When talking about education, we hear it all the time and everywhere: “Programming is the skill of the future”. We, alongside many others, believe that in an ideal world kids should have programming on their curriculum as early as possible. Sounds like a pretty reasonable demand, but from personal experience we know that the German school system and many of its teachers are not really set up to fulfill this demand. This is where initiatives like the CoderDojo are trying to fill gaps. It is a global initiative that tries to bring curious kids together with volunteers from the IT industry to learn programming in a fun atmosphere.
What is “CoderDojo”?
It is a global volunteer-led community of free programming clubs for young people between 7 and 17. The movement is a ‘grass roots’ organisation with individual clubs (called ‘Dojos’) acting independently.
More information: coderdojo.com
The local Cologne chapter of the CoderDojo was founded in 2013 by Elli Wegner and first started in the form of irregular school workshops. Later individual, separate events, mostly alongside “adult” conferences such as SIGINT or InteractiveCologne were added. It was a way for conference attendees to just bring along their kids to the event where they would be able to learn something new at the Dojo, just like their parents.
At the beginning of 2014 Lucas Dohmen and other volunteers took over the CoderDojo Cologne and over time evolved into a regular, monthly series of coaching meetings. Now some of the kids have already been working on their little projects for many months. We at Railslove are extremely honored to host most of the CoderDojo meetings in our office and a number of us enjoy regularly participating as coaches.
It’s a real challenge to make the complicated and sometimes dry subjects of computer science approachable and motivating for the kids, but it is even more rewarding to see them “catch fire” and we are delighted and surprised by what they are able to build.
Some of the things we did with the kids included:
- Building a website with HTML & CSS. Examples for this are the page about her favourite books by our student Alea or the dinosaur directory from the game ARK by Sven
- Building / adjusting a browser game with the framework Phaser, for which we are working with the following tutorial repository https://github.com/EinLama/coder-dojo-game
- Doing some simple graphic animations with Processing.js. The neat thing about this is that it is a programming language that already comes with an IDE/player application so the kids can immediately see the result of their code with no setup/compile/etc. step
- Working on small hardware projects (e.g. a traffic light with sensors) using Arduino & Co, which have been described in a recent blog post
Recently I tried something new with some kids: building slack chatbots for our CoderDojo’s chat room. For this, we used a service called beepboophq.com which takes care of all the deployment, hosting and also the setup of the bots (btw: The setup is done via an interactive chat conversation with the beepboop chat bot itself, which is a pretty fun idea). By using this service, the kids can spend all their time on actually programming and teaching their bots new skills/answers.
Do you know somebody who has a curious kid who already likes computers and might want to learn some programming?
The CoderDojo takes place once a month on a Saturday in our office. Spots are limited (due to the limited number of coaches) – you can find the dates and also register on our website coderdojo.cologne. If you are a developer with a passion for teaching, you can help us provide even more spots to more kids by coaching with us.
In any case, it’s a pretty great initiative that’s definitely worth spreading the word about.