The Wizardry World of Coding

Children across the world are learning to code while diving into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s all because of a new STEM product called the Harry Potter Kano coding kit. Alex Klein CEO and co-founder of Kano computing shows us how these wands are teaching kids to code is.


The Wizarding World of coding.

Children across the world are learning to code while diving into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

It's all because of a new STEM product called the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit.

Joining me now via Google Hangout to show us how these wands are teaching kids to code is Alex Klein, CEO and co-founder of Kano Computing.

Thanks for being with us.

So what is the connection between Harry Potter and teaching kids to code?

It's pretty deep, and I think it goes beyond kids.

You know, if you look at the world we live in today, there are these 20 billion devices.

We all carry them around in our pockets.

We spend a third of our waking hours staring at them, and below the surface of the everyday, there are these wizards who write and speak these magic words that control these devices, that make the apps and services we depend on, and, most of the time, the rest of us never see this world of technology that can get into your head, make you think things, make you do things, technology that can move objects in the world around you.

So not unlike Harry Potter, who is introduced to this hidden world, who has the experience of revelation that these powers, they're not just for a secret subsection of unknown people, but for him and for his friends.

The Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit introduces, initiates the next generation into the magic of technology.

Arthur C. Clarke compared sufficiently advanced technology to magic, after all, and so the hero's journey we take you on with the kits, you know, building your own wand, learning to code, making your own spells, bringing them to life on a screen, is a pretty deep connection, we feel, between the mysterious worlds of wizardry and technology that enchant us even today.


So we have one of these kits that you've sent us.

This is... I've got a wand here.

I calibrate it basically by pointing it at the screen and making sure that this is in the center.

And then you've got different types of codes that really are just kind of fun little apps.

So when I move my wand up, the jelly beans keep growing up by 15 or 20 percent.

I mean, that's just one thing, but what's interesting is is that, when I X out of that, what it actually shows is all of the code that went behind it.

All of these different colors are, you know, it might be too small for the screen to read, but it says, 'When app starts, play this sound.'

'While the wand is moving up, do this.'

The speaker is set to X, and all of this is stuff that a student could actually just... You drag and drop, and you create this entire world, right?


So, you know, the purpose of Kano is to demystify technology and bring the joy of creating it to all people.

What that means in practice is we've taken powerful programming syntax and functions, and we've made it feel like a game, like, first blocks you can connect together, then real lines of code that you can type.

As you move through the world of Kano, you unlock new accessories, new powers.

You level up.

Your spells become more sophisticated.

You know, you can twist your wand to change the pitch of the song.

You can make it vibrate or rumble in your hand.

You can conduct music.

You can make objects appear and vanish, and then you can share your creations with others, so whether you're 6 years old and you just want to wave a wand and see a magical effect or you're a curious person of any age who's wondered how the technology we all depend on works, this provides sort of a peek behind the scenes that feels more like a game than homework.

So, really, when you're starting out in kind of the early parts of this app, you really... It's just as simple as adding a...I'm dragging a little blue that says, 'While wand is moving up,' and then I have a couple of different options.

I can change some sort of a particle fizz, and I can create a different color.

Looks like...Let me select a bright color that shows up.

And then let's make that full screen.

And let's see.

If I drag the wand up, there come some purple sparks.

So I guess it's...

I mean, you've just coded live on television, so kudos to you.

And then so this... What you're seeing here, and then there's actually another tab here, it says JavaScript... So explain.

For a young child, that might not be something that they pick up on, but what's happening... This is what, what I've just done but written in JavaScript, in that language?


So, you know, we want to keep it real.

You know, we don't want to just provide another layer that people become dependent on.

We want to show people the real code underneath, so, you know, we've had, using this system that combines, you know, blocks-based code and real text-based code, had, you know, kids in Sierra Leone make radio stations.

Kids in Kosovo automated the position of solar panels.

Older people, you know, veterans of Operation Desert Storm in the US make their own websites and host their résumés to get new jobs, so, you know, these powers are actually more accessible than most people think.

The problem is, you know, the development of computing over the past 20 years has taken us to a place where everything is premised on consumption, point and click, ease of use.

We're all very different people, but our devices all look the same, so, you know, the intent here is to open up computing to a more diverse set of activities that go beyond the surface level and to do it, you know, with recognizable stories and worlds like that of Harry Potter or Minecraft or Pong or Snake or music, make it feel mainstream and cool, not just like a sacred secret art.

All right.

Alex Klein of Kano Coding, thanks so much.

Thanks for having me.