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jQuery creator and RIT alumnus showcases CS learning platform to capacity crowd

By Fran Broderick

jQuery creator and Golisano College alumnus John Resig ’05 discussed how he is “hacking CS education” during a talk with RIT students and faculty on Friday. Resig, who is best known for creating the JavaScript library jQuery, is now the Dean of Computer Science for Khan Academy, an online learning portal that aims to bring interactive education to worldwide audiences.

“I want to encourage middle school-aged children and up to find the thing about programming that excites them the most,” Resig explained, before walking the audience through the development and experience of his computer science learning program for Khan Academy. “I would love it if our platform helped a whole new generation learn how to bring programming to the things they do well…to create this sort of cross-pollination.”

To that end, the Khan Academy CS program couples programming lessons with a variety of specific topics. For example, a NASA simulator challenges users to put satellites into orbit, while displaying the code associated with the game. “We want you to see how code affects things you may already be interested in. So say you’re interested in space – you can see how code comes into play.”

One of the premier aspects of Resig’s CS approach is a real-time output generator that allows users to code on the left-hand side of their screen, while seeing the visual output of their code on the right-hand side of the screen. Resig demonstrated the “live code” program by coding a square, coloring it red, and then animating it. He explained that by enabling students to see the real-time results of their work it will help them better understand programming and gain the sense of “pride” that comes with discovering and learning.

After beginning his work on jQuery while at RIT, Resig was accepted into the prestigious startup accelerator, Y-Combinator, before moving on to work for Mozilla. He joined the Khan Academy in 2012, developing a CS curriculum along with the Khan Academy’s learning platform for iPad.

Following his Friday talk, Resig joined Reddit co-founder and Y-Combinator alumnus Alexis Ohanian for a talk in the Gordon Field House, where Ohanian was promoting his new book Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed. Resig and Ohanian had previously become acquainted while working in Silicon Valley, and Resig is the founder and moderator of RIT’s /r/rit subreddit.