Back to coding in school

This first term of a new year Codingbug is looking forward to going back into North Somerset schools. It will have been almost two years. We’ve been busy delivering online lessons since the first lockdown in March 2020 and know that some children have missed out.

If your son or daughter attends either Yatton Schools or Mary Elton School in North Somerset, you can now register for after school coding lessons starting next week.

I missed not giving out stickers at the end of the term and seeing the children learn how to use a USB stick (if they don’t know already!)… so I couldn’t be happier to be back at school.

We need to equip our children with the skills to navigate the digital world and ‘digital literacy’ is just as important a skill for our children to learn as reading and writing.

It’s never too late to start.

Online coding clubs

Since March 2020 we have been offering learning opportuities online tailored to suit different ages and abilities.

Primary


Our Coding in Scratch courses are suitable for children in Years 3 – 6. Every week, they create new projects carefully designed to help them grasp the key principles of computer programming. Each term, the children are challenged with puzzles that nurture and build their computational thinking skills. Our Scratch courses are ideal for any child starting their coding journey or for the more advanced coder who needs to be challenged a little more.

This acedemic year we’ve added a new course to our offer – Coding in Minecraft – in which the children learn to code inside the Minecraft environment. This course does not teach Minecraft, but rather how to use code to automate builds and make modifications to a Minecraft World and change game play. The children use block programming to achieve this, making it ideal for beginners.

Secondary

Our courses for secondary school students are designed to provide opportunities to learn to program in different coding environments, and to expand their knowledge using Python and JavaScript – two of the most popular computer programming languages. The students develop an understanding of the language as well write lots of code to make games and small applications. They get to collaborate with each other and develop their problem-solving skills. A new Creative Coding course starts in January 2022.

We also offer block programming for secondary school students as part of our Make Arcade Games or Make Web Apps courses. These courses are suitable for students in Years 7 – 9 and designed to help them learn more about the principles of computer programming and how to design and prototype a game or App.

With all our courses our aim to help students develop their coding skills… and have an enjoyable time while learning.

Reflections on online learning

A day after the first lockdown was announced and schools in the UK were temporarily closed, we were prepared enough to pivot quickly to deliver our lessons online. So, 18 months’ on, I wanted to share some reflections on the experience of teaching coding to children online.

The first and most obvious thing to note is that the children were able to continue their coding journey uninterrupted. Moving entirely online has also enabled them to gain exposure to new platforms and accelerated the learning of new digital skills.

As I’ve writen previously, learning to code is like learning to swim; as the children get exposed to and become more confident navigating between different coding environments, they develop problem-solving skills and computational thinking.

Older children now have a very good command of the technology we use for the lessons. They are comfortable giving presentations and showing others how their projects are evolving week by week.

Unfortunately, while some younger children have not been able to join us online, those that have are all doing amazingly well – thanks in part to their parents and carers who in many cases haven’t been far away and able to assist with keyboard and computer skills! I cannot thank them enough.

I’m very proud of our secondary school students who have been coding throughout the pandemic. They have learned Python, Game Design, App Design and JavaScript. They can now write code to a good standard. They have learned programming, how to collaborate and solve problems.

Your children are all doing you proud.

A new term is just around the corner and all our courses are now open for registration.

Web design for kids

During the last term of the academic year we offered the web design course for primary school children in KS2. Most of the children attending were in Year 5 & Year 6 and were already familiar with text based coding.

It was very challenging for the children to get started with HTML & CSS but once they understood the basic syntax, it was relatively easy for them to create their first web page. The theme of the course was to create a website about a pet or ‘virtual pet’. The course focused on teaching the children how to plan and prototype their website, then add the code to make it display on the browser and finally add the CSS to add the design elements.

We don’t use templates or existing code, so it was great to see a variety of websites that were built from scratch. They learned about image formats and file sizes, how to place the elements on a web page and create their own designs by adding CSS code.

A big well done to all the children that participated.

Here are some of the results:

  • Website created by a 9 year  old
  • Wed design for children
  • HTML page design for children
  • My virtual pet by a 10 year old
  • web design for primary school children
  • Wed page created by a 10 year old
  • Website created by a 10 year old
  • Website created by a 9 year old
  • Website created by a 9 year old
  • Website created by a 10 year old
  • Website created by a 10 year old

Check out our Autumn courses

Programming skills for young people

I’ve now been teaching Scratch to children for over 8 years and am very pleased to see some of those children deciding to take Computer Science at GCSE.


For primary school children, I use Scratch, which is a block programming language developed by MIT. They now hosts millions of projects created by children worldwide. It has transformed the way we teach computing to children.

Children gradually journey from learning to use the keyboard to creating games and animations with Scratch. It doesn’t happen overnight; it is like learning to swim. It takes perseverance, patience and practice.

A few lessons in Scratch at school or one ICT lesson every fortnight is in my view not enough if we want to nurture the next generation computer scientists. Likewise, one term of coding club is not enough to gain the digital skills that children need to navigate the digital world.

