Teaching children to code: Interview with Code Club & The Raspberry Pi Foundation
Over the last five years, coding and computer science have grown in importance, especially in schools. In fact, the UK computing curriculum replaced traditional ICT in September 2013. Instead of teaching children about spreadsheets and how to word-process, teachers are now required to provide lessons in programming and coding for students as young as preschool-age.
When your child comes home from school talking about debugging and algorithms, it’s not simply because they’re being prepared to fill future job opportunities. Teaching code also benefits children in other ways – it teaches them creativity, how to think logically, and how to be articulate – valuable skills that can be applied to other areas of life.
That’s where Code Club comes in. Together with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Code Club prepares young people for a world shaped by digital technologies. They offer free after-school coding clubs that aim to get the next generation excited about computer science and digital making.
The club projects help children learn Scratch, HTML, CSS and Python by making animations, games and websites. We sat down with Maria Quevedo, Director of Code Club UK, to discuss empowering young people to become creators in an ever-increasing digital world…
Image credit: Code Club
What first inspired Code Club to be launched?
At the time, Clare was working as a UX designer and knew lots of developers who were eager to help volunteer their time to inspire the next generation and get them excited about digital making. From there, Code Club was born and the programme works with educators and volunteers to help them run after-school coding clubs.
Why is computer science and programming so important for future generations?
Computer science and programming are incredibly important to learn about because they provide children with skills to shape our increasingly digital world and equip them for the jobs of the future.
One of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s aims is to empower young people to become creators as well as consumers of technology, and Code Club provides the opportunity to get started with digital making in an engaging and fun way.
Can you tell us why Code Club joined forces with the Raspberry Pi Foundation?
The Raspberry Pi Foundation and Code Club were both created to help prepare young people for life and work in a world that is increasingly shaped by digital technologies. Together, we are part of a growing worldwide movement that is working to equip people with the knowledge and confidence to be digital makers, not just consumers. So, in 2015 we decided to join forces, as there were clear benefits from combining our capabilities to have impact at a serious scale.
Code Club is now one of the Foundation’s largest programmes, with almost 6,000 clubs in the UK and around 4,000 in the rest of the world.
Image credit: Code Club Facebook Page
What one tip would you give parents and children who are thinking about joining Code Club, but are perhaps a bit nervous about entering the world of coding?
Get stuck in! I am a believer that you can learn by doing, and Code Club is a fun and engaging way to learn more about digital making and coding.
If you’re nervous about running a club on your own, you can ask another parent to help – it can be so rewarding, and we have testimony from hundreds of volunteers (many of whom are parents) who say the same.
Apart from how to write code, what other skills do children learn at Code Club?
Kids learn to work with others – many clubs use pair programming, with the children completing projects together. They also gain confidence and interest in computing and coding. When writing code, often things don’t work out first time, and the process of debugging can develop children’s resilience.
Code Club also involves schools, teachers and volunteers. Can you tell us more about this – do you have to be a whizz-coder to be able to run a club?
You absolutely don’t have to be a whizz-coder to run a Code Club. In fact, leading a Code Club is a fantastic way to learn how to code. Our projects provide the content for each one-hour Code Club session, and the children work through the activities independently, so really this requires very little input from the club leader apart from perhaps a spot of bug-fixing. We suggest that club leaders prepare in advance of each session by running through the project themselves before the club starts, and that is usually enough.
“We are part of a growing worldwide movement that is working to equip people with the knowledge and confidence to be digital makers, not just consumers.”
What kind of activities can someone expect a class to involve?
Some club leaders like to run sessions where the children all focus on completing one project, and this is often a good way to start off. As you and the children become more confident, both with the coding languages and with the way the projects work, you can begin letting the children pick their own activities. It's here you often see lots of creativity and fun being had as the children experiment and play.
What kind of impact have you seen Code Club have so far? Do you have a favourite success story?
We have heard so many great stories about Code Clubs improving the lives of both children and club leaders. There have been primary educators who started a club to help them with the computing curriculum and then got inspired to take up the subject as Computing teachers, and there have been parents who found a way to spend more time with their children. It’s always so rewarding to learn about the exciting and innovative things our community are doing.
Image credit: Code Club Facebook Page
Can you make any predictions about the future of programming?
That’s a difficult one. We hope we’ll see more schools weave computing across the curriculum. For example, we know many of our Code Club projects can be used to teach subjects like maths, literacy, history and geography.
What’s next for Code Club?
Code Club focuses on 9- to 11-year-olds, and at the moment we’re thinking about how to develop children’s skills and engagement as they grow older.
We’re engaging with secondary schools that are already running Code Clubs to understand how clubs work in this context, and we will be assessing what the Raspberry Pi Foundation needs to do to support digital making opportunities for older children.
Thanks Maria for talking to us! More on Code Club’s clubs and events can be found here: www.codeclub.org.uk/. You can also keep up-to-date by following Code Club on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and The Raspberry Pi Foundation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Have your children become inspired by the world of coding and digital making? Let us know in the comments below.