Getting started with Code Club through our free online course

If you are interested in starting a Code Club to improve and share your digital skills, Code Club’s free online course is a perfect, step-by-step way to begin. Sarah Sheerman-Chase, Senior Programme Manager for Code Club, tells us how she approached writing the course and gives you a taste of what you will learn.

Our volunteers come from all kinds of different backgrounds; some are teachers who have never coded in their lives, some are developers who are new to working with children, and some are parents looking to get involved in their local community.

So I was very pleased when we got the opportunity to create our Prepare to Run a Code Club course on the FutureLearn platform: I knew it would be a great way to give both prospective and current Code Club leaders the information, ideas, and support they need to run a club, no matter what their experience may be.

“I discovered FutureLearn back in 2016, and when I saw the Code Club course, I immediately enrolled! I learned a lot about Scratch projects, and how to make them easy and fun to follow.”
– John Duxbury, course participant and Code Club volunteer

Find out everything you need

A varied group of people like those wanting to be involved in Code Club will inevitably have different questions and concerns. So I wanted to make sure this course would answer all of the common questions, from ‘How do I work with young people?’ to ‘What is coding?’.

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When I first sat down to plan the course, I started with the structure. I knew I wanted it to be a three-week course, and it made sense for week 1 to be about everything you need before you start a club. In week 2, you’re going to see what happens in the club and we’ll prepare you for your first-ever club session with young people. Finally, week 3 looks at where you can go with your club beyond the basics, from having show-and-tells to inviting parents and families to join in the fun at your club.

Once I had the structure, I went back to the questions that people starting clubs often ask, like ‘What hardware do I need?’ or ‘How do I recruit children?’, to help me plan the steps in each week of the course.

Get advice from longtime Code Club volunteers

Once I started writing, I realised that I wanted to hear lots of different voices throughout the course, with different ideas about Code Club. So I asked my Raspberry Pi colleagues (and longtime Code Club volunteers) Rik, Katharine, Lorna, and Tracy to share their insights with you.

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Part of the Code Club team who you can interact with on the course

But above all, I wanted to include the thoughts and advice of people who are running clubs, and our Star Club leaders did an amazing job of sending me their top tips. For example, Star Club leader Denise Philips shared how she likes to end her sessions by asking one club member to tell the group the difficulties or successes they had with programming that day.

Finally, before the course launched, I asked several volunteers to test it, and they gave invaluable feedback that helped shape the content:

“Before the Code Club FutureLearn course was launched to the public, I was asked to give it a go and give my feedback on it. For me it was a good refresher on what I had been doing in my own club over the last few years!”
– Bob Bilsland, Code Club volunteer and course reviewer

We’re improving the course for you

The course has been running since November 2017 and since that time has attracted learners not just from the UK, but from China, India, USA, Argentina, and Tunisia — to name only a few places.

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A club space display that I feature on the course

As the lead educator of the course, I act like a magpie, always seeking something new to add to the course, like photos of clubs in action or advice about the upcoming launch of Scratch 3, so each time it runs, there is something a little extra.

“Between the course and the online projects website, there isn’t a reason why anyone shouldn’t start their Code Club today. Just go for it — volunteering can be so rewarding and such a worthwhile thing to do.”
– Bob Bilsland, Code Club volunteer and course reviewer

The next run of the FutureLearn course launches on 6 August. Sign up now! It’s all online and free to complete, so you can learn at your own pace, wherever you can access a computer.

Code Club ideas: friends and family sessions

Code Club Champion Mia Chapman has been running her club for two years now. Here she talks about a recent session she ran in which her Code Clubbers taught their friends and families how to code.

With the summer drawing nearer, it was time to figure out how to end our second year of Code Club with a bang! We all agreed that this year we wanted to do something a little different, and after a round of votes from everyone, it was decided: the Code Clubbers were going to run their own session to teach their families how to code!

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Together, we prepared, planned, and rehearsed until the big day arrived — and what a turnout! Our little computer room was full of mums, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and friends, all eager to see what the Code Club kids had in store for them.

