Over 10,000 miles away from UK HQ, Code Club Australia has entered a new phase of working as schools start to reopen. Nicola, the Programme Manager of Code Club Australia, caught up with Lucia, the Head of Code Club UK and Ireland. She talked about what she has learnt from running an online club, and the impact that the lack of accessibility to digital devices and the internet is having on children’s learning.
Setting the scene
Code Club Australia has around 2000 clubs, half of these are based in schools and use the Code Club projects as part of the digital technology curriculum. A quarter of other clubs are in libraries, led by librarians and volunteers.
During the eight-week lockdown, schools and libraries adopted new approaches and moved online to create meaningful spaces for learners to join and develop their digital making skills.
Read about the online experiences of one library in South Australia.
Nicola was conscious of the pressures on teachers, moving from face-to-face teaching to home learning. To support this, Nicola now hosts an online Code Club. She calls into schools where children are spread out in several classrooms, as well as children coding from home. Nicola is delivering a club with a difference!
“I was looking at other ways we could support the community and other ways we could continue to recruit volunteers whilst alleviating the pressure to set up a volunteer with a school and any safeguarding concerns.”
Nicola kicks off each coding session by inviting a guest speaker to talk to the coders about a topic. Keeping within the theme, she then showcases a coding project for the class to work on. This session is recorded and hosted on YouTube to allow teachers to use the resource in their coding sessions.
Creating an equal learning environment
Unesco has said 1.6 billion learners across the world have been impacted by school closures to help curb the spread of coronavirus. One of the biggest barriers to home learning has been lack of access to the internet or digital devices at home.
Australia is no different. Outside of cities and in regional areas, the lack of access is very real. Research completed by Telstra estimates that 14% of houses do not have access to the internet, and this disproportionately affects families who are from Indigenous communities, speak a language other than English, or live in regional and remote areas. Telstra has been helping bridge this gap by providing connectivity to an additional 20,000 students for free when learning moved online.
Nicola has been making sure that no one misses out on learning opportunities, she sees Moonhack as a perfect example of a programme that can bring people together.
Moonhack is a free international event that brings together kids from across the world for a week of coding! This year 34,170 kids coded planet-saving solutions, and Nicola told us why this is such an engaging programme for those with limited access:
“One of the reasons we have Moonhack online and why the Code Club projects are great is that they require low internet connectivity and the device doesn’t have to be complicated. They can just jump in and have a go!”
Nicola also recognises the opportunities that running clubs online can bring to the programme; she hopes that they can help her reach communities in areas that are far away so that there is regular interaction:
“I want to make sure that those [online] offerings are just as valuable as our face-to-face ones.”
The power of offline projects
Along with Moonhack, Nicola and the team are adopting new approaches to make sure children with limited connectivity and accessibility have meaningful offline coding experiences.
The team has been looking at offline projects and the important role they play in developing children’s computational thinking, thought processes, and problem-solving skills:
“Schools want equity amongst their students, they want to share an equivalent offline resource if their students are unable to take part in an online session.
It may even be so in line with the content that’s being taught online, that we build a worksheet that looks like Scratch, a print out of Scratch blocks where you physically build the program with the blocks”.
Just jump in
Lucia saw how Code Club Australia had risen to the challenge, and adopted new approaches to support the Code Club community. She just had one final question for Nicola: What would you say to a teacher who was thinking of setting up their Code Club online?
“My message is always that coding is not as hard as you think it’s going to be! And, you can do it! That message is still the same for online clubs, just jump in and have a go! It is worth it, the kids still love it, and they’re still engaged and their experiences are fundamentally very very similar to teaching face to face!”