Children, Youngsters, and Coding – Cavit Yantac Microsoft

by Sinan Oymacı 0

Recently, corporates started an important mission; teaching coding to children and the youngsters. We discussed what Microsoft has accomplished in this respect to teaching coding to the young with the Deputy General Manager of Microsoft Turkey, Cavit Yantaç.

#Azure #BizSpark #BizSparkPlus #Kodu #CavitYantac #Microsoft #HourOfCode #TouchDevelop



As Microsoft, what have you been accomplishing recently to teach coding to children and the youngsters?

The new era of our days is to teach coding to children. This has various reasons:

The young generation is dealing with computers, tablets, and smartphones at a very early age have never been before. Children are growing up by playing games usually. However, there is not much content on the devices they use, to carry them forward. The devices they use are developed not to produce something but to consume. If we add the high level of young generation in Turkey to this picture, we can examine the following chart.

If we do not present these children the technology at early ages and teach them to use this technology to produce something then, it means that we are unitizing the society consumption characteristic of our country.

We are talking about a country where 50% of the population is below 30 years of age, and 18-20 million children are students at primary schools to universities. However, these 20 million students can only graduate 5.500 computer engineers every year. Universities like Bosphorus University, Koç University, ITU, METU are seriously studying on this subject along with some universities in Anatolia with limited possibilities and facilities.

Therefore, the universities are not sufficient to close this gap in the lack of computer engineers in Turkey. Our country has to utilize a brand new perspective. The only way to overcome this problem, before saying that every year 5.500 computer engineers will be sufficient, we have to start teaching these children coding when they are five years old.

The only answer to the question, “how can we make these kids productive inside the world of computers?” is CODING.

I say, just one answer because, coding is not the only answer. Coding is not a talent that everyone should know or learn. Nor is information set. You should not have high expectations from all children for coding. However, if we are giving our children all these tablets, smartphones and computers then, we must also provide them the sufficient infrastructure where they can be productive by writing programs and by designing these programs.

How can we educate them and how can we achieve this? That is one of the main issues that we are dealing with and working on as Microsoft all over the world, as well as in Turkey. We are deeply inspecting this issue and are trying to make it more meaningful.

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Does this bring us to the Open Academy?

This issue, particularly for Microsoft Turkey, became an important item on our agenda four years ago. As Microsoft, our desire is to carry the market share of Turkey to higher levels within the global digital market and walk one more step to transform our country into an informatics center. To reach this target, we have established our Open Academy in 2012 in the fields of implementation, improvement and software education. Open Academy has now over 180.000 students all over the country.

We take a person who knows nothing about program writing and teaches him what coding is, what algorithm is, what is data, how to play with data, what are numeric values, what are in numeric and carry them further to program writing on object-based software and to mobile programming or web programming. When we examined the demands, we found out that all these requirements are coming from children and youngsters. With a slight change in 2014, we pulled down the ages of our intended population. When we first started, our range was 15-65 years of age, now we are evolving to 5-25 years quite rapidly.

We teach our students how to develop a game by playing games. Thus, a child can create his own game that he can play on his tablet or computer. He either creates this game on his own, or a few of them form a team and create the game as teamwork. They try to learn what writing a game is, what is the logic of gaining points in a game, what competition is and so on.

After reaching a certain level, we prepare them to write some higher-level programs for games, or for mobile games and console applications. Some children are ready to achieve high-level web applications.

With all these experiences we have gained, we found out that these kids want to learn to code. They are craving for it, and online media is not sufficient for them. Thus, with the support of our business partners Finansbank and Habitat, we started educating these children in 20 cities all over Turkey. Last year we educated 5.000 students. They can write codes on a computer in a physical environment after a training of 16 hours.

80% of our Open Academy students are boys, and 20% are girls. 45% are university graduates, 25% are studying in a university, and a 25% are high school students or graduates. 12% of our graduates are dealing with their own business, 42% are working in a company, and 46% has no job presently.

Furthermore, our Open Academy will be a new base for the young generation to find a job for themselves. I will be triumphal to see more girls joining our programs.

Our participants are 50% from Istanbul, 20% from Ankara, 10% from Izmir, and the remaining 20% are from other cities in Anatolia.

If I am not wrong, there is an Open Academy Summer School.

Yes, there is. We desire the young generation to transform themselves into technology producing individuals rather than technology consuming ones and want them to reach the correct data directly and thus, improve themselves. As Microsoft Turkey, we organize a Summer School every year for university students in computer engineering and other related branches using our Open Academy. All these programs are live on our website and last year 56.000 students followed our web site. This site became the largest academy of Turkey.

