One helluva week one

Wow! We launched Code Club on Monday lunchtime and to be honest we’re totally shocked at the reaction we’ve had. The response from the industry has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve had so many emails of support offering teaching experience, hack day venues, donations of all kinds and words of encouragement. Each one makes us smile.

At the time of writing this we currently have 1,142 people signed up to our volunteer mailing list. We realise that there will be a certain level of drop out but if even so we’re super pleased with the initial take up.

Of course it helped that we had some pretty decent coverage in the first couple of days and as @hyper_linda said “Real time Google analytics is a lot more fun when you’re on BBC.co.uk and Wired.co.uk

We now have a donations function where you can donate to the funding of Code Club (which we currently pay for out of our own pockets). We’ve also added a mailing list for schools which also asks for your postcode so that volunteers will be able to search for interested schools.

The generous guys at Event Handler have decided to donate 10% of their ticket sales for London JS School Trip to Code Club! So get on over there and buy a ticket!

The rumblings of change

The education of would-be coders rightly stirs a lot of passion within our industry. There are some great initiatives already underway. Here’s a run down of the some of the projects, campaigns and software and notable blog posts already out there.

Coding for Kids
Coding for Kids is an industry wide movement designed “…to support education of programming and computational thinking for the current and next generations in the UK.” at their in augural bar camp each attendee made a pledge to do one thing each. You can make a pledge here. You can follow them on twitter @codingforkids

Emma Mulqueeny
Emma Mulqueeny is part of the Coding for Kids movement and runs Young Rewired State. Emma wrote a great blog post about teaching kids to code and started a petition to introduce coding as part of the curriculum in year 5. Sign it here.

Coder Dojo
Coder Dojo is a movement of free coding clubs for young people. Whilst the movement is international the existing Dojo’s appear just to be in Ireland, North America and Canada. The idea behind local community led coding club events is great, the only problem with Coder Dojo is that it doesn’t offer any type of lesson plans to get the enthusiastic teacher started.

Mozilla
Mozilla are huge supporters of open learning on the web and created Hackasaurus to help teach children the basics of mark-up by mashing up pre-existing web pages. They have great supporting materials too including cheat sheets and lesson plans for teaching ‘web-making’. Follow them at @hackasaurus

Anna Debenham
Anna has been a champion of teaching kids to code for a long time – she gave a great talk about it at Update Conference last year. Anna tried teaching with Hackasaurus in two tech savvy schools and ran into a bunch of logistical issues. She wrote about her experience here. Anna also runs ScrunchedUp – a web magazine for young designers and developers who are looking for some good advice on careers in our industry.

Software for kids (a small selection)
Scratch – a visual programming language aimed at teaching children the concepts of programming without too much confusing syntax.

Hackety Hack – teaches the basics of programming (using Ruby) with no previous knowledge required at all.

Codecademy – The gamification of learning to code. I would say this is less child friendly as there is very little visual feedback but it’s still worth a good look.
So there is a lot going on already. If you think there is something we need to know about then please drop us an email. We’re always eager to learn!


The state of the digital nation

When I was at primary school in Yorkshire I programmed a mechanical turtle to move around the room but by the time I reached secondary school all I was being taught was Microsoft Office. It was so dull it turned me off computers for years. I’m not alone, I’ve had this depressing experience repeated back to me almost every time I’ve asked someone about their ICT education.

In his article ‘Why all our kids should be taught how code’ John Naughton at The Guardian recognises that “Instead of educating children about the most revolutionary technology of their young lifetimes, we have focused on training them to use obsolescent software products.”

It is a sad fact that ICT education in UK schools has become painfully outdated. Whilst this state of affairs has been generally ignored by most, it has now reached the point where Whitehall has been forced to admit that something must be done and plans to create a new ICT curriculum.

John Naughton’s outline for a “big vision” on which to base the new curriculum is: “Starting in primary school, children from all backgrounds and every part of the UK should have the opportunity to: learn some of the key ideas of computer science; understand computational thinking; learn to program; and have the opportunity to progress to the next level of excellence in these activities.” He’s also written a manifesto on the future of ICT here which you should read too.

He notes that “… The biggest justification for change is not economic but moral. It is that if we don’t act now we will be short-changing our children. They live in a world that is shaped by physics, chemistry, biology and history, and so we – rightly – want them to understand these things. But their world will be also shaped and configured by networked computing and if they don’t have a deeper understanding of this stuff then they will effectively be intellectually crippled. “

There is growing support for changing the ICT curriculum and lobbyists have done an excellent job in making it a significant priority for the government to deal with. Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove called the current ICT curriculum “demotivating and dull” and at  the BETT show for educational technology in London announced that a radical overhaul of the ICT curriculum would be taking place.

It’s fantastic news that the government have recognised this issue and are proactive in making change but government is a huge grinding machine and designing this new curriculum properly will take years. I see it akin to turning the Titanic around. It will be painfully slow.

So can we do something in the meantime to get kids excited about coding? Yes we can – watch this space.