KillerPHP Blog


Career Oriented Code Curriculum for Middle School and Up.

February 22, 2018

Schools are starting to realize that a code curriculum should be real-world focused.  That means students come away with both conceptual, and practical coding skills. Unfortunately, many courses/solutions offered today only offer conceptual learning.

… There are no jobs in block based coding, or in using code snippets to move a character around a screen.

How to easily teach both conceptual and practical coding

The best way to accomplish this, is through a web design and development based curriculum. The argument for teaching code with the web languages (HTML, CSS and JavaScript,) can be summed up as follows:

  1. HTML and CSS are visual, and so very engaging.
  2. School don’t have to buy special software to create websites. In fact, there are many free optionsthat can be used to teach with.
  3. You can build websites on any type of computer. Even older computers are more than powerful enough for web coding and programming. Windows, Mac, Chromebooks, Linux computers … can all be used.
  4. Web design and programming skills are in high demand. Students come away with skills that have economic value, whether they enter the job market, become freelancers or start a company of their own.

Besides the teaching advantages of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, the web coding languages are only gaining in popularity in industry. Not only are they used to create websites and web apps, with popular libraries like React Native and PhoneGap, web based coding languages are starting in take over mobile app creation.


Because of the aforementioned advantages:

  1. Web languages teach both conceptual and practical coding.
  2. Works on any computer.
  3. Fun and engaging for students.

… I personally believe web based coding courses will become the preferred way to teach code in the classroom.


Stefan Mischook

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Great Alternatives to Dreamweaver for the Classroom

February 20, 2018

This is a common question I get from teachers:

When it comes to teaching web design, what is a good alternative to Dreamweaver?

A few things to consider:

  1. Most professional web designers DO NOT use Dreamweaver.
  2. Teaching web design with Dreamweaver introduces an extra layer of complexity for no good reason. You have to teach BOTH Dreamweaver and web design.
  3. Dreamweaver is expensive compared to many alternatives … especially considering the free software out there! 🙂

Side note: I’ve been teaching code and programming since 2003, and web design is a great vehicle that you can use to teach code with.

… Wed design is great (to teach code with) because it’s visual, easy to learn, and cross platform. Heavy tools like Dreamweaver try to hide the code from users, but that hides the most important aspect of learning web design: writing actual code!

Great code editors for your students

There are many great options to choose from that are free, and you have options for all types of computers:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Chromebook

Taken from the StudioWeb QuickStart Guide:

Sublime Text – for Windows and Mac:

Notepadd++ for Windows:

Brackets for Mac and Windows:

Caret for Chrome and Chromebooks:

TextWrangler for Mac:

Stefan Mischook

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Coding Courses that Teach Real Code!

November 17, 2017

Writing snippets of JavaScript to move a character 2 steps to the left, doesn’t teach kids anything about programming … at best, it’s a cheap replacement for an xbox controller.

… One teacher called me up recently, telling me how after the initial excitement student’s had moving characters around with code snippets, students fell into a pattern of typing in commands blindly to move the character, and quickly got bored.

In the end, students ended up not learning much of anything.

Teach real-world coding can be very fun for students!

When I first developed the StudioWeb program and curriculum 7 years ago, I wanted to teach students how to actually code real projects.

Most of the courses offered out there, are created by programmers who have no understanding of education. So they all fall back on the erroneous idea that to make coding fun, kids should use pseudo-code (fake code) or code snippets, to move characters in a game.

… But as I mentioned before, this type of course, doesn’t actually teach real coding.  As any programmer / coder will tell you, it is the concepts behind the code that matters.

Have students write real code to learn code:

I come from a family of teachers, and have been developing code course since 2003. I was able to leverage that experience to produce a curriculum that is both engaging, and still teaches students how to write real code, using the most important computer languages today:

  • HTML5
  • CSS3
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • PHP
  • SQL

Added benefits (to students) learning to code:

I see the value in teaching coding beyond the obvious job opportunities:

  1. Logical thinking
  2. Problem solving
  3. Deferment of gratification
  4. Organizational skills
  5. Digital awareness which can protect them from scams

… Etc.

So even if the kids don’t code in their future careers, they still have much to learn by learning to code.

But I also recognize that I am as biased as you can get!

Stef Mischook

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Learning to Teach a Python Course

September 7, 2017

One of the first questions teachers ask us:

” … how long will the PD be, in terms of learning how to teach a code class?”

Whether you are teaching Python, JavaScript or just a basic web design class, with the StudioWeb app and curriculum, the real truth of the matter is, it take practically no PD at all!


Teacher and Student Feedback 

It has taken us 6-7 years to polish our app and curriculum, but StudioWeb has been refined to be amazingly easy to teach a code class with … so, there isn’t much prep required. Teachers are happy to discover how quickly they feel comfortable leading a code class with StudioWeb.

In a nutshell, the prep with StudioWeb is:

  1. Watch our PD videos on setting up a StudioWeb class. It’s really, really easy since you just have to give account ids to students.
  2. You can do the course(s) as a student does them … to get familiar. Since StudioWeb has a powerful hinting system … students can never get stuck, which means you never have to answer code questions. So even doing this is not really required.
  3. Since SW does all the grading automatically, you don’t even need to grade!

If you would like to learn more about teaching code with StudioWeb, you know what to do!


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What Yale’s Socially Assistive Robots and StudioWeb have in Common

August 2, 2017

I was reading an article on Yale University’s research with socially assistive robotics, that help to teach kids. The main points I got out of the article:

html course badge studioweb

  • Robots learn and adapt to individual student need.
  • Students are motivated when the learning process is turned into a game. A little competition is very motivating for many students. Otherwise known as gamification.
  • When students work one-on-one with a robot, they are not afraid to answer questions, since all the students are busy working with their own robots.
  • The robots look like fun toys.

This is interesting to me, because the StudioWeb app and curriculum, has been developed with an awareness of the above lessons.

StudioWeb’s experience reflects Yale’s:

StudioWeb’s software shares similar traits (if you will) with Yale’s socially assistive robots. StudioWeb is a gamified app where students learn to code, as they unlock levels, earn badges and score points. Students work on their own computers, at their own pace, and so they don’t have to worry about social pressures.

Understanding the importance of the emotional component of teaching, each of our courses are represented by fun and cool animals: two frogs, a sheep, a spider and a python. Each animal also becomes the course badge students can earn. Finally, we add to the learning process fun, with the gaming aspect, and good old fashioned humour.

… Students come away smiling and giggling as they learn to code.

StudioWeb does not replace teachers … but we help! 

From the article:

“You may have a public school where there are 25 to 30 kids in a classroom and the amount of time that the teacher can spend one-on-one with each child is relatively limited,” said Scassellati in an interview with R&D Magazine.

Socially assistive robots free up teachers time, so they can concentrate their efforts where it might be needed – say students who made need special attention. This is a far better approach than trying to teach a classroom as they did in Plato’s time.

In a nutshell: the core lessons need not be taught over and over again by the teacher. That’s where assistive technology (robots and apps) come into play.

StudioWeb provides the same benefit. We’ve designed our curriculum and app, in such a way that it is nearly impossible for students to get stuck on a coding lesson, whether it be theory or actual coding. As such, students happily work through the video based lessons, without having to ask the teacher questions that have been asked countless times.

Rather than using an Ai, we’ve been able to refine our lessons over the last several years, eliminating the common questions, by addressing them in the lessons themselves.

… Good old fashioned teaching my father taught me, combined with data from a few hundred thousand students and your courses start to get really good!

Stefan Mischook

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