This year, we organized the 15th Microsoft Turkey Summer School program where the participating students had the opportunity to meet the specialists on Microsoft technologies and in the areas of computer programming and during these four weeks, they got the chance to obtain a unique education which will provide them a lot of benefits for their future. Up till now, more than a thousand students took this opportunity to improve themselves by participating in our Summer School and tens of them have already joined the Microsoft family.

We form a group of 100 students. 95 from universities and five from high schools. That is also an Open Academy education. All through the month of August, these students will take lessons from 9:00 to 17:00. These courses will rather be in technical areas such as Cloud, “Internet of Things” and Machine Learning. We also support these technical courses with business and management lessons. They will find the possibility to use this education within a project they will implement at the end of the term. That is, we shall ask these friends to apply and develop a brand new project.

Will they choose the project themselves?

Yes, they will choose their project. In fact, each student applied to us with his project suggestion and all of these students were selected according to these proposals.

Is the project Turkey specific? Because there is a very popular coding academy in the United States as well.

This part of the project is completely Turkey specific. Upon its establishment in 2012, it continued as a Microsoft Turkey initiative.

Projects started with the Open Academy. The Summer School continued with the “Tiny Fingers Programming The Future” project supported by Habitat and Finansbank. For next year, we are planning to broaden the frames of these projects and for this purpose; we continue our studies with the Ministry of Education as well as the Private School Network to increase the level of coding and algorithmic thinking lessons in schools. Because we are confident that any student equipped with the knowledge of coding and algorithmic thinking, will make a difference in his life whether he studies computer engineering or business management, agricultural engineering or medicine. Especially for art education or for designing lessons, multi-dimensional thinking education is essential, and this education is not only a simple programming. Further training is necessary.

We now have a great chance called the “Internet of Things.” Using “Internet of Things”, some codes placed on small chips change a lot of areas in our lives. Using some sensors added to these chips, they could perceive and understand a lot of things and reflect all this knowledge to us. Soon, a lot will change in industry, construction sector, defense industry, the transportation sector, building, and bridge construction as well as in municipality, in this sense. Therefore, we are now emphasizing on the issue of “Internet of Things.”

Let us talk about “Tiny Fingers” then.

Starting with the idea to reach all children within a more prevalent and a more comprehensive platform, to shape our future together we joined our forces with Finansbank and Habitat. We achieved a lot of activities throughout a whole year under our project “Tiny Fingers Programming The Future”.

Learning the “codes,” which is the language of software in childhood adds significant value to your life. In fact, as started by the President of USA, Mr. Barrack Obama, the primary purpose of the “Computer Science For All Initiative” was to give computer lessons to all pre-university students including coding training as well. They spared a budget of 4 billion US Dollars for this project.

Simultaneously, some studies are carried on in Turkey as well, to start coding training in primary, secondary and high schools.

We also started our “Tiny Fingers Programming The Future” project in June 2015 and till then, from Siirt to Bursa, within 21 different cities, 5000 children at 8-12 ages took 16-hour coding lessons.

By using the “Kodu” and “Touch Develop” programs specially designed by Microsoft to teach the children and youngsters coding, they took their first steps into the world of game writing.

If you start the training of computer programming at early ages, it is evident that your algorithmic way of thinking skills improve faster and simultaneously, you can use these skills in every area of your life. As a matter of fact, our “Kodu” training are used in many private schools and are advised to the students.

For us, the reward of this joint venture will be to see the young members of this generation, who will implement their companies employing other young members and represent our country all over the world using this technology that we have introduced to them.

We firmly believe that the future of Turkey will be empowered by the individuals prevailing the science and technology who have the ability to change these technological improvements into economic benefits. Our new target is to reach 1 million people to take advantage of the Open Academy platform and by supporting their entrepreneur’s spirits; we aim to see new “Bill Gates’ from our country.

One other target is to increase the participation of the youngsters to the Open Academy from Anatolia. By co-operating with the universities in different cities, we are working to present new opportunities to the young generation using our Open Academy.

Did these youngsters use this platform before?

They had never used this platform before, and they were students at 8-12 ages that were capable of using a computer. We reached 5.000 students and organized a competition amongst them by the name “Catch The Kodu”.

In September, we shall reach the final of this contest, and we shall be awarding the students participating our “Catch The Kodu” competition. We achieved an enormous sequence of games leading to a great series of success. We realized that we have walked the right steps.  Instead of teaching only coding, we were training these children on algorithmic thinking methods and in fact, we were spending the correct efforts. And we are still carrying on our studies in this direction.

