Head of Code Club UK and Ireland Lucia Manzitti has been finding out how Code Clubs around the world are keeping kids coding during the pandemic. Recently she spoke to Maddy Bazett, Program Owner of Code Club Canada.
Getting Code Club Canada online!
When schools and community spaces started to close across Canada, Maddy and the team knew they needed to rise to the challenge. They wanted to make sure that kids attending Code Clubs could keep coding from home, and that others new to coding had the opportunity to have a go!
The team’s quick reaction enabled them to set up free online Code Club sessions within the first week! At first, they were launched as a public drop-in model, but this was soon adapted to attendees having to preregister for a school term. Code Club Canada set up six coding sessions and a final sharing session both in English and in French, to offer support to learners speaking either language.
Lucia was interested to know how parents reacted to the change in sign-up, from public drop-in to preregistration, and the more structured content:
“Parents appreciated the structure and what to expect from the next session. Knowing the details put parents’ minds at ease, they could now count on something consistent. As weeks went by we noticed that there were repeat children and parents attending the sessions.”
An online session explained
Every session is hosted on Whereby, and has a facilitator instructor and a moderator to monitor members’ questions and chat. This team comes from KCJ, a bilingual Canadian charity whose mission is to give every Canadian child access to digital skills education, and who support Code Club Canada with their mission.
Lucia asked Maddy how they planned their sessions:
“We needed some structure, instructors needed to know what to prepare and it made sense for us to utilise the Code Club curriculum and the progression of a programming language through a module.”
The young learners mainly work on Scratch and Python projects as the experience is entirely within the computer. Maddy shared that from the 17 March to 14 May, members have spent a total of 763 hours coding online with Code Club Canada!
How did learners adjust to an online experience?
A live online Code Club provides a different learning environment for members compared to an in-person club. While before members were used to buddying up with a friend to work through projects, they now work online, independently, and sometimes with a parent.
Facilitators shared how learners had become more dependent on the step-by-step instructions, and got used to working on a split screen and switching tabs. With time, they became more confident, interacting with the facilitator, sharing their screens, and using their mic to ask questions.
An online Code Club still provided an opportunity for young coders to share their cool projects with their peers. But rather than their peers being from their school, they were often from a completely different part of the country.
“We have heard back that kids are very excited when a club member is from another part of Canada and are in awe and ask: ‘How are you here, from somewhere else?”
Even in these strange times, Code Club is still helping people to connect.
A message from Maddy on setting up an online club
“Definitely try it! Even if you start with one online club or post pre-recorded sessions for your community to use and engage with. I think people are very appreciative in this time of free, fun and accessible content that kids can spend time on, especially when it’s educational.
And potential future volunteers gain confidence in seeing how a session is run (and that it isn’t so hard!) before they commit to starting one themselves.”