Family Learning with Code Club

We’re always interested to hear about new ways of engaging different people to learn more about coding and digital making. So when we heard that Leicester Libraries and Leicester City Council’s Family Learning team have been running a pilot project using Code Clubs to encourage parents and children to learn new skills together, we wanted to find out how they had got on.

The pilot was launched in a number of libraries in Leicester. Alison Greet, Family Learning Coordinator for Leicester City Council, told us why they decided to pilot with Code Club: “The Family Learning team wanted a way to work with parents to demystify the coding activities children were covering in school, so that we could help parents to help their children…The training that Code Club was offering gave us a way of piloting a course for parents and children working to code together in our libraries.”

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Running the pilot:

The club sessions ran for six weeks, focussing on Scratch projects in 1.5-hour weekly sessions. Parents and children sat together and worked through the step-by-step instructions. Two staff members ran the sessions; this allowed one to focus on setting everything up, while the other helped out those who needed more support. The clubs encouraged collaborative learning; Sandy Gibbons from Leicester Libraries explained that “the atmosphere is supportive and collaborative with children being encouraged (or, in some cases, invited) to help each other or show ways to extend the projects.”

Alison added, “club leaders are not IT experts, but they found that the projects were easy to follow and deliver with confidence. The structured projects with clear instructions also enable independent learning outside club time. Skills are built logically and reinforced by repetition in later projects. Skills learnt as part of Code Club projects can be used on the Scratch website to create other projects at home.”

The benefits of running a Code Club:

Lots of new friendships were formed in Code Clubs, and with those friendships came increased Robot E copyconfidence. Sandy explains, “one family specifically joined the club due to a child’s difficulties in interacting independently with groups. There was also great feedback from the adults, who reported their pleasure in having a shared interest that they and their child could talk about and work on at home.”

One of the volunteers said, “seeing parents and children working and progressing together is brilliant. The families really grow, taking responsibility for their learning through taking away evaluations to work on at home and continuing with projects in their own time. Code Club encourages parents to learn both alongside their children and independently, seeing how the children learn.”  

There were also fantastic responses from all families at the end of the course: all have asked to be contacted about further Code Club courses:

Robot 003“I really look forward to the Coding Club each week. I spent a lot of time together with my daughter and feel really happy when I see her using her imagination and IT skills. She loves spending time on IT which is great for her future.”

“The projects are challenging, but, with a bit of brainstorming, we figured it out! Good mum-and-son teamwork!”

“Our family really enjoyed this club. It has given us a chance, as a family, to build our child’s confidence. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience Code Club as adults.”

Run a Code Club in your local Community Centre

Code Club’s flexible model means that volunteers can run clubs in a variety of different venues. We have a growing number of Code Clubs being run in community centres, and so we wanted to profile one of these clubs.

Andrew McKirdy works at CHESS community centre in Nuneaton, where he hosts a weekly Code Club (which is also part of our Star Clubs network). We found out about his experiences, and how easy and rewarding hosting a club can be…

Why did your venue start a Code Club?robot-015

I wanted to start a Code Club at the CHESS Centre to offer young people from a disadvantaged area of Nuneaton the opportunity to take part in a computer programming class. Code Club is perfect to help young people learn about Computing in a fun and accessible way.

Tell us as a bit about your Code Club.

CHESS Centre Code Club launched in April 2016. We run a session every Wednesday at the CHESS Centre in Nuneaton, which is currently attended by 22 children. We are about to launch two further clubs at Camp Hill Primary and St Annes RC Primary schools in Nuneaton.

What would you say are the benefits of hosting a Code Club at your venue?

The best thing about hosting a Code Club is watching the children learn new skills and listening to their experiences of learning to code. It’s a joy to be a part of their development and watching them become more skilled.

How do you work with/ support the volunteers who run the club?

I monitor and guide the volunteers who help me run the Code Club. I set up the classes and allow the volunteers to focus on the young people in the session. I provide all admin, refreshments and so on, which allows the volunteers the freedomchess-centre to focus on guiding the children through the projects for each session.

What has been your best ‘Code Club moment’?

One of the children came to me recently and said,  “I really look forward to coming to Code Club. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Another child in the club loves to show what he has accomplished, he is a very shy lad but coding brings him out of his shell.

Code Club is a truly rewarding experience, and I would recommend it to anyone!

You can visit the CHESS Centre’s Code Club to see first hand how amazing the club is, just head to our website for further details. Want to start your own club? Sign up to volunteer or host a club today!

Your Feedback Matters

In January we sent out a survey to all Code Club volunteers past and present, and we were really grateful that 688 of you took the time to fill it in. Thanks!

The purpose of the survey was to find out how we could improve and make our valued volunteers as happy as they could be with our service.

20% of you who filled in the survey told us that you were no longer running a Code Club, so we asked why and this is what you told us:Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 10.17.19

The majority said it was a simple matter of not having time anymore, or of your circumstances changing – life happens! However, we thought more about this and agreed it would be good if we had some clearer steps to take if your circumstances do change. We’re working on a pack of resources to make it easy for you and the venue to find someone else to take over the club so the children can still attend.

15% of you said you didn’t get enough support from Code Club. We’re pleased as punch that the figure was so low, but we’d love to get that as close to 0% as humanly possible, so we’re going to look at more ways we can help.

For starters, we have a new Community Support Assistant starting in April, whose main focus will be to answer any questions you may have and solve any difficulties as quickly as possible.

We also asked, if you had stopped running a Code Club, if there was anything we could have done to persuade you to stay, and this was the response:

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As you can see, you were keen to get more support in the local area and to have more events to connect with other volunteers.

Well, the good news is we are already making plans to help with this.

From April all regions will have a Coordinator working at least three days a week so they will be on hand to support you and run more events too. We’ll also continue to introduce more online events that everyone can join, like our monthly Twitter Chat.

Many of you said you were keen to get involved in competitions, so we will aim to introduce simple and fun competitions for the year ahead. We will also continue to promote Raspberry Pi competitions and develop special projects to increase the variety of activities you have available for your clubs.

We noted that some of you thought we could improve our communications and that volunteers needed more recognition. Both of these things are super important to us, so we’ll be coming up with lots of ways to address this.

Writing blogs responding to feedback is just one thing we are going to start doing more regularly, and we are also making sure that we have better communications specific to your local area with dedicated Twitter accounts and newsletters.

Finally, we can never thank Code Club volunteers enough for their dedication and commitment. Without you, there is no Code Club. So, thanks a million!

Feedback to give? We want to hear it! Drop us a line at hello@codeclub.org.uk