Dispelling Coding Myths and Why You Should Join the Learn-to-Code Movement
By: Claire Whitehead, Associate Demo Engineer, Salesforce
Just 4 months after starting with Salesforce, a colleague asked me two questions – “Do you know HTML?” and “Can you help us teach some kids later today?”.
…that began my first experience of CoderDojo. Hours later, I was standing in front of a room full of children explaining the basics of how websites are built. I knew that I owed it to my geeky 12 year old self to create as positive and engaging an environment as possible – for all I knew, I could be introducing technology and coding concepts to the next generation of developers.
More Mentors Required
Who doesn’t like CoderDojo, right? Talk to anyone that knows the philosophy and they’ll tell you it’s an amazing idea and that it could change the way kids develop, and that its pivotal for developing tech and digital talent. They’ll also say that it is helping kids to think differently, and independently, and…collaboratively. Yet, while most would say these things, not all are ready to jump in as a mentor. As a mentor myself, I’m asking you to give it a try – will you?
It’s on us – as eligible mentors; me, you, your colleague in recruiting, your Dad and your cousin – we’re the people who can really drive the CoderDojo movement forward, just by participating.
Barriers and Myths
When it comes to CoderDojo and being a mentor, there are a number of myths holding people back from becoming a mentor or getting involved. I’d like to bust some of these 🙂
Myth 1. I need to know how to code
Dojos welcome children as young as 7 years old and apart from the odd exception, these guys have little or no concept of programming. That means you don’t need to be an expert programmer or have any experience in programming to get them started. CoderDojo believes that everyone can learn to code, whether young or old.
Also, CoderDojo has no set curriculum, instead it emphasises the importance of self-led learning. That goes for mentors too, meaning you can teach any area of technology you’re interested in – you just need to make sure you’re one step-ahead of the class – very do-able. With CoderDojo you can embark on your own self-taught coding journey, and pass on what you learn as you learn it.
You could also simply pay attention to the lessons that are being taught by other mentors, and take the time to complete the same activities. Within a short space of time you would be ready to pass on these same lessons to the next group of kids into the Dojo.
Worth Remembering: Most coding questions are really only a Google Search away 🙂
Myth 2. CoderDojo doesn’t need more mentors
The truth is really the opposite. We always need help. Ideally we look for mentors who will commit to the entire philosophy of CoderDojo, rather than just individual lessons. Every class and every Dojo is different, and you will grow as a mentor with every lesson you attend. Over time you’ll become more and more familiar with the concepts, tools, technologies, and individual young people who attend.
Your participation is not just limited to in-class attendance either. Behind the scenes you can take on your own projects to support the Dojo. You can create lesson plans, curriculums, and learn about new technologies that could be used in the class. Passing these findings onto other mentors, new and old. For example, if you were learning to build your own website, or figuring out how to teach your kids to code through minecraft, your notes, instructions and ideas would be invaluable to the classroom.
Myth 3. Kids already know plenty about technology
It’s a common misconception that today’s young people are “more tech-literate than ever”, and that teenagers are all ‘digital natives’. However, too often the opposite is true. Home computer use is in decline in favour of mobile devices due to its affordability and ease-of-use. Because of this, essential skills are being lost and young people are becoming less confident in their ability to use a computer.
It’s not uncommon now to find a child who has never used a mouse before, or installed a program, saved a file, used a USB drive, or sent an email. Low-income families often access the internet through mobile devices, and don’t have the option to also provide a shared family computer. Because of this, it’s vitally important to give young people a chance to become comfortable with a real computer, whether that’s in schools, libraries, youth clubs, or at Dojo’s.
Computer access alone has been shown to do little to improve school performance or learning. It needs to be paired with guidance and reassurance in the area of self-led learning and research. Primary school education rarely encourages independent learning. Young people need to feel comfortable taking on tasks they don’t already know how to complete, and have confidence in their ability to find the solution on their own. This affects not only their ability to code, but their willingness to tackle any academic challenges.
Myth 4. Programming is only relevant to future programmers
Coding can have relevance for every school subject. Aside from digital skills, maths and problem solving can be improved when used in a clear, goal oriented task like programming.
Even the most introductory activities can make use of coordinates, radius and angles in order to navigate a game character.
Websites, apps or games can incorporate other subjects such as History, Science, and Geography. And the online learning and tutorial resources used can improve reading comprehension. Confidence is also a major benefit – children interviewed at the CoderDojo Coolest Projects Awards talked about the increased confidence that comes with their new digital skills, and an increasing sense of ambition.
CoderDojo is fun and exciting, free and open source.YOU are the vital ingredient that will keep Dojos running. The best Dojo’s thrive because of the dedication, passion and hardwork of the individuals who step into the mentor role and inspire others around them .
Anyone can join the CoderDojo movement – why not start a Dojo in your office or local community, or volunteer as a mentor at an already established Dojo?
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