Finding Direction & Returning to Social Media


In December, we had to make a lot of decisions about the future of our company. During this time, we decided to take a break from social media and unplug from doing anything that didn’t have to do with getting to the core of our mission and what we wanted to focus on for the next couple of years. This break gave us the time to think, talk, and figure out what the next steps were for codenaturally. We found our soul in serving schools and teachers. We have a fantastic strategy to get teachers that have never programmed coding within just a few hours. We’ve designed support material to make it possible for them to keep going on their own and learn WITH their students. It’s been such an exciting journey to iterate on our app, curriculum, and approach and we’re excited to help teachers all over the US get their students programming. You can learn more here about our curriculum, here about our app, and if you’d like to talk about bringing codenaturally to your school, click here.

Over the last 3 years, we bootstrapped our start-up through providing a series of services to students such as after-school programs, summer camps, and more. These programs provided the revenue necessary to iterate on our app and create over a years worth of curriculum that allows any teacher to learn to code with their students. Doing these programs taught our team so much and our students have contributed significantly to our app and curriculum.

A side effect of doing these programs was developing a team of empathetic educators that not only enjoyed working with students but created curriculum based on the problems they ran into with students. Our educators observed students interacting with the app and struggling to learn college level programming concepts. This behind-the-should perspective made it easy for them to see problems that we never would’ve thought of.

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Example: Spacing and formatting code is a really hard thing for students to do. They’re already struggling to learn syntax and key concepts such as loops, variables, conditional statements and so much more. However, if they don’t format, it’s a total pain trying to help them de-bug their code. This insight lead to the pretty button in our editor. It takes the student’s code and formats it to standard code formatting with proper indents and spacing. This made it easy for our educators to help fix our student’s projects during after school and summer camp but also changed how teachers used the app independently of us.

Our students also pushed our curriculum beyond anything we ever expected to create. When we set out, we thought we’d teach students to program in JavaScript. We’d focus on teaching them syntax and get them comfortable typing code. We thought we’d use Processing or P5.js to teach our students how to illustrate on to a grid there by aligning with NGSS standards as well as math standards for 4th-8th grade in Common Core.

Our students had other plans. They consistently learned to illustrate in weeks and wanted to do so much more. They wanted to program animations, games, and apps. They had ideas well beyond what they could do but they were eager to learn and willing to be patient with us while we tried to make it possible. Over time, we created lessons, project outlines, and walkthroughs to teach our students what they needed to know to code the projects they wanted to create.

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Over the last 3 years, over 5,000 students have learned to code with Code Naturally. Students have created projects that blow projects created by students from Carnegie Mellon, UCSC, and NYU out of the water. As they create better and better projects, we’ve had to evolve and create new features to make it possible for them to share their work.

This year, we’ve released our mobile apps for Android and Apple – allowing students to log into their Code Naturally accounts using their username and password or through logging in with Google. Once they’re logged in, they can view their projects, zoom in and out, view their P5.js code, and edit their tags or descriptions for their projects. Students instantly saw the app as an opportunity to create for a completely new medium – mobile and touch screens!

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They’ve just started experimenting and we’re excited to see what’s kind of apps and games they’ll design for mobile and touchscreen experiences. In the mean time, we’ll be focused on publishing our new Computer Science Workbook. This workbook or textbook will accompany our curriculum and app. The focus is to give students an offline outlet to think through their projects and conceptualize key computer science concepts. We’ve shared prototypes with teachers across California and have received fantastic feedback. As we continue to refine and prepare the textbook for 2019-2020, we’ll continue to bring on schools and districts for the new year. We’ll also be looking for a publishing partner to bring our new book and e-course to market.

As we transition to serving schools, students, and teachers all over the world, we’ll be moving all of the programs we’ve run for Santa Cruz County students to our new partner, Code Naturally Academy. Code Naturally Academy will stay focused on serving the Santa Cruz Community. It will be staffed by a team of Code Naturally Educators and will be supported by members of the Code Naturally Team. The goal of Code Naturally Academy is to provide all of our students in Santa Cruz a way to continue growing their understanding of Computer Science, JavaScript, Design, and so much more. Since our first camp of just seven students to Code Nights serving hundreds of students from all over the county – it’s been a fantastic adventure to see all of our Santa Cruz students push our app, curriculum, and staff to their limits. Code Naturally Academy will ensure that these students continue to have outlets to express their creativity and continue their learning. It’ll also provide new opportunities to students to get coding through partnerships with Santa Cruz City SchoolsScotts Valley Unified School District, and Soquel Unified School District. Santa Cruz is where we developed and found our passion for creating experiences for students that make them fall in love with creating through programming. Code Naturally Academy is our attempt to give back to this community and ensure that it always has the resources necessary for all students to have access to a diverse Computer Science and STEM Education.

There’s more news coming up about both codenaturally & Code Naturally Academy so stay tuned to learn about what’s next for us. In the meantime, feel free to get in touch with me about questions, comments, or anything you’d like to talk about.

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Reference of Standards:

Next Gen Science Standards

Common Core

K12CS Framework

Computer Science Standards by CSTA