Retro-Kit does Code Club

My day job is as a Software Engineer, running my own business developing and supporting Enterprise level corporate websites using our own modular Content Management System. Over the years, I've seen fewer and fewer good quality developers coming into the careers market and I've also complained about that fact on and off for well over ten years.

In 2012 and 2013, attitudes are changing regarding what and how we teach IT and Computing subjects to future generations and there are several organisations and groups that are beginning to work in partnership with Schools to improve our education system.

Code Club logoOne such group is Code Club which is a volunteer led, after school club for children. Code Club is aimed at teaching children the concepts of Software Engineering to encourage a deeper level of understanding and a logical but creative thought process that is the foundation for tomorrows Software Engineers. This understanding also overflows into a whole host of other career choices that now need a firm knowledge of not only how to use a computer but how they actually work "under the hood".

Clearly I needed to put my money where my mouth was and contribute in some way to the Code Club initiative so I became involved within a couple of weeks of its launch. Shortly thereafter, I became a STEM Ambassador which allows me to work in Schools and deliver the Code Club curriculum.

Going beyond the Code Club curriculum

Using the resources of my retro computing collection, I'm able to go beyond the Code Club curriculum with the Code Club members and introduce them to a range of computers that helps them visualise the development of computing over the years. It also provides a way of introducing some of the basics of computer use.

Whilst teaching Code Club members how to save their work, I said "Click on the icon with the picture of a floppy disk on it". There were blank faces all around the class. The reason being that although the icon was indeed a picture of a floppy disk, the children had never seen a floppy disk before and didn't know what they looked like. The following week, I brought along a range of floppy disk drives, floppy disks and hard discs to show the children exactly what they looked like, explain how they worked and the differences between them.

At the end of most Code Club sessions, I add a 5 to 10 minute lesson which to introduces another aspect of computing. For instance a few weeks ago, I introduced the concept of binary using a specially tailored approach to teaching binary for children, within five minutes, the entire club could count to 31 using just five fingers!

I believe that adding in extra information through interactive examples in this way allows the Code Club members to truly gain a good understanding of the state of technology as it is today and if you ask the right questions, where we might go tomorrow. After all, they are going to be the innovators of the future and they're certainly enthusiastic about how these things work.

Good for the soul!

As a volunteer leader of a Code Club, I have to say that I have been taken aback by how rewarding it is for me as an individual and just how much of a buzz I get from teaching the children my specialist subject. In return for sharing my knowledge, I get a huge wave inspiration from the children because they're just so enthusiastic.

Equally, the response from the school has been very supportive. The children's parents have been nothing short of fantastic. Within a few weeks of running the first Code Club, the children were programming at home, creating their own programs using Scratch, sharing them online and  bringing them into the club for everyone to see.

If you have ever thought about running a Code Club and you can spare a couple of hours a week to prepare and deliver a class then I cannot say anything else other than "DO IT!".

It truly is good for the soul!

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