We’ve had about ten CodeClub sessions since we started in September so now seemed like a good time to reflect on how it’s gone, what the children have learnt, what we’ve learnt and what we might do differently.
We decided to start off very small so we just had eight Year 6 children in the club - two girls, six boys – as well as the offspring of our volunteers who were younger but joined in.
Sadly, one girl and one boy have dropped out. The girl dropped out because she wanted to do lacrosse with her mates instead. We clash! I don’t know about the boy.
We’re also going to lose another boy when he moves school in January. He’s sad that there isn’t a CodeClub at his new school so I’ve told him he should ask for one!!
We now have a team of 6 volunteers! Not everyone comes every week but there are usually three or four of us there. It seems a ridiculous ratio but the kids actually keep us pretty busy! I’ve no idea how clubs manage with just one volunteer. I guess the kids just learn to be patient!
So now that we’ve found our feet, we are feeling confident enough to expand our Code Club. Letters are going out to Year 6 and Year 5 parents asking if their children would like to join CodeClub next term. We’ll need to plan how we manage the different levels but I don’t think it will be a problem. For example, it might be best if I, as the non-developer, stick with the newcomers whilst my more expert colleagues challenge the children who’ve been with us since the start. We’ll see what the uptake is anyway.
HAVE THE CHILDREN LEARNT ANYTHING?
Definitely, yes. They are much quicker finding their way around Scratch than I am, for a start. Surprisingly, perhaps, they seem to have no problem with the concept of a variable. They’re happy setting up timers and scores.
We asked them at the start of last week’s session how many now have Scratch at home. All of them now do and they use it. Most of them have also shown Scratch to someone outside CodeClub. This is great!
And they were very positive about what they’d been doing, what they were now able to do and liked making games they could play. They compared CodeClub to school ICT classes. We definitely came off best in the comparison! They said ICT classes were “boring” and “pointless.” That’s such a shame.
BUT, as luck would have it, their Yr 6 teacher walked in just as they were moaning about ICT and she suggested they show the rest of the class how Scratch works. I wasn’t sure how serious she was but, sure enough, in their next ICT class a few days later the CodeClub children were asked to show everyone else how Scratch worked. I heard this from one of our very excited CodeClub members! The teacher also suggested doing an early CodeClub project in an ICT class. YAY! It’s great for our CodeClub children to feel a bit special and even better that other children are able to see their enthusiasm and new skills. The coding revolution has started!!
WHAT’S NOT GONE SO WELL
Some of the CodeClub projects have been better than others. The children’s favourite (and ours!) was fish chomp. The game was fun and the challenges seemed to be pitched just right. Fruit Machine, however, was not popular and didn’t work well. I’ve passed our feedback onto CodeClub and was told they would look into it. I’ve not heard back. But, on the whole, the projects have been interesting and varied enough to keep the children’s attention.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take an extra week to do the What’s That game so that the children could work on the challenges. It was a disaster! The children were not interested in the challenges, they were bored and most just started playing games from the Scratch gallery rather than making their own – a definite CodeClub no-no! So, just because I find the challenges interesting and useful it doesn’t mean the children agree.
So in future it’s one project per week unless the children clamour to carry on.
WHAT ELSE HAVE WE TRIED?
We are keen to enter the University of Manchester’s school animation competition. It’s a national competition and already 570 schools have registered. Closing date is March 2013. We have posters around the school!
So last Monday, we decided to have a break from CodeClub projects and talk about animation instead. We asked children about the difference between games and animation. We got them to think about how they could use Scratch to create animations. They had lots of good ideas!
We also had a guest speaker! Another parent at school is a bona fide animator and has done work for Cbeebies amongst many other projects. So he talked to the children about his job and showed them a showreel of this work. They thought it was really cool!! Then he talked about creating characters and the importance of storyboarding your ideas.
We then asked the children to draw their own storyboards for an animation they could do on Scratch. Perhaps predictably, the boys concentrated on bombs, explosions and guns! (I have daughters so this is alien territory to me.) The girl did a story about a fish!!
So, keen to move away from the apocalyptic blood and gore scenarios the boys were coming up with, I’m going to suggest that next week – the last CodeClub before Christmas – they create an animated Christmas card on Scratch. Surely, that’ll force them to stick to cute and fluffy?? No?! Anyway, to inspire them, some of the volunteers are going to make their own animated Christmas cards. We’ll demo them at the start of the session and challenge the kids to do better.
Maybe a future plan might be to bring in some Raspberry Pis and get the children playing around with them? Lots of logistical problems to doing that, of course, but definitely something to think about.
Maybe the school would consider investing in some Pis…..?
WHAT DO WE THINK OF CODE CLUB?
We’ve really enjoyed CodeClub although it’s been a learning curve for us. Sometimes it seems chaotic and noisy and that worries us sometimes. But in the midst of that, the children are actually making the games and enjoying the process.
It’s great being part of a national movement with ambitious aims. We like to think we’re “doing our bit” to promote coding in schools!
The projects have introduced a good variety of concepts and built on the children’s skill and knowledge each week – without them even knowing it, probably.
We would like to move away from just creating games every week which is why we’ve introduced animation. We’d also like to explore interactive games/animation. We’re hoping the CodeClub developers will introduce that into future projects. If not, we’ll just go off piste every couple of weeks and try something different. But we’ll still keep coming back to the CodeClub projects as our basic activity.
UPDATE: Clare Sutcliffe – one of the CodeClub founders – read this blog and confirmed that, yes, there will be animation projects in term 2. Hooray!
SPREADING THE WORD
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, we’ve created quite a bit of interest in other local schools and a couple are planning on starting their own CodeClubs in January. I must check in with them and find out how they’re getting on.
We also seem to be a major attraction on the CodeClub tourism route! Several people from schools around Greater Manchester have paid us a visit before going on to set up their own CodeClubs.
Gradually, CodeClub enthusiasts from around the North West are finding each other on social media and the CodeClub forum. As a result, we’ve arranged to have a meet-up in Manchester’s MadLab on 13th January. We’ll let you know what we get up to!
So, thank you very much to all our wonderful, enthusiastic CodeClub members for making it such a worthwhile experience for the volunteers. And thank you to Linda and Clare for coming up with the crazy idea in the first place and making it happen.
Let’s keep working at it in 2013 to help make that 25% dream a reality!!