Coding for Fun: An Interview with CodeMonkey
Every age brings along its own version of change, which in turn requires new skills to be developed and acquired. The rise of gunpowder meant soldiers had to abandon swords and learn how to use guns. The Industrial Revolution meant workers had to give up home industry and learn how to use machines. And in today’s age of computers, apps, and the Internet, it’s become more and more necessary to learn how to code. What was once a novel skill or nicety is increasingly becoming a requirement in schools, with the adoption of computer science requirements in the Chicago Public School District a prime example of this.
While many courses, classes, and boot camps devoted to coding exist throughout the world, most of them aren’t as clever or unique in their approach as CodeMonkey. Rather than relying on lectures or textbooks to teach coding, CodeMonkey harnesses the power and fun of games to impart skills through a series of pre-made games as well as a Game Builder mode. I reached out to co-founder and CEO Jonathan Schor to learn more about CodeMonkey’s roots, product offerings, and future aspirations.
In the Photo: A child playing a CodeMonkey game. Photo Credit: CodeMonkey.
How did CodeMonkey originally get started?
Jonathan Schor: Since 2001, my childhood friend Yishai and I saw the potential for empowering students to learn code through a game-like platform. Although we shared the vision, learning to code had not yet become a trend. CodeMonkey officially got its start in 2013 when my wife saw a Facebook ad inviting ed-tech entrepreneurs to apply to MindCET, an EdTech start-up accelerator. I then got together with Yishai and Ido, my younger brother, and together we created the foundation for CodeMonkey. Ido then came up with the name CodeMonkey and the specific monkey and bananas concept. The rest was history.
In the Photo: A screenshot of CodeMonkey. Photo Credit: CodeMonkey.
What kinds of games does CodeMonkey offer for students, and what languages do they teach?
JS: CodeMonkey offers students the Coding Adventure, Parts I and II, where students eight years and up learn how to code in the programming language CoffeeScript. CodeMonkey also offers older students Game Builder courses, which teach Phaser.js (an open source HTML5 game dev. framework) and a Python Chatbot course, that teaches Python as students program their very own chatbot. CodeMonkey also offers third to fifth graders three Dodo Does Math courses that enable students to practice mathematics concepts through using basic code.
Where has CodeMonkey been used, and by whom?
JS: CodeMonkey has been used globally, by home users, teachers, and students. We have users in Brazil, Japan, China, Israel, America, Sweden, Russia, Mexico, Argentina, Turkey, Greece, and more!
In the Photo: A classroom using CodeMonkey. Photo Credit: CodeMonkey.
In addition to CodeMonkey’s games, the platform also has a Game Builder function where students can use the skills they develop to make their own games. How did that get started, and what kinds of games have students made?
JS: Game Builder got started once we saw that it was very important to teachers that students are able to show something they created themselves after completing a coding course. In addition, being able to create games has been the main reason for children to learn to code since the 80’s, so Game Builder is CodeMonkey’s way to tap into that inner motivation. Students have made cool games with aliens from outer space, games similar to CodeMonkey’s Coding Adventure courses, and games with tigers and made up creatures.
Where do you see CodeMonkey heading in the future?
JS: In the future, CodeMonkey will become a global sandbox for children of all backgrounds to learn and create together with in a fun and safe way. Sort of like a YouTube meets GitHub for children.
Cover image Photo Credit: Children at school. Photo Credit: Lucella Ribeiro