 In fact, this is a study to teach analytical thinking. But I think that we shall not have so many game writers raised up in Turkey, shall we?

Of course, we shall not have so many game writers. Our most important purpose is to transform these children into algorithmic thinking individuals along with analytical thinking. To make them capable of projecting a project from the beginning to the end as an algorithmic formula. If these children can empower such skills with some other training during their future education terms, after 10-15 years, they can quickly transform into designers, software programmers, advertisement specialists, and industrialists. Because the thing we call algorithm is valid and essential for all different branches. Understanding the cause and effect relationship, the necessity to complete a game within a period of time of time, levels, learning that living and working consists of levels, the existence of competition, competing with two separate players to gain more points in a game, the essence of the “lives” in a game, these are facts the children learn while they design a game. In fact, they do not fully realize that they are learning but they are learning and cleverly playing.

What are the most popular topics in the Open Academy website?

Four years ago, our target was 15 to 65 years of age. When they enter the Open Academy website, we ask them their ages. In the beginning, we observed that the majority of the entries were between 15 to 30 years old. Today, the average of age of the entries to the Open Academy is 18.

When we inspect the web pages, we see that the highly clicked ones are the pages related to “Kodu.” As I mentioned above, “Kodu” is a free application by which they can improve their games.

On the second line, we see the pages where you can find training on “Html5,” “Javascript” and “Cas” which are essential to improve your websites.

The third one consists of the improvement of mobile applications.

Number four is “Unity” which is a high-level game programming application.

One of the most popular pages is the “question & answer” page. To learn to code, you might need some assistance. Sometimes, while debugging something, you get stuck, or while you try to improve something, you can not code it correctly. Immediately, you can enter the “question & answer” page and ask, “I got stuck here as such, how can you help?” You get immediate solutions from others or from specialists who have experienced the same difficulty before. This page became very popular and useful. As I mentioned, it is among the most clicked ones.

As Microsoft, in the global area, we are one of the corporates, which support the “Hour of Code” application sustained by to encourage children to write codes all over the world. We make the same application in our country as well. So, we have to add this application to the ones we have achieved in the Open Academy. Once or twice a year we organize “Hour of Code” activities. Both in our Istanbul and Ankara offices, we give an hour of teaser coding training to the children who participate in these activities. That became very popular also. Last year we reached the full capacity of our classrooms and therefore had to refuse some of the students. Their parents oppressed us a great deal so that their children should take our courses as well. For this reason, we made another activity this year on the 23rd of April. We have decided to repeat these activities at certain intervals. Thus, in December of this year, we shall organize another “Hour of Code” event.

This year we have announced the “Minecraft Education” which is the training based version of the “Minecraft” game by purchasing its independent enterprise named “MinecraftEdu.” In this version, students can learn the basics of code writing by playing games.

There are no education standards concerned here. Furthermore, there are no essential lessons that each one has to learn for any branch at certain levels, and there is no need for a foreign language, is that so?

Absolutely. All lessons are in Turkish. We have primarily translated the “Kodu” application into Turkish which attracts the attention of the juniors at their entrance into coding. Thus, the boy does not have to write “if then else.” He writes “eğer”.  “Eğer bu olursa, bu olsun”. Like,  “Eğer roket ağaca çarparsa, elmalar düşsün”. So, he sees the words “eğer”, “taş”, “roket” or “robot” and can read them. Our only essential is real children.

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Can we talk about the supports you provide for entrepreneurs, such as “BizSpark” program or  “Azure” support?

We have already talked about our young friends; we mentioned about the games and success stories achieved by code writing and algorithmic thinking methods. If these youngsters want to transform these games into companies, or they wish to establish a business around these mobile applications, what kind of support can they get from Microsoft? Then, let us talk a little bit about these.

Not only for these children, but also for all the other youngsters who are working in companies, or who cannot find a job or an engineering student, especially since the last 5-10 years there is a high demand for entrepreneurs by the development of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. So, if these youngsters form their companies, how will Microsoft support them?

Our supports start with a program named “BizSpark” at the preliminary level.

This program targets the young entrepreneurs who have devoted themselves to technology using their companies working in the software sector since five years and with a turnover below 250.000 US Dollars per year.

Companies becoming a member of “BizSpark” can use the “Office 365” and “Azure” which are great cloud technology solutions for three years at a price of 150 US Dollars per month and get the opportunity to use the Microsoft licenses free of charge.