We also need parents fully engaged so they can help and encourage their boys and girls to take up coding. Being able to use a smart device or a play console is something that most children are used to doing (as ‘consumers’), but we need to teach them how smart devices and computers work.

Codingbug teaches children coding skills using Scratch, JavaScript and the Python programming language. We develop their logical and computational thinking and encourage them to collaborate. We encourage creativity and play and help connecting the missing dots.

We offer online coding clubs to help to deliver just that.

Learning to code is like learning to swim

Why am I comparing swimming to coding? Well, I remember very well what it was like when my children first started their swimming lessons. There we were – on the poolside, every week during term time. There were times when it felt like progress was swift; tangible… and then weeks went by when they didn’t appear to make any progress at all – when everything seemed like it had plateaued. Practice and patience were the key. By the time they reached their teens they had become very proficient swimmers; they represented their school – and one even competed at regional level.

In order to become a confident coder, you first have to learn to code. It takes time to grasp the basic principles; it takes practice and you need to be patient. As any parent will know, patience is something that most children lack. They can get easily frustrated when something doesn’t work for them first time – or how they expect it to. Coding is about learning how to solve problems; how computers ‘do things’ and interpret the instructions we give them. Learning to do this is to understand computational thinking.

Once a child begins to grasp the key concepts of computer science, a whole new world begins to reveal itself. Creativity plays a part, of course, which is why at coding club we encourage children to create their own games and stories.

I believe coding is an important part of any child’s education. It is like reading a writing. It is a new literacy – equipping our children with the skills they will need to prepare them for the jobs of the future.

Next term we have plenty of opportunities for children to learn to code. Children in Year 3 – 6 are welcome to join. We also have a couple of clubs for students in Year 7 – 9.

I hope that learning online doesn’t deter you from signing up your son or daughter. After all, this is a good opportunity to introduce the children to the virtual world.

Photo credit: dylan nolte

How the pandemic has accelerated online learning

Back in early March I was still travelling to schools across North Somerset to deliver after school coding clubs. This is something I have been doing for several years; everything changed almost overnight.


It is right that it has been a national priority for all children and young people to return to full-time education, but unfortunately many schools are unable to safely accommodate additional learning opportunities at the end of the school day. In response, we pivoted very quickly to deliver our coding clubs virtually – and accelerated a change we had in mind to make at some stage anyway. 


Technology has never played such an important role in our lives and we all are having to adapt to new hybrid ways of working and learning. The school day now looks very different to previous years – with staggered start and finish times. Moving our coding clubs online has only highlighted the importance of digital literacy and teaching children and young people critical thinking, problem solving and digital citizenship. These vital skills and learning to code are now as important as reading and writing.  


Coding is for everyone – not just for boys who love playing games on their mobile devices or consoles. Of course this doesn’t mean that everyone is going to become a computer scientist. It’s more about nurturing the skills they need to understand and navigate the digital world today and tomorrow. We help children to become digital makers – rather than simply consumers of technology.

Our coding clubs are now open for registration to primary school children from Year 3 – 6 and secondary school students in Years 7 – 9. We also provide one-to-one sessions- contact us for more details.

Coding continues online from September

Since March, dozens of young coders have been actively and enthusiastically participating in online coding clubs – interacting with their friends via video chat and presenting their projects to their peers. All have learned some really useful digital literacy skills that will help them in their coding journey.

I’m grateful to all those parents at Backwell Junior School, Yatton Schools, Mary Elton in Clevedon and Winscombe Primary who encouraged their children to participate so fully in those online sessions.

We will be back coding in September 2020 for any child who attends school in North Somerset.

The online sessions will be targeted for children in Years 3 – 6 and we will have a new class for those in Years 7 and 8.

If you are interested in your child participating, please get in touch.

Online coding lessons

Over the last five weeks (Term 5), I took the opportunity to move our existing coding clubs online. This was a natural extension to what we do – after all, most of our programming skills are learned and demonstrated online.

After a successful term, I would like to extend this offer to young students from other schools from September 2020.

Those students who’ve so far had the opportunity to participate, also now have very real exposure to the world of online working and collaboration. They learned not only to communicate online with their tutor and their peers, but also to learn and understand about a new platform and tools. This has taken their learning up a notch or two.

Mastering digital skills is so important and children who learn when they are still at a young age get confident at ‘doing’ and not simply consuming the technology.

The students have already solved problems they will inevitably encounter later on in their digital lives – such as commenting on each other’s emerging work, online chat (and etiquette), importing digital images, and so on. Together we work through the do’s and don’ts of digital communication and technology.

On top of learning to navigate the digital world, the children learn about a number of different applications used for coding online. We’ve also used a range of basic programming ‘languages’ or building blocks to help the children understand about the principles of computer programming and basic algorithms. This is intended to give the children a flavour of different programming languages and enable them to differentiate why and when to choose one over another.

Next week we will start a new term and I’m looking forward to welcoming more young coders.

If you didn’t get an opportunity to participate last term, why not consider giving it a go this time round?

I’m so grateful to all the parents that are supporting their children by allowing them to join in online, and the encouragement they give their children to continue to learn such important skills.