So we've all heard about the plans for the UK government and various IT companies to help revamp the ICT education in schools so that it teaches coding instead of using software. But let's face it, it's not going to happen overnight. So if you're a kid or a parent wanting your kid to learn how to code now, you'd have to look for other options. There are a lot of free courses online including Coursehero and Codecademy
(which just got a new look by the way) to name a few, but the problem with these platforms is that they're not that 'fun'. Sure, they would have an element of gamification and try to present the information in bite-size chunks through interactive interfaces. Unfortunately, kids just need that extra push to really learn. The ones who are highly motivated would have probably learned how to code anyways, but it takes extra effort for mass adoption to follow.
Sometimes, all you need to motivate a kid is an enthusiastic (and hopefully really inspiring) teacher and some friends who will double as your peers. This is where Coder Dojo comes in. Coder Dojo is a global youth movement teaching kids the skills to succeed in the world of tech, for free. Throughout the course, the kids learn how to code, develop websites, apps, programs, games and more. Each Dojo is set up, run by and taught by volunteers. It could also include organised tours of technology companies and bring in guest speakers to talk about their career.
Max, a Coder Dojo student, says that "I think CoderDojo is really cool. And it helps you learn a lot of coding which is important. It's fun to meet the mentors."
Each session takes place in a fun and friendly environment. Parents sign their kids up in advance, and then come along on the day to supervise and help out on the day.
Max's mother says that "CoderDojo has been great for my son Max. Before we discovered Coder Dojo, Max had taught himself a little code from materials on the internet. He now has a place to meet and share his creations with other kids into coding. He gets help with his website and games from experienced professional coders. He chooses what to work on rather than following a set curriculum. The close to one on one mentoring is also frankly amazing. I also love to watch the kids learning their first lessons in coding at the Dojo. Seeing them share the first game they have created after only one session is awesome. I think Coder Dojo works by keeping it fun, cool and free of charge."
At the moment, Coder Dojo runs in various places in the UK including a weekly Saturday session at Forward Technology. To accomodate for the variety of areas, languages and resources that each Dojo has, a Coder Dojo badge system has been designed to recognise the ability Coder Dojo members. Note that this is a plenary draft version of the first iteration of this system and there is still discussion to be had prior to implementation.
Celia Francis, a Coder Dojo champion, says that "I love Coder Dojo because it gives kids the chance to learn to be creators, rather than only consumers of the internet, games and more. CoderDojo fills a gap unmet by schools in the United Kingdom. Coder Dojo works because it attracts high calibre coding professionals who are up for contributing their time on an ad hoc basis."
I personally think that this is a really good initiative and would have registered my kid if I had one. So if you're interested, head here to sign up and look for Dojos. If you want to start a Coder Dojo head here, and finally if you have a space to lend Coder Dojo or would like to support them in any way, email firstname.lastname@example.org.