Code Club

Kids are technology savvy these days. They are using smart phones, tablets and laptops from a very young age and there are apps targeted at toddlers and even babies. In some cases they learn to scroll, tap and flick before they have built their first tower of blocks.

Being able to understand how games and applications are developed is a very different thing to simply being a user, and this is where Code Club comes in.  So what is Code Club? It’s a nationwide network of volunteer-led after school coding clubs for children aged 9-11.  There are 2,470 clubs across the country, aiming to teach primary school age kids to code by showing them how to make computer games, animations and websites.  The ultimate aim is to get a Code Club in every primary school in the UK.

The initiative relies on volunteers who know how to program to teach and support the children.  I volunteer at two Code Clubs, one at Malvern St James school and another at The Hive in Worcester.  I got involved because I think it’s really important that children have an understanding of coding, even if they don’t choose to pursue it as a career.  They all play apps on their mobile devices and most of them won’t have any understanding of how they are created.  However, if they do fancy a career in computing and mobile apps, this is an ideal time to get into this field – the recent success stories of apps like Flappy Bird and Candy Crush mean you just need to get in there with a good idea and get your app out there.

I first got into writing programs in the early 1980s when I was about 12.  The main difference then was the lack of information available – imagine not being able to do a web search when you had a question!   I love the creativity side of developing software – you start with a basic structure and keep adding on more features. This side of things hasn’t changed, but it’s great that kids getting interested in computing now have so much more information and support available than I did.

The cool thing about Code Club is that the projects we share with the kids are really hands on.  In the first two terms, the pupils use an online tool called “Scratch” which allows colourful interactive programs to be created in just a couple of minutes – perfect for 9 year olds!  Although Scratch is simple to use it is also very powerful and I have seen some complex games produced by youngsters using it.  My role is to be on hand to answer questions such as “Why doesn’t my program do what I expect?”  I usually get them to tell me what exactly what it’s doing and what they expected it to do.  Often this is enough for them to find the problem themselves.

As a company, Malvern Instruments is focused on innovation in technology, so it’s good to know that Code Club is supporting the development of the right skills – not just coding, but problem solving and logical thinking – in the next generation.  If you want to learn more about Code Club, whether you want to volunteer, or you want to find a club for your children to attend, check out the information on the website.

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