Be inspired by Code Club Canada and their response to the pandemic

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! 

Members try out the Code Club Rockband project in Scratch!

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.”

If Code Club Canada has inspired you to set up an online club, we have lots of resources to support you. Take a look at our club guidance or listen back to the community call series. 

To keep up-to-date on Code Club Canada, you can and follow them on Twitter or like their Facebook page. 

Five things to get excited about with Code Club in 2020

We asked Lucia Manzitti, Head of Code Club UK, to tell us five things that she is excited about Code Club in 2020! 

It’s a great mix of opportunities for young learners, skill development for volunteers and educators, and the new Code Club book of Scratch… yes, a new book! 

1. Coolest Projects is back! 

Coolest Projects, the world’s leading technology fair for young people is back for 2020! It is one of our favourite events to attend, we love meeting the Code Club community and marvelling at the amazing digital making skills on show! 

Coolest Projects recognises the effort and creativity of young digital makers who take an idea and make it a reality. Join us and share your Scratch animation, website, game, robot, or anything else you’ve built with technology.

Register your project or idea today! 

2. Send your code to space 

I’d love to be a child again so I could take part in the  European Astro Pi Challenge and have my code run on the International Space Station! 

The mission is open to young people aged 14 and under in Code Clubs in ESA Member States, and in Slovenia, Canada, and Malta.

To take part in Astro Pi: Mission Zero and have your code run on the International Space Station, members have to write a simple Python program; use a step-by-step project guide to take a measurement of the temperature and display a message to the astronauts aboard. 

You have until Friday 20 March to complete the challenge!

3. New year, new skills! 

I have set myself the New Year’s resolution to develop my computer science skills. I will be looking at the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s 25 FREE courses on FutureLearn to inspire my learning, from an introduction to Python, and how computers work, to share a few. 

Join me and find a course that suits you

Code Club meetup at the Raspberry Pi store in Cambridge

4. The results are in… well nearly! 

At the end of 2019 we ran our global Code Club survey. Thank you to the 1423 Code Clubs from around the world who took part and shared their feedback. 

Over the coming months, I will be working with the team to review the feedback and look at how we can make Code Club even better for you! I look forward to sharing this with you. 

5. #MyCodeClub 

We love to hear about your Code Club projects and to celebrate your work, we’re introducing a new hashtag #MyCodeClub! We’d love to see you use this when you share anything about your club on social media. 

You can follow Code Club UK and Code Club International on Twitter — make sure you tag us in your posts! 

If we especially enjoy your post, we may even send you some swag!

Along with launching #MyCodeClub, we will be running more exciting global competitions, developing new resources to support your club, and launching the new Code Club book of Scratch later this year! 

If you’re in the UK, USA, or the Republic of Ireland, head to codeclub.org to find out how you get involved with Code Club in your community. If you’re based in the rest of the world, visit codeclubworld.org to learn more.

Code Club in Kenya

Last year Code Club’s International Programme Manager, James Aslett, visited Kenya to attend the first-ever Scratch Africa conference in Nairobi, and had the opportunity to see a Kenyan Code Club in action. In this blog, James shares with us what he learned about Code Club in Africa.

Scratch Africa

In October 2019 I hopped on a plane to Kenya to attend the first-ever Scratch Africa conference, hosted at Brookhouse School in Nairobi.

The conference was attended by educators from across Africa and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn about the way schools and teachers are engaging young people in digital education across the continent. I also took the opportunity to visit a local Kenyan Code Club to see it in action. 

The site of the Kabuku Primary School Code Club.

Code Club in action 

Kabuku Primary School is a small government school about two hours north of Nairobi. Classrooms are crowded and the school’s Code Club is run out of a stone hut in the grounds once a week for two hours. 

I met Lena, the Code Club leader and an employee of Kids Comp Camp — our newest Growth Leader in Kenya and an organisation focussing on improving access to digital education across rural Kenya. 

Kids Comp Camp approached Kabuku Primary School about starting a Code Club when they learned that children in the region had no opportunities to learn with computers at school. The head teacher and local community were hesitant at first, and found it hard to see the links between learning computing and practical skills that would help children into employment. It took six months of community meetings and presentations for the school to allow the club to be set up and another three months to gather together the hardware needed for the club to run. Using 15 Raspberry Pi model 2 computers donated by Kids Comp Camp and connected to monitors with chicken wire, the school’s computer lab was born! 

Today, the club is thriving!

Starting with the basics 

All the children who attend the club come from low-income backgrounds and don’t have access to computers at home. Before getting started, the children needed to learn how to use a computer: typing, scrolling, clicking, downloading files, and connecting to the internet. 

Young coders hard at work.

Now that the students have mastered the basics, they are diving head first into Code Club projects. At the start of each session the children connect their Raspberry Pis to a phone internet hotspot and download the PDF of the project they will work on. Lena starts the session on why coding is important and the children list the different ways that sequences or loops are used in their everyday lives — for example in coffee machines, train stations, or in TVs. 

When I visited, the children were working in pairs to take it in turns to write code and test each other’s projects. It was amazing to see children who hadn’t ever used a computer six months ago now confidently talking me through their ideas and decisions with code. This is what Code Club is all about! 

What I learned

When I was leaving I saw a box of brand new Samsung tablets stacked in the corner of the room. Lena told me they had been there for 18 months, a leftover part of a government initiative to give every child a computer. Apparently, it’s a common sight across Kenyan schools. 

My takeaway from my trip was that hardware alone is not enough. We need passionate and knowledgeable people advocating for the relevance of computing at a local level. There is also a need for engaging resources that excite young people and help them make the most of their hardware, and flexible non-formal models of learning.

That being said, Code Clubs like that at Kabuku Primary School are a great start to introducing digital making to the next generation!

Get involved

If you’re in the UK, USA, or the Republic of Ireland, head to codeclub.org to find out how you get involved with Code Club in your community. If you’re based in the rest of the world, visit codeclubworld.org to learn more.