First up, one of the Code Clubbers gave an introduction to our new members. In his very best game show voice, he told our visitors that we organised the event so that they could see “how cool Code Club is!”

Next, our teams of Code Clubbers gave what they called their “circus pitches”. We had given each team a programming language (Scratch, HTML, Python, Sonic Pi, or micro:bit), and now it was their task to convince the visitors to join their activity for the session. As it turned out, they were all so convincing that it was difficult to choose, but we had to give extra points to Team Python for closing with their “turtley amazing” pun!

After our visitors had chosen the programming language they wanted to learn, the session went by in a flash, with everyone getting stuck in and trying out some Code Club projects. The families were totally engrossed, and we even had a mum make us a thank-you card based on the HTML project Happy birthday.

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Of course we couldn’t end the year without an awards ceremony to celebrate everything our Code Clubbers had achieved, and we also gave a big thank you to our visitors for being resilient and diving in head-first. When the event finished, no one wanted to go home, and the parents finally understood why we struggle to get the kids to leave at the end of each week’s session.

Running a ‘friends and family’ session was a great way to celebrate the end of our second year and show off everything we’ve learnt without the pressure on our learners to have to present a project to a room full of people. Everyone had a great time, and it was fun for us volunteers to hand the teaching over to someone else for a change. We can’t wait to see what ideas our Code Club members come up with next!

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Share your stories with us!

Have you tried something interesting at your Code Club that you would like the community to know about? Tell us about it by emailing support@codeclub.org.uk or reaching out to us on Twitter or Facebook.

Mission Possible: Empowering the Future Generation of Girls with Coding

Dr. Aygul Zagidullina is a London lead for Google Women Techmakers, which is a programme that provides support and resources for women in technology. Aygul runs a Code Club at the Wembley Library in London, and she is passionate about promoting an equal gender balance at her club. Here she shares her advice on inspiring more girls to code.

We’ve all heard about the low numbers of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). According to a new study from the University of Washington, when given the chance to build a robot, six-year-old girls and boys have the exact same response — equal interest, equal confidence, and an equal amount of fun. Yet unfortunately, many young girls still believe that ‘girls aren’t good at computers’ and push themselves away from STEM.

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Aygul and her family attending a Code Club meetup

Is there any way to resist these perceptions? What can we do to show girls that they can be just as good at coding as boys can be? As Code Club volunteers, we are all doing our bit to help girls fall in love with computer science. We all have ideas on how to improve the gender balance in STEM, and I wanted to share five things we can do now to push things forward.

1. Start as early as possible

Young people today are engaged with technology from a very early age. Teaching computer science as early as possible has the potential to turn these eager consumers of technology into unstoppable creators of it. At Code Club, girls can learn coding from as young as nine, but if your younger daughter shows an interest in technology, you can always download the Code Club projects at home and work through them together. Let’s turn little girls into coding superstars!

2. Challenge gender stereotypes

Children learn more during their early years than at any other time in life. To tackle gender equality, I make sure my Code Club is free of stereotypes that might have a negative effect on how girls feel about programming.

3. Find female role models

All grassroots initiatives that have successfully attracted and inspired girls have one thing in common — the presence of female role models. When the volunteers running Code Clubs are women (especially women who use computer science in their jobs), the girls attending have someone to be inspired by and something to aspire to.

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4. It doesn’t have to be pink

Pink things are not needed to get girls excited about coding — being able to solve the issues they really do care about is what gets girls hooked on computer science. The Code Club projects are completely gender-neutral and give girls the opportunity to create games and solve problems in their own way.

5. Make coding fun!

While parents often worry about screen time, many educators now believe that using apps from an early age can be a great way to get girls interested in coding. Code Club is a space where children can learn an important life skill in a fun and exciting way that’s separate from the formal school curriculum.

I am extremely happy that girls have a fun and safe environment  — all Code Club volunteers have background checks — to learn programming thanks to Code Club and the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Inspire the next generation of coders

Do you want to encourage more young people, regardless of their gender, to get into coding? Then get a Code Club going in your school, or volunteer to help out at an existing club — head to www.codeclub.org.uk/register to find everything you need to get started today!