It has been a while since I have been reminded of the importance of the Code Club project, so after a busy year moving to Oxford and getting my family settled in new schools, I am ready once again to get stuck in and dedicate a small amount of time each week to the children at a local school.
For those that have not heard of Code Club, it is a nationwide network of after school activity clubs for 9-11 year olds, which aims to help children learn the basic concepts of coding computer software. The after-school clubs are volunteer led, usually for an hour each week and are very much focused on the children having fun while learning from structured materials provided by https://www.codeclub.org.uk/
When I lived in Burford, my then 9 year old daughter was at the local primary school. We started a Code Club in January 2013 which was well attended for the size of the school, with 10 children between the ages of 8 and 9 signing up within a week. We got started with Scratch, the software that the first two terms’ curriculum is based on, and I’ve just dug out my notes on the first two sessions, which I found quite interesting reading a year later. (I also note that I’m not very good at keeping up with regular diaries!).
So when Paul Johnson hijacked the stage for 15 minutes at DrupalCamp London business day recently to talk about Code Club, my enthusiasm was immediately re-awakened. Thinking back to the two terms I ran last year at Burford Primary School, it is clear that the children really enjoyed it. I can also say that I enjoyed it, but I must add that I also found it quite hard work. This was clearly because I was doing this on my own without any other volunteers or teachers present. The preparation for each session would take about an hour, which is not a problem, but trying to keep 10 children making progress during the session is hard on your own. This time I will certainly be looking for an assistant volunteer and possibly have a teacher present to help keep order.
The importance of projects such as this is obvious to me in a few ways.
1) We owe it to our children.
For a long time no programming has been apparent in school. Since I was at school in the late 80s and early 90s, children have generally been taught to be consumers of software rather than creators of software. This is essentially equipping school leavers to be office administrators rather than the potential to create new software but hugely limiting the potential of those that could be future coders.
2) Software developers need ‘new blood’.
As a web development agency Agile Collective has been working primarily with Drupal since we started in 2011, with many of us having worked in the Drupal community since 2007. OVer this time it has become clear that the Drupal community is an aging community, started with teens and 20 somethings who are now 30 somethings, and while there are some younger people getting involved, it is a top heavy community. From what I know, this is a pattern across other software development communities and one that will need to change if companies like Agile Collective and communities like ours are to thrive.
3) The information economy is growing.
I am not sure how much of an argument this is, but it is true that the information economy in the UK is growing quickly. At DrupalCamp London, Paul Johnson stated that the information economy is set to overtake the financial sector contribution in 2015, when it is predicted to be contributing over 10% to the UK economy. Personally, I’m not sure that economic growth is the be-all and end-all of life, but it is fair to say that in the current capitalist paradigm a growing economy does help keep things moving!
My main motivation is the first, so I am delighted that Agile Collective is supporting me and Aaron to start a code club after Easter at my daughter's primary school. We will keep notes and report back on our experiences.
In the mean time, if you like the sound of Code Club, please consider volunteering at a local primary school. Your children need YOU!