Last year, I received a tweet from a colleague... something along the lines of "wanna learn some code?". Of course I did! I thought it would be some kind of web experience, much like Lynda.com or CodeAcademy.com. But my friend gave me an address for a physical, geographical location. I showed up to a beautiful open space at Bathurst and Bloor in Toronto, and found myself witnessing the birth of a social and educational movement. Today, this organization is called Ladies Learning Code, and I later came to realize that there are many others like it across North America.
I'm the blurry figure in front-center, and to my right (left of the picture) is a ballerina and publishing company editor who also wanted to learn how to code. Who would've guessed!
The interesting thing about these specialized meetups is that specific groups of people are intentionally invited and included. In one perspective, it may seem like an act of exclusion; it reminds me of the treehouse club signs from days (not so) long ago: "No boys allowed". However, I believe this is a misconception. In fact, the group parameters are only a starting point that ensures the initial group is a safe and familiar environment. Members can then experience more freedom to participate, make mistakes, and ultimately learn how to code.
Here is a roundup of some unique popups in the global, collaborative web of informal coding groups:
Black Girls Code, founded by Kimberley Bryant, has a mission to "introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders, coders who will become builders of technological innovation and of their own futures", with a specific outreach message for young and pre-teen girls of color.
Ladies Learning Code is a Toronto not-for-profit that offers weekend workshops on everything from Ruby on Rails to Photoshop. Founded by Heather Payne, this organization is one of its kind in Canada, and opens up opportunities for Canadian women to learn (and teach) code.
LEGup, or London Educational Games Meeting Group, is organized by Kirsten Campbell-Howes, and is open to anyone in the London, UK, area who wants to make educational games and apps.
Youth Hack Jam (Los Angeles, CA) is a family affair, organized by Tara Tiger Brown, invites parents AND their kids to learn about starting websites in multiple platforms.