Fatima Alsalman, 11, lives with her parents and little sister in Al-Ahsa, the largest governorate in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Her father is a blacksmith, and her mother is a nurse, but Fatima learned about Tekkie Uni’s coding classes from her aunt, Maysa Adnan, a teacher who often babysits her niece.
“Fatima spends most of the time at my place, especially when both of her parents are at work,” said Maysa. “I saw an ad for Langaroo’s English courses for kids, and I spoke to Fatima about it.”
But Fatima didn’t want to take another English class — she already takes English at school. She was much more interested in doing something more creative. She’d participated in an online event called Hour of Code that introduced her to programming, and she wanted to try more.
“Like my father who designs his own work, I want to design computer programs,” she told her aunt.
Maysa understood her niece’s interest. Before she was a teacher, Maysa earned a degree in programming. So she investigated further and learned about Tekkie Uni’s app development courses. It seemed like a good way for Fatima to get started with coding.
What’s it like for a kid to take coding as a first online class?
Tekkie Uni was Fatima’s first online course, and getting used to it was difficult at first, says her aunt. At first, Maysa didn’t think Fatima was going to want to stay in the course.
“In the beginning she was afraid and questioned the program,” said Maysa. “She just wanted to play and did not want to work. But after she tried it, she wanted to do more and work on the projects, and her teacher also encouraged her.”
Another thing that helped Fatima was working with Scratch, a block-based visual programming language designed for children. Not only is Scratch easy to work with for kids — children can move around pre-written blocks of code to create their own programs — the mascot of Scratch is a cat, and Fatima loves cats.
“That’s how she got her interest and enthusiasm for the programming language,” said Maysa, laughing. “It all came from a cat!”
Once Fatima became more comfortable with the program, however, she had a great experience. While the program did challenge her, Maysa watched her learn from her mistakes.
“I always encouraged her, especially during those moments when she felt frustrated,” she said. “Sometimes kids want to achieve their dreams in the easiest way, but the role of the family here is to teach them to do it the hard way.”
Once Fatima was committed, however, she began to spend a lot of time on her projects, tending to them as if they were babies or puppets, says her aunt, always thinking about the next project and linking them to her future ambitions. One project she worked on was a Hello Kitty! game she wanted to design for her four-year-old sister.
“She was just sitting and thinking about how to surprise her little sister with a sweet project of hers,” said Maysa.
How does Tekkie Uni help kids outside of class?
Maysa has watched her niece become a stronger, more confident child as she’s learned coding with Tekkie Uni. She’s shared her projects with her friends and teachers at school, for example, and has received a lot of support.
“Once her teachers knew she studied coding at Tekkie Uni, they wanted to benefit from her coding skills, and pass the experience on to her classmates, especially since this coding program is not well-known in her public school,” said Maysa. “She’s become like a little teacher!”
Fatima’s friends are excited to see her work; they ask her about the games she’s working on and ask if they can see her phone and the projects she’s working on.
“This field of learning is new to kids, and in our area, kids and parents are still not familiar with it,” said Maysa.
Fatima has taken two classes with Tekkie Uni, and she’s learned about much more than coding. She’s met children from other counties, learned about time zones, and made new friends with different ways of thinking. She’s learned how to solve problems, and doesn’t give up easily, and has improved her English.
Tekkie Uni has also changed her attitude about learning, said her aunt.
“With your coding program she has felt the difference and become aware that learning can also be fun, unlike traditional schools where homework is mandatory, and students study only for grades,” she said.