What can we do to co-create a Digital Derby of the future? This is what Katherine Childs has been doing . . .
Derby is a city with digital ambitions. From high speed public wi-fi to the development of the Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill, the heart of the city is transforming for the 21st century. With this new focus, comes a challenge to make sure that the next generation have the skills, knowledge and experience for their future careers, education and hobbies.
So could teaching children to code help to meet that challenge? A year and a half ago I came across the Code Club network whilst working in a primary school. We signed up the school and began to run a Code Club after school for an hour a week with 15 children using free visual based software and free projects downloaded from the website.
Helping children take their first steps in learning to code is a busy, fun-filled, exhausting, rewarding commitment. Coding is often seen as difficult to learn, but in a Code Club the activities are broken down into manageable chunks and the friendly, relaxed atmosphere leads to a supportive environment where children mentor each other as well as getting assistance from the adult volunteers. Nothing beats hearing the cry of “I’ve done it! It’s working!” from an excited child who has successfully coded a game or an animation.
As the club progresses, children learn how to create their own web pages and how to code in a text-based programming language. Learning to code offers a wealth of transferable skills such as taking creative decisions, collaborating with others, developing resilience, solving problems and evaluating reflectively. The traditional stereotype of coding being a niche activity for geeks is fast becoming outdated and national Code Club figures show that 40% of children participating are girls.
Derby currently has 14 Code Clubs (as of August 2015) running in primary schools, libraries and museums around the city. The volunteers include businesses giving back to the community, teachers developing their skills in programming, university students gaining experience ready for the workplace and retirees using their knowledge to bridge the generation gap. Alongside this, we hold meetups and training sessions to support our volunteers and attend events, exhibitions and maker activities with our interactive activities.
I’ve seen the value of Code Clubs first-hand and will be growing the network of clubs in Derby. As a not-for-profit organisation, Code Club relies on financial support from businesses and grant funders and voluntary action from those keen to get involved. With a new school year about to begin, the opportunity to give more children the opportunity to prepare for their future is prime. You can find out more at https://www.codeclub.org.uk/support-us and https://www.codeclub.org.uk/start-a-club/.