Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Learning to code in an after school club

Learning to code with learn.code.org

I started my after school coding club 2 weeks ago; it was oversubscribed so the first 20 children got in. And it's not all boys, there are 6 girls in the club and a few more waiting their chance to join later in the year. To say it's got off to a great start would be a slight understatement - the feedback from the 'coders' and their parents has been excellent.  

So onto the club itself. I decided to stay away from it being a 'Learn to use Scratch' club as the very same children will be using Scratch next year as part of the Computing Curriculum. I looked at various possibilities online and found learn.code.org would be perfect for my needs. Part of code.org, it has a K-8 intro to Computer science that runs for 15-20 hours. The course is broken into 20 stages with each stage broken into mini activities that the user completes to gain your awards. 

Once you have registered as a teacher with the site, you can easily set up your students by adding each yourself or getting them to do so with a unique 6 character sign up code. This is perfect for students in schools that don't have access to email or if you prefer them not to use email to sign up for online activities. Each user has access to their own progress board that details what stages they have completed and what they have left to do. 

After the introductory 'What is a computer scientist?' video, the children started Stage 2  and were hooked straight away. They started off slowly using the Scratch like 'drag and drop' interface to move the character around a maze - based on an Angry Bird catching a pig. As they progressed through the activities, they moved shared solutions and worked together to solve the problems they were presented with. They looked carefully when they discovered their 'code' didn't quite function they way they thought it would and I encouraged them to go through each step to debug their program. Cheers went up went the first child won himself a trophy and others flocked to discover how he had managed to solve the puzzle. 

An excellent addition to the teacher section is the ability to not only view the progress of your class but also run code that they have been working on.

I can add a comment to this activity so the child can develop a better understanding of how to improve their code if it is not working correctly. The child can also click on 'See code' to look at how their moveable blocks would actually be represented by Javascript. 

The coming weeks are going to get interesting as the children progress through the stages at their own pace - some will be further along than others which is perfect as I will need as many 'coders' as possible to ensure each of us learns to code.

Learn.code.org is a fantastic site, well thought out and very simple to get you and your school started in its coding journey. I thoroughly recommend it.