Educator Sophie, shares her experience to help you get started with Code Club

In February 2021 Sophie Hudson, a teacher at Linton-on-Ouse Primary School and Nursery, took the leap and launched her first Code Club! 

Sophie shares what she has learnt from running online sessions and her advice on how you can get started with your Code Club. 

Female teacher Sophie Hudson stands in front of a wall mural
Sophie Hudson

Sophie’s helpful pointers

If you’re ready to set up a Code Club in 2021, Sophie has three helpful pointers that gave her the confidence to start a club. 

1. Head online

I completed the FREE online FutureLearn Prepare to Run a Code Club course. This really helped me to understand how to run a club and what I needed to do to get Code Club ready! 

Take part in the Code Club meetups! Joining the meetup showed me that there is a great community ready to answer my questions, if I need help.

2. Learn together

Admit when you are ‘learning together’. It’s been really good for the children to see me work things out and hear my thought processes. The Code Club projects are really useful and provide a clear pathway through Scratch and onwards! 

I was worried that I wouldn’t be knowledgeable enough to lead a Code Club effectively, but I couldn’t have been more wrong — learning together has proven to be a powerful tool!

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3. Don’t worry!

Don’t worry about new projects! I’m looking forward to getting into the Python/HTML projects with the more advanced club members. Now I’m accustomed to the projects, I feel confident I will be able to do this without getting into a pickle!

What were the highlights?

It’s been seeing the children’s progress! A few children started off needing me to talk through each step with them, but now they are often steps ahead of me! There are two girls who are quietly gaining confidence to stray from the projects and create something totally different. I’m pleased to see their confidence grow and the pride they have when sharing their projects.

What do young coders think of this new Code Club? 

“I like that we can do it together and also we can do it on our own. My favourite project so far is probably the ghost game because I used a bat and made it my own. It was a bit tricky online to start [with] but it got easier as I did more projects.”

Joe, Year 4 coder

Final words from Sophie

I was nervous to start my Code Club online, but in the end it was completely worth jumping in at the deep end! The children have really enjoyed it and now some of them can meet in the classroom, it is clear that they have been able to follow the projects themselves and learn so much from it.

Six primary school children sat at their desks with laptops.
Code Club members meeting in-person

Learn how you can go online with Code Club 

Take a look at our ways to run a Code Club page for everything you need to know about taking your Code Club online. 

Research insights: collaborative programming and worked examples

Our researchers at Raspberry Pi work to help us understand how people are learning computing and digital making. They talk to children, volunteers, and educators about their experiences, while also drawing on the research of academics and other organisations. Here we summarise the latest piece of research they worked on with Code Clubs, and we hear from Oliver Quinlan, our Senior Research Manager.

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The research

In the Autumn term of 2017, the Raspberry Pi researchers worked with six school-based Code Clubs in England to try out a different approach to teaching programming. They wanted to observe the impact of ‘worked examples’: completed projects for the learners to explore, manipulate, and answer questions about. Their specific question was whether this type of teaching material encouraged collaboration between learners.

The six participating schools were split into two groups — one group was given six step-by-step projects structured very similarly to the standard Code Club projects, and the other group was given versions of the projects as worked examples. Both project sets covered the same concept: creating your own Scratch blocks (the Scratch version of defining your own procedures). The club members worked through these projects over several weeks, and in the final week, all the children from both groups got the same challenge to test their newly-learned understanding. Two of our researchers visited the clubs for this final session to observe the children and to interview the club leaders.

The researchers had two main aims:

  1. Find out whether worked examples and discussion prompts encourage more collaborative digital making.
  2. Explore whether worked examples and collaborative problem solving have an impact on children’s learning of a new programming topic.

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Findings

Collaborative problem solving

The researchers found that collaboration among the Code Clubbers was the same in the two groups — worked examples had no influence on how the learners worked together. In addition, interviewing the club leaders and observing the young coders gave our researchers insight into the obstacles to successful peer collaboration in Code Club.

“Making collaborative problem solving successful depends on the right combination of many aspects, such as educator support, task design, and group features. Achieving this combination is often challenging in practice, as we found from working with the schools in this project.”

– Oliver Quinlan, Senior Research Manager at Raspberry Pi

Interestingly, one obstacle that they observed was that each club they visited had enough equipment to provide each child with a computer. This led the researchers to conclude that collaboration may be promoted by letting the children work in pairs using one computer. Oliver and his team also thought that Code Club leaders may need more support and information in order to facilitate collaborative problem solving among their learners.

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Learning programming concepts

The team observed that using worked examples to teach programming concepts in Code Club had both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, ‘reverse engineering’ a completed project means learners can dive right in to learning more complex programming concepts and are not tempted to spend time choosing backgrounds and sprites. It also allows them to access programming concepts they haven’t seen before.

“I think it was quite good for pupils to have projects that they were mending rather than starting from scratch. When you do that, sometimes you don’t get beyond choosing the background and putting the sounds in. So it’s good to start with having it all there, doing a bit of coding and then I’d say, OK, you can change the background. Otherwise they just get caught up in kind of drawing.”

