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In recent years, free coding tools developed by thoughtful individuals have made coding a far more accessible skill to learn. But no matter how accessible, picking up any new skill is a daunting endeavor. This is especially true for coding, which has a mainstream reputation for being "difficult" or "foreign." When we begin to pursue the venture of learning to code by ourselves, this label becomes overwhelmingly terrifying.

However, what if you were surrounded by a community of 499 other individuals learning the very same skill you're try to master? What if you had programming gurus and an entire company of veterans well versed in making "magic" with code at your beck and call? With the help BoldLove Communications, I was able to attend The HTML500, a one day coding event where 500 aspiring coders learn to become digitally literate together, accomplishing this goal marvelously. It did so by letting the students draw strength and support from their peers as well as the expertise of the thriving coding community.

The Technology

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Lighthouse Labs' Director of Education, Khurram Virani, and Senior Instructor Don Burks took turns presenting the basics of HTML and CSS (and its creative potential) to the attendees in the morning and had great fun doing it. These topics were critical for the lab exercises in the afternoon, and they also helped newcomers see coding languages as tools for one's imagination - much like paint brush and canvas. Students could choose to create either a company landing page or an online resume. These assignments were challenging, but those dedicated to learning the material were most certainly able to complete the exercise by the end of the lab session. Attendees were also encouraged to take the materials home and experiment; altering background colors, size of content wrappers, changing icons, font styles and so on as well as given resources for further learning. Although the course materials served as a great introduction to computer languages, it was the people we worked alongside with and the support we got that made it a great experience.

The Community

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Attendees worked around a round table in groups of 8 to 11, enabling discussion and collaboration. This group setup is beneficial in several ways. Attendees can get assistance if they run into difficulties and bond with their group members over the common goal of learning code. Attendees can also find solace in knowing there are plenty of others struggling with the same learning issues as they are, relieving any feeling of separation which often plays a part of taking on a venture by oneself. Should parts of the lab prove too vexing, attendees can always count on the help of mentors who have a wealth of coding experience from work and educational background. On several occasions they quickly pinpointed the error of my ways. As someone who has already been learning code prior to the event, mentors were also great to talk to about personal struggles in learning as well as understanding how best to prepare for and excel at coding bootcamps (for those interested.) To sum it up, HTML500 can be seen as coding bootcamp "lite." They operate similarly, with presentation/instructions delivered in the morning, and collaborative lab sessions in the afternoon. It gives attendees a taste of things to come should they decide to dedicate themselves to learning code through a programming bootcamp like Lighthouse Labs.

Every participant had a reason to attend The HTML 500. From the course, I got gotten plenty of material I can use to practice coding for weeks. From the people, I was able to reconnect and make friends as well as create key network connections. These include the group members who helped me and whom I assisted, the mentors (Chris, Lynn and Danny) who were more than happy to share their learning experiences as well as bootcamp preparation advice and company co-founders at the job fair such as Joe Facciolo of Guusto. From the event, I was able to get a taste of what it will be like attending coding bootcamp and coding for an extended period in a group setting. HTML500 was a great event, and if attendees understand how to capitalize on the breadth of opportunities available, it's spectacular.

About the author:

An alumni of BCIT's Marketing Entrepreneurship and BBA program, Charlie Yu is passionate about the startup movement and seeks to contribute to this year's event as a writer. Charlie's start-up related experiences includes working as a webmaster for the start-up, Pokosha Clothing, interning for a GrowLab Cohort KarmaHire and being a organizing member of Start-Up Weekend 2012. Outside of the start up scene, Charlie's interests include keeping up with technology, writing and learning to coding and design.

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