing and designing these products? Doesn’t it make sense that women have more ownership of these products?

It was so obvious. We absolutely needed to see more women in tech… and in development and design specifically!

This is a big part of why I relished the chance to join and grow LadiesLearningCode in Toronto. My selfish motivation of course is that I would welcome and enjoy having more women to work with in the tech industry; but more than that, I wish to eventually help change the thinking of younger women getting into schools and colleges. I want them to understand that being in tech doesn’t have to be mind-numbing or painful, but rather an opportunity to shape the technologies that propel our lives.

I am grateful and enthusiastic to have joined a group of rich, diverse women to help make this happen.

Mike Conley (@mike_conley |
Thunderbird Developer at Mozilla

What are you passionate about?

The web!  Keeping the web open and accessible as a communications and innovations medium.  When I’m not working on Thunderbird, I enjoy working on open-source software (Review Board, MarkUs), and writing music / doing sound design for independent theater companies in Toronto.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I was referred by Greg Wilson, my M.Sc. supervisor.

Gavin Lobo
University of Ontario Institute of Technology, grad student, research assistant, tutorial instructor

What are you passionate about?

Teaching,  Science, Mathematics,  Programming

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I thought it was a great idea to encourage women to get involved with programming!


Jay Goldman (@jaygoldman |
VP Strategy at Klick

Special thanks to Jay and his team at Klick for hosting our workshop dry run on August 3rd. We appreciate it!)

What are you passionate about?

My beautiful daughter, Sophie. Having her fundamentally changed everything in my life. It made me want to reshape this world for her — to fill it with sunshine and possibilities and open doors. She just turned two and is working hard on colours and the alphabet, so JavaScript might be a little advanced, but I’ll bring out to one of the future events :)

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I have a deep technology background and have always fought against the male domination of my industry, trying hard to create opportunities for women whenever possible. Sophie has only accelerated that, and #ladieslearningcode is an excellent first step toward making sure she has a future in this business if she wants it.

Phyliss Lee (@phyllers |
Research Technician at the Princess Margaret Hospital

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about getting more women in technology and engineering, but also interested in human computer interaction and user experience design.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I think that it’s important for more women to to get into technology and engineering. As a teenager I was told that I shouldn’t go into computer science because it was all men, but being female shouldn’t be a limitation on what I can and can not become. In a graduating high school class of 80 young women, only 5 went into a technical (engineering or computer science) field. I want to see more women becoming software developers and engineers.

Christina Truong (@christinatruong |
Front-end Developer at Teehan+Lax

Christina will be presenting one of two “Lightning Talks” at our August 6th workshop. We hope she’ll hang around for a bit with us, too!

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about the web industry of course! In addition to that I love food and trying different restaurants and I LOVE SHOES!  I have 30+ pairs.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I thought it was a good opportunity to get more women involved in the technology field and to be an example for those who may be interested in getting into the development side of things.  I also hope to help those who are non-developers but work in the web industry to get more of an understanding of what exactly web developers do.

Laurie MacDougall Sookraj (@lmds)
Senior Analyst @ University Health Network

What are you passionate about?

Taking broken software and making it work, building stuff that’s useful to people and helps them to do their work more effectively.  Also hammocks, cupcakes, and martinis.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

Seemed like a good way to encourage people to get involved with technology, which can sometimes be intimidating, especially for women in a world where the gender imbalance in computer science often looks like 10 men to every 1 woman.  It’s fun to see the satisfaction of making something work that you built yourself, and of learning something new, especially for people who have never done this sort of thing before.

Svetlana Kolupaeva (@skolupaeva)
Java developer / Team leader @ Exigen

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

Oh, I had plenty of reasons and it was a perfect timing for me to run into #ladieslearningcode on the web :)
I’m new to Toronto. I am a woman in technology. And I feel doing ‘the right thing’ by supporting ideas that touch me.


Monika Piotrowicz
Interactive Developer

What are you passionate about?

I absolutely love being a web developer.  I feel so lucky  to be in a field where I can collaborate with people and learn new things every day.  Whether it’s fixing a bug, or seeing a site go live, it’s very rewarding to know that I’m part of building something that hopefully others may find useful, informative, or entertaining. When I’m not in front of a screen, I love trying out new recipes, watching movie marathons, and playing the very distinguished sport of dodgeball! :)

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I thought this sounded like a great initiative to introduce web development to women and also saw it as a chance to meet some like-minded ladies!  The Toronto tech scene in general is a really great community, so I also wanted to give something back.  I hope there will be more and more Ladies Learning Code after this event!

Melissa Luu (@melissa_s_luu)
Interface developer at Nurun

What are you passionate about?

Traveling and food.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I decided to get involved with Ladies Learning Code because I would like to help educate others with what is involved in the web development. This includes providing new developers with insight into this field and also helping marketers and PMs understand the real complexity of the web development process.

Emir Hasanbegovic (@phigammemir |
Agile Engineer at Xtreme Labs Inc.

What are you passionate about?

Developing core infrastructures that can be used as tools over and over again.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

(From the editor: Emir neglected to include a response here, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he is helping us out on August 6th because his girlfriend – and my very good friend – @lauralynplant is reponsible for Developer Outreach…and yes, that means you should contact her if you’d like to run a workshop! If you just want to help out, join our developer email list.)

Jon Lim (@jonlim |
Product Manager of PostageApp, The Working Group

Jon will be our official photographer and videographer on August 6th. Smile, everyone!

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about building awesome things, or helping other people build awesome things. If I love your cause or your project, I will probably sing about it from the mountain tops.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

At The Working Group, we have a team of amazing coders who produce quality code and it was a no-brainer to get involved. In addition, I could personally contribute with my camera, and what a better way to document all of the amazing women (and men!) who are involved in the process.

Thank you to everyone who has offered to help us…

There are too many of you – it will have to be an entirely different blog post. Plus, it’s 1:45 am and I want to go to bed.

Can’t wait for August 6th!