One of my very first experiences with the computer was with coding. I was about 11. It was a big year for me. I officially became a “woman” and I learned how to code. My father signed me up for a computer camp at American University in Washington, DC. I had no idea what I was in for. I remember thinking that my summer was going to be “interesting.” “Why computer camp, of all things?” I was into basketball, photography … but as always, my father knew what he was doing…
IDTech at American University
We were taught the fundamentals of game programming/coding: making 2 elements move together as one unit. The basics but to an 11-year-old it was huge. Now, if any 11 year-old saw that black screen of code today they’d scratch their head in confusion. Today’s coders are blessed to have visually pleasing programs like Scratch (young coders drag and drop elements that are put together, almost like building with Legos but on your computer) to learn code. And there is even a Scratch Jr for kids 5-8!!
An 11-year-old Rani Robinson at the last day of computer camp at American University. All the parents came in for the final hour to see what we had learned throughout the summer.
Hour of Code with TouchDevelop
That summer at American University sparked something in me. I knew I was doing BIG things. From that moment on, the computer and I were inseparable. Every chance I could, I was on it! I had another wonderful opportunity (Thanks, dad!) to take a Desktop Publishing class the summer before my junior year in high school, at EXPLO, a summer camp at Wellesley College outside of Boston, MA. The experience this time around wasn’t about coding but designing posters, advertisements, etc, with systems like QuarkXpress. I had found my calling! I would spend hours designing random billboards, posters, etc, on the computer. I loved it.
Fast forward 20 plus years and I’m still that girl who loves to be on the computer. I eventually combined coding and design into website creation. After attempting to get an internship at National Geographic Magazine, to do layout design, I landed an internship at Discovery.com as a photo editor, turned video editor and ultimately interactive/digital producer creating content for some of Discovery’s biggest shows: TLC’s Little People, Big World and Miami Ink, to name a couple.
I was blessed, and because of those experiences that I continue to have today, it’s key for me to emphasize the importance of our children to have early, life-changing experiences. Had I not done the computer camp at American University and/or EXPLO, who knows what I’d be doing right now? Yes. I do have other passions, like photography (a pretty big passion, actually), but I can’t imagine it would be as cool as working on a computer every day, creating websites, writing, etc. Couldn’t possibly! *wink*
When I learned about Black Girls CODE, Kids Can Code and Girls Who Code (and these are just the ones I know about!), it brought back fond memories of computer camp. I immediately thought, “Oh my goodness! I was a black girl who coded!! That was me!! And now, being a mother of two, it brings tears to my eyes when I think about the amazing future that lays before my children and so many others, who will have the opportunity to experience technology at such a young age, like I did.
Since 2011, more and more organizations are popping up, teaching kids to code. One article I read even talked about “Forget Cursive, Teach Kids How to Code!” Sounds crazy but it’s partially true. The fundamentals – basics – will always need to be taught. But coding, using computers, tablets, etc, is the way of life now. It’s sad, but no one is writing letters anymore.
My father passed away suddenly in 2006. He and I were “thick as thieves.” It warms my heart to know that he’s probably smiling down on me right now and saying, “I told you that computer camp would work out in the long run!” *smiles*
– Rani Craft Robinson-Kiganda, Founder and Digital Producer of Craft Web Solutions