Over the last week or so I have been seeing Google's Made with Code (aka”Made w/ Code”) all over my social media feeds. I even saw it below the Google search bar on Google.com the day it came out. Even Mindy Kaling (who I obviously follow on Instagram) was at their launch party.
It's blowing up.
But what is it, exactly? And what are they trying to accomplish?
Funny. The actual site doesn't have a formal “about page”. But their inspirational one-liners – “things you love are made with code” – found across the site paints a pretty clear picture: they're trying to inspire girls to take an interest in coding.
In fact, their “big deal” page hidden in the section for parents and teachers does a fantastic job explaining the mission behind the movement. It also highlights some staggering statistics of women in CS. The Made with Code team explains that, beyond just inspiring girls, they're also trying to inform parents, teachers, role models, etc. on the part they play in making coding relevant and exciting for girls.
Looking at the overall site, how it is designed and laid out – I can't imagine why a middle school or high school girl wouldn't be motivated to learn how to code after spending some time on it.
It brings me back to childhood, for it's filled with bright and squiggly images. It kind of makes me jealous. I wish my site looked like theirs. You know, like jealous of the girl with the awesome book cover in class. But I have to remind myself: Google is behind this initiative. Not to mention a number of other big-name partners.
The “Mentors” and “Makers”
There are a slough of videos on the website. Most can be found in the “mentor” and “maker” sections. Mentors are the older, more established women coders. Makers are the younger generation of girl coders. All the videos are cinematically done to perfection. Also, all are under 2-3 minutes. All almost bringing me to tears. Okay … One actually did.
The video clips capture a variety of women (mentors) and girls (makers), all using code in different ways to better their lives or the lives of others. For instance, out of the mentors one was a dancer, another worked for UNICEF in bettering health in Africa, another designed video games… you get the idea.
And then for the makers, they featured a group of girls trying to clean up their neighborhood with an app. A girl who won a grammy and was featured on Jay-Z's album who uses code to make beats. Another girl who programs robots to interact with humans.
All the women and girls come from different backgrounds with different stories. These videos and the women/girls in them made a real-life connection to coding. By doing this, they highlighted all the opportunities that come alive when you know how to code. One of the backbone themes of Made with Code is to transform girls from consumers to creators.
And I have to say, after watching these videos, I wanted to experiment with robotics or fashion or beat-making. I wanted to create. I wanted to get hands on. Something I never wished to do before.
The Actual Coding Projects
I think I beat into the ground the fact that website is awesome and that the video clips are inspirational. However, the projects themselves are not so awesome.
For starters, all the projects use Blockly. I've used Blockly before with the Hour of Code session. Essentially, it's reordering blocks around to get the “program” to work. For lots of the Made with Code projects, that meant adjusting the position of objects on the X, Y coordinate plan. It also meant using blocks to change the color of said objects and the size.
Some of the projects were more advanced than others. The list below is ranked from easiest to hardest – in my opinion. There is nothing stated on the Made with Code site about the difficulty of the projects.
Code a Bracelet
This was so simple. I cannot emphasize how easy this “project” was. Basically, you chose a color of the bracelet and wrote out text.
The coolest thing about this bracelet project that they actually 3D print and mail you the bracelet for free.
This project is about making your selfie look cool. You can upload a picture or take one with your webcam. Then they give you some accessories to choose from. You have to adjust x and y placement of accessories to your liking. This project is more advanced than the last because in this one you at least play with X, Y coordinates.
In this project you rearrange a pre-set list of shapes into an avatar. Again, you use X,Y placement. However, this time size and color is thrown into the mix.
Out of all the projects, I probably had the most fun with this one. (Oh, sorry for all the white space up top. Reason is that I made him down in the right hand corner.)
Say It With A Gif
With the Gif project, things are a bit more complex. Instead of using just one canvas, this project is broken down into four frames. So each frame needs its own doodles. And you can rearrange their size, color, and X, Y coordinates to get an animated effect.
This one is ranked “hardest” mostly because I am horrible at anything related to music. I bet if I actually knew the instrument sounds, or understood notes, this would have been a lot more enjoyable.
Essentially, in this project you set a speed per minute. Then you check little boxes, arranged in a table-like way, that correspond with an instrument sound. Hit the “play” button and some beats start to play out of your speakers. Like the gif project, you have the ability to add additional “frames”. In this case, segments of the tune – making it longer.
I would attach the sound clip … but it's not very good.
Inspirational Rather Than Educational
I'll be honest: I probably spent too much time on the site. I watched every single video showcasing the “Mentors” and “Makers”. I also did every coding project.
But back to the videos, you don't have to watch every clip to be inspired. The video on the homepage, featuring TedxTeen Tavi Gevinson and young female empowerment icon Malala Yousafzai, is enough to leave an impact. In under two minutes.
Truthfully, this homepage video almost made me tear up. That's not too surprising, though. I've cried in countless commercials. (Especially Google ones.) All the videos on the site left me feeling empowered and proud to be a girl.
Obviously the purpose behind Google's Made with Code is admirable.
Of course I am all for inspiring girls on how to code. And yes I want more girls to move into Computer Science fields.
However, if you actually want to learn how to code, do not rely on this platform. But if you're looking to inspire a girl, show her the Made with Code website.
Final Thoughts on Made with Code
Overall, I have to say I love basically everything about the website. My only bone to pick is that the projects really aren't very expansive. And there is no description (at least from what I saw) that explains Blockly and the code behind it.
However, the resources page does have a list of other beginner and intermediate projects on other websites. It also has activities for parents, teachers and counselors.
In the end, this entire Made with Code initiative leaves me inspired and emotional (in a good way). It makes me so happy to see more and more online programs like this, designed to inspire younger kids. Notably girls.
Feature Image Found on Made With Code's Google +. All project images are my own final projects.