How Do We Best Teach Programming to Beginners?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I teach. I tend to take a “learn by doing” approach in my online courses where there are very clear, step-by-step instructions completed via video. However, this format gets pretty tough to execute in other contexts. For example, I teach an online graduate course for the University of Scranton, which is primarily text-based. This course’s goal is to get students with a healthcare background proficient in programming; the assumption is they are at least somewhat technical. After getting feedback, especially this semester, I’m realizing the approach my co-author and I took in creating the course was wrong. This got me thinking: how do we best teach programming to people who have never seen it?

Teaching with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

What Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Taught me About Teaching

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you already know I love Disney. Now that I have a daughter, I’m super excited to introduce her to this world that brought me so much joy as a child, and continues to today. We’ve started watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the morning, and while she’s too young to really understand what’s happening on the show, it’s a fun thing we do together (she does like the colors, and seems to recognize characters now). The other morning, while watching with her, I came to the realization that it wasn’t just teaching her problem-solving skills. It was also teaching me.

Flip the Classroom, but not onto its Head

Imagine you’re watching a movie. In this thriller, the protagonist is in a dark ally pursuing the bad guy. All seems quiet when out of the corner of your eye the killer come into view. He sneaks up on our hero, raises his weapon, and gets ready to strike. “LOOK OUT,” you scream, but no one can hear you. The film is not interactive; you know this, but you scream anyway. But what if it wasn’t a movie? What if you’re in a classroom, learning some complicated theory. You have questions, but the instructor can’t hear you. You, like our protagonist, are out of luck. That’s a terrible way to learn. It’s also what could happen when Flipped Classrooms are done wrong.

Announcing WP in One Month

I’m passionate about is teaching. I speak at conferences, write tutorials and books, developed and teach courses. Last week, An Event Apart hosted a Front End Development Round Table and the question, “What makes a senior developer,” came up. The general feeling was someone who can do and teach makes a senior developer. This reinforced what I already thought: teaching is an incredibly important aspect of any job or community. That’s why I’m super excited to announce WP in One Month.

Have Empathy When Teaching

I was recently having a discussion with a fellow WordPresser on the topic of teaching and she raised a very good point.

I’ve noticed with people…that they forget what they didn’t know in the beginning.

This is not only a fantastic point (and something I have been guilty of), but it’s a bit of a problem for people who teach, especially in my field – programming. It’s incredibly important to have empathy for your students when you’re teaching them a difficult subject.

100 Words 014

There’s drama in the WordPress community today, which happens about monthly seeming on the last day of the work week. Today’s is about being polite when shooting people down. This tweet by friend & instigator Ryan Duff is a good starting point.


The problem is many coders think:

  • They are smarter than everyone.
  • Everyone should know what they know.

During a workshop I attended, a presenter made it seem like WordPress was so easy. “GEE I WONDER HOW YOU ADD A POST?” This is insulting and makes people feel stupid. I wonder how many wanted to use WordPress after that.