This semester, we swapped over to the second of our Code Club groups. Although this group has older students, there's also some younger kids that missed out last semester, with a good spread of newcomers. Since each group has less time with our Code Club being split into two shorter semesters this year, and we have more students learning to code in the curriculum now, we decided to start with Code Club's slightly more advanced Scratch2 module this time. It turns out Scratch2 isn't really that hard and we just had to fill in assumed familiarity gaps with the Scratch interface. Given that most of the kids have tablets, or have played video games of some sort, figuring out how to click blocks together and make sense of how they work together isn't so much of a stretch. It's been encouraging to see the younger kids staying engaged with the more challenging projects. One of the reasons for starting at Scratch2 was to introduce students to a wider range of concepts that are easily transferable to Python and other languages. You can see the Scratch2 skills map here:

Changes this year

As a re-cap on a previous post, some of the issues we encountered last year were:

  • Tablet games becoming distracting when kids were idle while waiting;
  • Students taking shortcuts by remixing more complicated games and missing out on learning basic concepts we found they needed later on;
  • Eager students stuck on a waiting list while some students in Code Club weren't focussed;
  • A lack of continuity that resulted in lots of unfinished activities at the end of the year, and limited goals leading to less satisfaction; and
  • Wasted time due to forgotten passwords, accounts, and hardware/software issues with the environment.

After some discussion with our Code Club teacher, other volunteers, and the school's IT staff, we made the following changes this year:

  • We introduced a 3-strike rule, to create an understanding of an expected standard of behaviour and to help realise that Code Club is an opportunity to be valued;
  • With almost 100 students applying for Code Club, we decided on two semesters, after previous attempts of a larger group that still left some students discouraged last year;
  • I wrote a handout for our volunteers this year, so everyone was clear on what was and wasn't acceptable in Code Club, and set students expectations appropriately, with clearer goals for 'leveling up' and working hard to be able to do more interesting and challenging activities;
  • Having students keep track of their progress in myEd, so we know who may need more help or to move onto advanced workshops or activities, eg robots and makey makeys;
  • We leveraged emails that were accessible to allow quick password resets, and rather than just using guest accounts we deal with forgotten usernames and passwords immediately, and in batches if required; and
  • Worked out reasonable lead times for any requests on hardware/software installations with IT support, as well as bringing them into our collaboration chats, so that we have continuous and specific communications to reduce time wastage.

The password reset initiative and IT support communications actually didn't happen until this semester but we've already seen some improvements with better progress and continuity for students - the end result being that they're learning more and enjoying doing it.

Moonhack 2017

The second Moonhack event came along after two weeks of Scratch 2, which gave us a couple of weeks to help students with prepare for their submissions during Code Club sessions. With some late notice, we also managed to have some of our students at the local Moonhack event, which was an exciting opportunity and another good opportunity to present in front of others, and talk about what they'd achieved. Coupled with some travel I had to do, this gave us some time to develop some ideas for workshops and progressively advanced activities. Unfortunately, this was the second time I was overseas for Moonhack night, but a little easier as I'd passed the 'Torch' to Tom at Code Club Aotearoa; who did a fantastic job of developing multiple levels of Moonhack projects this year.

It was great to be involved in such a huge event again, and to see over 25,000 kids participating from around the world!

First School Alumni Volunteer Says Goodbye for a Job

Last week we said goodbye to a volunteer that was also a school alumni, and had been with us since our very first year starting Code Club a few years back. He really encouraged our current alumni volunteers, explaining how Code Club was a great way to get experience to prepare for part time jobs when they are older. It's also positive to see someone go from primary school into volunteering, and then have a real advantage to get a part time job in high school. It was easy for us to write him an impressive reference based on his proactive approach, ideas and enthusiasm. Although we have parent volunteers come and go, it is inspiring to see a student on the journey toward his first job. He even put forward a friend, with a younger brother in Code Club, to take his place!

Students Ready and Moving on to Python!

So this semester is going well so far. Apart from the Scratch2 students, we also have been selecting students to have a go at Dash robots, and were able to select those with the most Scratch2 progress to start on Python activities. One student had already gone through some Python with his BBC micro:bits that he talked about at the Future Schools exhibition, after this tutorial. Another had already completed all of Python1. The next post will go into more detail about our improved Python progress this semester.

Draw Your Own Adventure

Also - check out one of our Code Club student's new games, Draw Your Own Adventure below; it combines a platformer with the drawing your own levels, using some concepts from the Code Club paintbox activity.