Companies that can sustain their development for tree years and by their performance and their capacity of using the “Microsoft Azure”, they are invited to a higher-level support program, “BizSpark Plus”. This program lasts for one year and during this time; companies earn the right to use the “Microsoft Azure” cloud data processing platform for up to 10.000 US Dollars per month. That means a total 120.000 US Dollars “Azure” tenure yearly. Thus, we pull down their cloud and hosting costs. We do not only pull them down, maybe, in fact; but we are also neutralizing them. Besides, we help them to obtain new channels by which they can reach their customers quickly. In brief, we provide them possibilities by which they can present their customer faster solutions, by using the corporal sales team of Microsoft or by joining the partner network of Microsoft and some other networks.

Because “Visual Studio” and “Azure” are open platforms, with this function, all code writers working on various platforms can use them.

The Start-up’s of the software sector obtains the possibility to participate in the training and cooperation opportunities along with the cost reducing facilities of Microsoft.

With its immense fund of knowledge and broad trade network, Microsoft offers some other occasions to the software entrepreneurs which are a member of the “BizSpark” program asides from its products. Microsoft takes over the mentoring duty and supports the software entrepreneurs and adds to the improvement of the software ecosystem.

Why are these, critical? Well, there are three main titles a “Start-up” needs most:

–     Money. We do not provide cash but supply the technologies free of charge.

–    Mentoring and guidance. We do the mentoring and give them ideas about what is applicable and what is not.

–    Reaching the customer. While reaching the customer we take their solutions that will meet the needs of our various customers and present them these solutions as if they are our solutions.

Sometimes, there may be a fourth necessity. Some of these companies need to go abroad or to need to globalize. There are businesses in Turkey, which have already reached a certain level. We direct some of these companies to “Microsoft Global Accelerating” programs in Berlin, London, Tel-Aviv, and Bangalore. This summer, such two companies will graduate from this program.

If companies can meet this criterion, will they participate in this program?

There are one more criteria. You must be dealing with software. If you have a carpenter shop, we cannot accept you in our “BizSpark” program. However, if you are producing smart tables or smart cupboards in your carpentry then, you can become a member.

One of the general questions we receive regarding Microsoft is; “do we have to use the Microsoft technologies? We are not networkers. We do not use MS SQL. We use open source codes. Everything is on Linux, SQL, PHP or Java”.

These do not matter for us. Because “Azure” is an open source based platform, we tell them that they can use our cloud platform up to 10.000 US Dollars. In this new world, individuals with a multi-disciplinary way of thinking are essential. They have to consider data, programming and data processing altogether. Why are these important? Because you have to act fast. In the old times, we used to start writing product, release it after three years and then apply for a maintenance program. Two and a half years later, we would release another product. There is no such world anymore. Everything is so fast now. You write a product and present your MVP (Minimum Viable Product). They start using your product, and immediately you start receiving feedbacks. According to these feedbacks, you immediately have to release new versions. To be able to release new versions continuously, you have to cooperate with developers and data scientists. That is why “Azure” is open to the whole ecosystem.

To participate in this program, do we have to have a company, which has started to do some business?

You either have to have a company or, if you do not own a company, you must be part of an accelerating program and there must be a “Start-up” supported by this accelerating program.

What is this “Accelerating Program”?

As Microsoft Turkey, we select the companies that will be included in this program together with the supporting corporates. Microsoft determines these companies or Start-up’s to participate in “BizSpark” and “BizSpark Plus” together with his business partners such as Girişim Evi, ITU Arıteknokent, Girişim Fabrikası, E-tohum, and StartersHub.

Presently the “BizSpark” program is supporting more than 1.300 Start-up’s all over Turkey.

Would you kindly tell us about some success stories?

I can give you two examples.


Sinemania is an entrepreneur in our “BizSpark Plus” program, which provides tickets for all cinema halls all over Turkey. The members of this company enjoy the limitless pleasure of watching movies with many privileges without any difference such as 2D,3D, watch hour or day. The entrepreneur is located in England and has numerous members in more than 50 cities all over Turkey. This entrepreneur achieved the possibility to produce an application for Windows, Android and iOS platforms with a single application code by using the Microsoft technologies.


Mr. Faruk Eczacıbaşı is one of the partners of this company, and they work on payment systems. Presently, Metamorfoz is planning to globalize by payment systems that work on Windows 10 platform. The mobile phones and computers operating with Windows 10 will be able to make payment and receive payments. One of the first programs that succeeded to run this system on Windows 10 all over the world was developed by Metamorfoz.

The company develops payment systems for smartphones and has already an application that is integrated into the mobile applications of TEB. Using this system, a person can make a payment with his phone without physically using his credit card. By the systems, the company developed payments can be made by smartphones and additionally these phones can be used to receive payments just like (POS) devices.

Many thanks for the valuable information.

Thank you.