Another year with CoderDojo

19 December 2018

Software developer Tomasz Bartoszewski blogs about volunteering with CoderDojo.

Tomasz Bartoszewski, Software Developer

What is CoderDojo?

When I was a child, I had a dream about being a developer. However, it wasn’t easy for me as I didn’t know anyone who could guide me.

Fortunately over the last couple years, thanks to organisations like CoderDojo, younger people have opportunities to learn about how to become a developer. CoderDojo is a global movement, which helps children who want to learn how to code and volunteers who love coding and enjoy teaching come together.

Coding may sound like a difficult thing to do, but it is an increasingly important skill in the modern world. Computers look complicated, and they can do a lot of fast calculations, they can even beat Chess and Go champions, so can a child tell them what to do? Sure they can and have a lot of fun, while doing it!

Who can join?

Coder Dojo accepts any children between 7 and 17 years old, but we have previously allowed a couple of younger children join too. We try to make our exercises as accessible as possible.

What if you don’t have a laptop to bring with you? Not a problem at all, we have some older laptops which we use for this good cause.

Our sessions run once a month, between 10am-12pm on Saturday. They are hosted in either our Bristol or London office. If neither of this options work for you, check the CoderDojo website for any meetings near your home

What do we teach?

Keeping children’s attention is challenging, but it’s easy when they are creating their own game. While we have easy to follow instructions, they can also release their creative side by trying new things and changing the shape of the game.

With younger children we start with Scratch, a visual programming language where you can create your own interactive stories, games and animations, the kids can just drag and drop components, almost like building something with Lego. There is very little typing required, so even younger children find it easy. For older kids, we have some exercises in Python and HTML/JavaScript, once they know basics of Scratch, or can focus more on typing, they will have the basic programming skills used by many companies. We still look for exercises which generate graphics, as it’s nicer to see some drawings and not just text results, it’s all about building confidence and basic understanding. Once children feel comfortable, they will keep exploring on their own, computers are no longer magic.

Is coding just for boys?

No! We believe that coding is for everyone!

Fortunately for our events we normally have an equal mix of girls and boys, everybody is welcome.

We even hosted a special event in Bristol to celebrate International Women’s Day, just for girls. Hopefully after our sessions, engineering subjects will no longer scare children. Even if they decide to take a different career path in the future, at least they will have a basic understanding and appreciation for coding.

Can you code with your children?

We have seen many parents during our sessions helping children. I think it’s amazing to see a proper family bonding exercise in action. Some children like to work on their own, but they would still run to their parents, to show the results of their work.

If you are looking for some materials to do with your children, have a look at the post, I wrote recently

And if you don’t feel comfortable with coding, just keep and eye on CoderDojo website, we will run more sessions after New Year.

Coding is fun, so add it to your bucket list for 2019, I promise your children will love it!