In April 2020, as the first lockdown hit the UK and we were told to stay at home, we had our first Zoom call of many with each other. We had begun coding together using Scratch and knew we were hooked. Experimenting with our new skills, we created and launched an online quiz business on Etsy, which went on to sell hundreds of quizzes and games to families across the world. A few months later, we created our first website, Pen and Paper Puzzles, which we entered into the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Coolest Projects competition (helloworld.cc/penandpaper). We were both over the moon to have our project chosen as a judges’ favourite.
We both really enjoy coding, and we wanted to share that passion with others. Sitting on the beach during a sunny holiday together in Anglesey, we came up with the idea for what is now known as Mission Encodeable. We saw a gap in the coding space for a website with more projects and exercises, and we decided that we could be the ones to fill it.
Mission Encodeable is a free online course designed to introduce people to coding in Python. We wanted to make learning to code more enjoyable for our friends, and as the website is aimed at young people, we began by thinking about what we would have wanted to have access to when we taught ourselves to code.
Our idea was that the website could be used either at home by individual learners, or at school as part of lessons or in coding clubs. The website has a number of levels that begin with the key programming fundamentals and progress towards more powerful and advanced concepts. Each level has a variety of interactive coding exercises that let learners apply their knowledge and see which areas they need to revisit. There are two projects on each level, such as games like hangman and Mad Libs. We’ve presented these as guided class projects that include instructions, and challenge projects that learners make themselves, drawing on the concepts they’ve learnt in that and earlier levels.
We’ve put together some promotional materials for teachers to use in schools, too, including posters and a launch presentation that introduces learners to Mission Encodeable. There’s also a Python glossary full of examples that we hope teachers might find useful to give to their students. Based on the feedback we’ve had from teachers so far, we’re about to start work on a set of notes that offer some suggestions about how Mission Encodeable might be used with groups. Alongside this, we’ve been given plenty of ideas for other resources, which we’re hoping to publish on our website soon.
We chose to focus on Python for several reasons: it’s free, it’s a widely used language, it’s highly in demand (for example, it’s used at companies such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon), and there’s a great community to get involved with.
Although we wanted to inspire others to start their coding journey, we also saw the project as a great way to learn more ourselves and teach ourselves new skills. While we were familiar with how to write code in Python, we’ve learnt a lot in making Mission Encodeable. One of the skills we’ve had to develop is the ability to write tutorials that are both clear and engaging for all students — this was more difficult than we’d first imagined! We also had to teach ourselves about website design and development. Thankfully, here we had some input from Anna’s parents, who shared their company’s brand guidelines document with us.
Another challenge we faced was the distance — we live nearly 200 miles apart. This meant working remotely using Zoom for weekly video calls, Google Docs for writing ideas, and GitHub for sharing and reviewing code.
Finally, now that the website has been launched, we’ve been gathering lots of feedback from learners and people in the industry, who have been really generous with their time and advice. We’re also now learning about how to share our work more widely, so we’re finding out about branding and marketing.
So, what’s next for Mission Encodeable? One great piece of advice we’ve had is to keep testing our website with learners and listening to what they have to say. We’ve used Mission Encodeable with school coding clubs and are acting on the feedback we’ve been given to improve our content. At the same time, we’re both keen to get more content on the website, and we have started writing the next levels. If readers have any comments or suggestions, we’d love to hear them! Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mission Encodeable Level 1
In the first level, users are introduced to a free online coding workspace (Replit) before we take a deep dive into the fundamentals of the Python language, looking at variables, printing to the console, and maths in Python. The guided class project is a Mad Libs game, which uses string concatenation and variables. The challenge project is a band name generator.