Engineering Blog

Code Club

tl;dr

Teaching kids to code is important, and Code Club provides a great way to share your love of coding with a lucky bunch of primary school kids.

What is Code Club?

Code Club is a nationwide network of volunteer-led after school coding clubs for children aged 9-11. Code Club provides the coding projects, and Club organisers volunteer their time to run an afterschool club at a local primary school.

Code Club was co-founded in April 2012 by Londoners Clare Sutcliffe and Linda Sandvik, and has grown dramatically in the last year. So far, there are over 400 Code Clubs in the UK. Their goal is to establish a Code Club in every last one ofthe 21,000 primary schools in the UK.

Why teach kids how to code?

Most young kids are pretty good at using computers, and can usually teach adults a thing or two. In fact, a survey of 2,200 mothers in 11 countries found that 70% of their two- to five-year-olds were comfortable playing computer games, while only 11% could tie their shoelaces1.

Playing games, downloading music, and watching videos are all common computing activities for kids. And they all have one thing in common – they are about consuming content rather than creating it.

Through teaching kids how to code, we can teach them how to create, which is so much more powerful.

Aren’t kids already learning how to code in school?

Quite simply, the answer is no. The UK information technology curriculum is not in a very good state at the moment, having been described as “out-dated, demotivating, and dull”2. The good news is that the old curriculum has been scrapped, and is due to be replaced by a new curriculum next year.

However, a major problem still remains – no matter how good the curriculum is, there aren’t enough teachers with computer science expertise, much less coding skills. A recent report by the Royal Society highlighted that only 35% of ICT teachers are specialists in their field3. Compare this with subjects like English and maths, where more than 80% of teachers are specialists, and you begin to see why programs led by IT professionals (like Code Club) are so vital.

My Code Club

Last summer, after being inspired by a few articles I’d read about Code Club, I decided to start a Code Club at a primary school in my community. The interactive map on the Code Club website showing schools who wanted a Code Club made it really easy to find a school. So in September 2012, I started a Code Club at Oakmere Primary School.

The first thing I did was to visit the school during one of their assemblies to talk about Code Club and to get the kids excited. I was kind of nervous, because I didn’t know how interested the kids would be, and also because I’d never worked with kids before. Did I even know what a 10-11 year old kid looked like? I wasn’t sure.

At the assembly, I talked a little bit about what coding was, and why it was cool: You can make things – your own games, animations, and music videos. Their faces lit up, which was really great to see. I put together a simple Scratch animation while they watched, where a shark chase a crab around the screen. I showed them how through code, they could decide what the characters were named, how fast they moved, what sounds they made. They were hooked.

Once per week, I went to Oakmere after school to run the Code Club. The ICT co-ordinator at Oakmere was also there each week to help out. We had about 10 students each week, and an even mix of boys and girls. Since Code Club supplies all of the coding projects, the only preparation needed was a quick run through of this week’s project before the Club (just to make sure I was aware of any gotchas).

After running a Code Club for 2 terms, I was really struck by how Code Club is so much more than just teaching kids to code. Don’t get me wrong, that’s an important aspect of it. But the kids also learned that you can tell the computer what you want it to do. And that is cool. They also learned not to be afraid of making a mistake. If you make a mistake, that’s ok. You can’t break anything. Don’t give up, just try something else. And they also learned really valuable life skills, like how to follow a list of ordered instructions and to pay attention to detail.

I won’t lie – there were many times when I needed a beer after Code Club. Working with kids can be exhausting, and there were certain times when I felt like they weren’t “getting it”. But then the next week they would say or do something that made it clear that they were getting it. By the end they were answering each others questions, bringing in coding projects they’d found on the internet, and even teaching the younger students at the school how to code.

During the course of Code Club, ICT co-ordinator at the school also learned how to code, and is now very capable of running the Code Club on her own. Now the school has a teacher that has the skills to teach coding for years to come, which is perhaps one of the best outcomes of the whole thing.

I can easily say that running a Code Club has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done as an adult.

How can I get involved?

Code Club has a fantastic website. The Start a club section of the site provides all the information you’ll need to start a Code Club of your own.

Most people reading this blog are probably full-time developers. You may be thinking “this sounds great, but my company would never let me do it”.

In my case, I am fortunate to work for a really awesome company. Huddle is very supportive of its employees giving back to the community, and I had no problems convincing them to let me run a Code Club.

Don’t just assume your company won’t support you – make the case for it, and ask. You might be pleasantly surprised. And if not, by the way, we’re hiring. :)

Where can I learn more?

Where did you get your facts?

1 Children and computers: State of play

2 Primary pupils ‘should learn computing’, says Microsoft

3 Computer science teachers offered cash incentive

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