The benefits of learning to code young: views of a 13 year old developer

From MSDN Blogs February 26, 2014 at 08:30AM

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Originally posted on the UK Developers Blog

I am Ross Lowe, a 13 year old from Oakley, a pupil at Sharnbrook Upper School. I started writing code in Visual Basic when I was 8 years old, and have utilised Visual Studio and DreamSpark – free developer software for students. My favourite languages are HTML, JavaScript and C#.

Ross Lowe

I develop for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. I like the versatility of Windows, it is so open and really attractive from a UI perspective. Visual Studio isn’t restricted to just one programming language, the interface is nice and it is easy to create attractive and powerful content in a small amount of time. I use DreamSpark, free Microsoft software for students, to get Visual Studio and for a developer license. I first learnt to code at home using websites like YouTube and through trial and error. I used to come up with an idea, think what stages would be required to achieve this end, and then searched for code snippets or tutorials for each individual stage. I consistently improve my skills by coding, learning new things myself.

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I have a published app in the Store. My app is called Face The Facts, in both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 store. It is a quiz based app. It presents the user with categories, where when selected will present a random fact. The user has to decide if the fact is true or false, and is rewarded with a point if the fact is correct. The user can also add facts, and create and view custom quiz pages. I presented Face the Facts at BETT this year, demoing my app to passers-by on ‘the app wall’. I attended the event for the first time last year so getting to present this year was an amazing experience. I attended all 4 days and it was great to spend a week with Microsoft, surrounded by technology (which of course I love) and interesting people. I also learnt about the world of developing from a 19 year old developer called Jamie Clarke, whose app My Study Life is already number 1 app in Education. I learnt a lot from Jamie, especially about the human side of coding – the little things that you don’t learn unless you meet other developers. Things like code efficiency, and what happens after your apps are published. BETT was a really great experience for me as a young developer.

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We do coding in school for computing, but not many students are interested enough to code at home to really develop their skills and enjoy it. I am very interested in programming, but I also see it as something to do to keep me entertained, I think more students could benefit from knowing this. You have the advantage of time which puts you further ahead of most, and I know I will be significantly ahead of peers in IT exams for example. I wouldn’t say the real benefits of learning to code young are in school, though. If anything, being good at coding is a negative in ICT lessons as it means you are bored and you feel you could be doing something more productive to develop your skills.

In the future I want to run my own computing or software company, or be employed as a programmer. This is what I believe learning to code young has really helped me with. I can write apps now, and hopefully as I build my experience I can build a company at a young age. The younger and more experienced I am, hopefully the greater chance of success.

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