– Code Club leader

On the other hand, the step-by-step approach to learning gives children the experience of building their own program from the bottom up. And since Code Club’s aim is to motivate and empower children to get really creative with technology to explore their own interests, being able to open a blank Scratch file and build a complete, unique project is crucial.

“[A] mix of worked examples and then doing your own problems might work better. The children get to see the possibilities this way, but I’m not sure they internalise the learning in the same way without building something themselves. I would like more of an alternating structure.”

– Code Club leader

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Impact for Code Club

Although this research did not show a true difference between the two types of projects in terms of collaborative problem solving, there are several things Code Club leaders can take away from it if they would like to encourage more collaboration in their clubs:

“Lots of children in clubs help each other when they are stuck, but there are other ways of collaborating too. Sometimes pairing children up with just one computer can encourage them to work together to think through their ideas. Showing them finished examples of programs can also really help them learn. It’s definitely not ‘cheating’ to have a look at someone’s finished project first — it can really help their understanding.”

– Oliver Quinlan, Senior Research Manager at Raspberry Pi

Share your stories with us!

Have you successfully encouraged collaboration between the children in your Code Club? Or have you tried out an alternative method of teaching that you would like to tell about?

Tweet us your ideas, or send us a message on Facebook. We love hearing about what the community is up to!

Code Club ideas: young people teach their peers how to code

To inspire more young people to fall in love with computer science, some Code Club volunteers and teachers have had a brilliant idea: get the young people to do the teaching! Here we talk to members of two different Code Clubs that are led by teenagers, and that prove that young people often are the best role models.

St Mary’s and St John’s CofE School

Calvin Robinson is the Assistant Principal and Head of Computing at St Mary’s and St John’s CofE School (SMSJ) in London. He currently runs two Code Clubs in the school as a way to encourage pupils to have fun with computing outside of the curriculum.

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Mr Robinson with the Code Club mentors

One of the Code Clubs is exclusively for Year 8 girls, and it’s run by six girls from Mr Robinson’s GCSE Computer Science cohort:

“The idea behind this was that as a male teacher I appreciate that I may not be the best person to bridge the gender gap, but I certainly recognise it as an issue.”
– Calvin Robinson, Assistant Principal and Head of Computing

Positive role models for younger learners

Interest in the club is high, with a huge amount of Year 8 girls wanting to get involved. Being taught by older girls means that the learners can identify with the people teaching them, and they learn to view what their older peers have achieved as possible for themselves.

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Mr Robinson thinks that participating in Code Club enables the Year 8 girls to become more confident and passionate about the subject, making them more likely to take GCSE Computer Science next year.

“We currently have a higher than national average number of girls taking GCSE Computer Science, and it’s the most popular GCSE option in the school, but we’ve still got a long way to go in bridging that gender gap.”
– Mr Robinson

Benefits for the teenagers

Of course it’s not just the younger pupils who benefit from having older students as their mentors: running a Code Club also gives the GCSE students the perfect opportunity to solidify their coding skills:

“I like how I get a chance to develop my coding skills by teaching younger children. Coding is hard to explain and understand, and being able to teach others is a whole other skill, which is why it has helped me so much in my Computer Science GCSE.”
– Weronika Pawelczak, GCSE Computer Science student and Code Club volunteer

“Running the sessions means that I get to consolidate my knowledge and share it with younger people who may take Computer Science GCSE in the future. Also, the sessions improve my coding and I learn new things I could use in my code in lessons. For me individually, it has boosted my confidence to socialise more.”
– Nadia Wu, GCSE Computer Science student and Code Club volunteer

The Year 10 girls at SMSJ are clearly proud to be encouraging younger girls to fall in love with computing. They also think that more female Computer Science GCSE students should be setting up similar clubs, seeing how successful it has been in their school.

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Dragon Hall community centre

Another Code Club that is partly led by a teenage volunteer is one at Dragon Hall community centre in London. After volunteering at the centre over the summer, secondary school student Alvin was encouraged to participate in running their weekly Code Club.

Club host Keeley Reed has been hugely impressed by the effect Alvin has on the club members:

“Having a student volunteer allows the young people to have a role model to look up to. Alvin has been an asset to the group, as the young people connect with him very well. He brings the whole package to Code Club, that you wouldn’t get with adults.”
– Keeley Reed, Youth Work Manager at Dragon Hall and Code Club host

Like the girls at SMSJ, Alvin recognises the positive impact that helping at Code Club is having on his studies:

“I am now a lot better at explaining concepts, especially in exams, because
explaining code to children always has to be clear and precise. Teaching helps me learn new things as well, because I have to explain concepts very clearly so that the children understand.”
– Alvin, secondary school student and Code Club volunteer

Start a student-led Code Club

Peer-led Code Clubs offer huge benefits, not only for the learners but also for the young people leading the clubs. If you’re starting a Code Club in your school this term, why not get one of your older students to act as a mentor? Anyone over 16 can sign up on our website and help run a Code Club alongside an adult — find out more at www.codeclub.org.uk.