Yes, I’ve re-discovered my blog at rblyon.com. It’s only got three remaing blog posts from back in 2011. Two of them are about technology, specifically teaching children to code and the other from the Cycle Show at the NEC.
Interesting to look back on these posts and what has changed. Lots is now happening around teaching kids to code from the Raspberry Pi being a huge success to curriculum changes to the growth in code clubs. And I now get electric bikes – I’ll probably be an enthusiastic user of them one day, particularly if they allow me to continue riding the red routes at trails centres in my old age.
Anyway, not that I’ve redicovered my blog, I think I might start blogging again and see how long it lasts this time.
If the Tech City Talk I attended on Monday was a clear statement of the problem of where the next generation of tech innovators will come from, then Wednesday night’s Coding for Kids barcamp was a great start to try and find the solution.
One thing is for sure, there’s an enormous amount of energy and goodwill to throw at this challenge. Both judging by tonight’s barcamp but also from conversations with the wider tech and creative community.
Most of the evening’s discussions were focussed on the practicalities. We want to give kids the opportunity to code to see if it captures their imagination, (just as you would for say, a musical or sporting activity). It would appear the first problem you might have is that coding would still seem to have a bit of an image problem, particularly for girls. So, two potential ways emerged to get around this – put a different spin on it, e.g. by placing it in the context of music or gaming, or catch ’em young (aged ~9) before they’ve learned to be cool
There was some interesting debate about whether school was the right setting to teach kids to code. It could be some time before the curriculum includes coding so in the meantime is it right to put this burden on schools who are already under enormous pressure to meet their targets? However, if kids coding, at least for the interim, is to be taught in a ‘Computer Club’ setting then the school would seem one of the most obvious community hubs for this to take place.
The involvement of parents in getting their kids to code was debated in one session. It’s essential that the opportunity and encouragement to try coding should not be restricted to those with parents who can code. But there could be interesting opportunities to encourage parents and their kids to learn and discover together.
We’d need “teachers who can code or coders who can teach” was how one attendee succinctly put it when talking about how the necessary mix of teaching and coding expertise could be sourced. Following the ‘Computer Club’ model, the solution would appear to be pairing teachers with volunteer coders from the local community, i.e. parents, local businesses, universities. And obviously there has to be a way of sourcing these volunteers – a codingforkids volunteer network.
Then there was the question of the equipment needed – with discussions over fears of struggling with slow running Windows PCs in schools and getting any necessary software installed. One possible solution being booting off Ed/Ubuntu USB sticks with any required software pre-installed. There was lots of talk about the Raspberry Pi too – although when using them in school we’d still need to trot down to the computer lab to find screens and keyboards to plug them into.
Then once you’re set up, what will you actually teach? Loads of resources on the web were mentioned and there was no shortage of opinions on what was the “right” technology (language, tools) to use. But the “right” technology to use will be the one you have the resources to teach and there was a great suggestion of providing “starter packs” for given age/language combinations containing frameworks, ideas, guidelines, advice, code samples etc.
It was a fantastic evening, brilliantly hosted and put together by @hubmum and @katybeale. As well as the various breakout sessions there were inspiring and entertaining guest speakers and one of the many highlights was hearing from some of the kids from Young Rewired State.
Right, now I just need to decide on what my #codingforkids pledge will be.
Coding for Kids Wiki