Stacey Reiman, founder of the educational programming app Monster Coding, wants you to know “you can do it from home.”
With degrees in Spanish, Latin American Studies, and Political Science, Stacey’s education is well-rounded, but her passion lies in languages. Her love of dialects spread to the language of programming where she quickly picked up coding skills. As a self-taught programmer and entrepreneur, she’s responsible for creating several successful apps, such as ‘Musical Spanish learn through pop music.’
When Stacey encouraged her children to learn programming through Code.org, she found a platform lacking complexity. She quickly sensed an opportunity to educate and founded Monster Coding. Monster Coding teaches children across the world to learn programming with sound-based assistance.
I interviewed her this past week, and here’s what she had to say:
Why did you start Monster Coding?
“My daughter Julia wanted something more complex (than Code.org). She wanted an ‘if’ block and it wasn’t available, so she asked me to edit the app. I said ‘no, I can’t edit this app, but maybe I can make one like this for you!’ It (Monster Coding) became a labor of love at that point. I quickly found that developing a computer science app for kids was the most exciting project I’d ever worked on.”
How is Monster Coding different than what’s already in the marketplace?
“I see learning programming as similar to learning a foreign language; many of the same core principles apply. If a kid is learning to program, they shouldn’t have to learn to read at the same time. This is why we have the audio component.”
If a kid is learning to program, they shouldn’t have to learn to read at the same time.
In what ways do you see your app changing in the next year?
“We are in our infancy, (so) we are still trying to catch our breath and understand how this would look like with investment. There are all these features I’d like to develop, and I know I need investment to grow.”
How do you feel about the current curriculum for children? Should computer science be included?
“Definitely! There are so many jobs that will be lost in the future if we don’t educate our youth today. There are all kinds of opportunities in tech that aren’t even programming specific. Every kid needs the opportunity to see if any of those things (computer science) are things they could be good at. Computer science really should be taught in every school; everybody should be able to get a job.”
I noticed there was a stats section under the “Country Quest Tab,” comparing the use of your app in various countries. How important do you feel analytics are in relation to your app?
“I get excited by seeing which countries are using my app. As far as analytics I pay more attention to, I recently looked at student behavior in the app and noticed that the amount of students who got to the last activity was low. So I wondered what the problem was. I began tracking errors, and added a ‘Solve It’ button (so when a child makes a mistake they can click the button, re-read the question and try to solve it again), and then the rate of kids completing increased, which was nice to see.”
As a recent participant in the Hour of Code, how do you feel your app stood out from the crowd?
“I think our use of audio to introduce each activity and provide feedback was really one of the most important differences. Teachers have given us great feedback about the importance that played for their students. We were also really excited to partner with a company out of Arizona, called Responsive Voice, which provided on-the-fly audio in foreign languages as well.”
What’s been the toughest or scariest decision for you as an entrepreneur?
“You have no guarantee of a positive outcome. You walk out on a ledge and have no choice, but to keep going. I know that I will jump into the unknown and am going forward no matter what.”
How do you feel about being a woman in technology?
“Women are powerful, women are resourceful — we work. I want to see more strong women saying they program at work, or program and do it from home. We can fight the stereotypes.”
Women are powerful, women are resourceful — we work.
What advice do you have for other women?
“I switched my focus from publishing to software and app development because I fell in love with the creation process rather than just the creation. I also found out that I could build my skillset one project at a time, and craft pretty amazing things just by looking at online examples, and working through them on my own. All the while, I used online resources to study topics as they came up in my work, which made it easier to learn.
So I learned things as I needed them. And when I hit a wall, I’d look for a way to climb over it through creativity and sometimes through long hours! The bottom line is that I would encourage other women to realize that they can do it (learn to program, design or do anything else you put your mind to) from home, too.
I hope someone will see my story and think that they can do it from home and do it with their own time and brain.
Women in all walks of life should know that technology can change their circumstances. You don’t need be able to get into MIT or get a job at Facebook to make tech work for you. You can learn all sorts of new skills through online programs, or online courses like Khan Academy, Coursera, and a host of others. Being a stay at home mom, a caregiver, or a housewife doesn’t mean the only jobs you can do from home are related to domestic duties!”