Over the last school summer term we ran our first Web Wizards online course for secondary school students. The course took place after school on Mondays over an 8-week period.
The Monday coding club allows students to develop their coding skills and take them to the next level – whether beginners or advanced coders. There is lots of collaboration and we learn together in a safe and friendly environment.
Over the first six months of this year we partnered with North Somerset Libraries to deliver a series of ‘in person’ coding clubs and workshops for young people. The programme was over-subscribed, attracting many children from different parts of the district. This was heartening given the disruption caused by the pandemic.
Attendance didn’t drop off through the course programme so I need to give a big thank you to all the parents and carers who ferried their children to the library venues – and the young people themselves, for their enthusiasm and commitment.
Thank you to those who have shared their feedback so far.
Here’s a quick visual summary of the programme!
Make a Chatbot in Python (Feb 2022 )
A 3-hour workshop where the students created their first chatbot in Python. This workshop took place at Yatton library.
Introduction to Wearable Technology (Feb 2022)
A 3-hour workshop where the children learnt the principles of Wearable Technology and made a badge that lit up. This workshop took place in the library at The Campus in Worle.
Web Design (March 2022)
The children learnt to code in HTML and CSS and made a website about an imaginary pet. This coding club was delivered over 6 weeks at the Healthy Living Centre in Weston-super-Mare.
A 6-week coding club on how to make interactive Apps. This course took place at Nailsea Library on Saturday mornings.
Physical computing with the micro:bit (March 2022)
Coding with the micro:bit was a coding club delivered on Saturday mornings at Yatton library – again, over 6 weeks. The pedometer was a real hit!
Make a Minecraft game in Scratch (April 2022)
A 3-hour workshop where the children learnt how to make a Minecraft game in Scratch. This workshop took place at Weston library.
Paper circuits (April 2022)
A 3-hour workshop where the children learnt basic electronics concepts and made an electronic circuit for a greeting card. This workshop took place at the Healthy Living Centre in Weston-super-Mare.
Learn to code in Scratch (May 2022)
An introduction to the Scratch programming language. This course took place over 6 weeks and by the end of the course the children had created a game which they could interact with. The course took place at The Campus in Worle.
Learn to code in Python (May 2022)
Learn to code in Python was another 6 week course for late primary and secondary school students. This course was delivered at Weston library. A big clap to those teens who got up early on those Saturday mornings… and remained wide awake during the lessons 🙂
Introduction to the RaspberryPi Pico (June 2022)
Physical computing with the RaspberryPi Pico. This was a 3-hour workshop where the children learnt to code a traffic light system. This workshop was delivered at Nailsea Library.
What parent’s said about our courses:
He loved it. Thank you so much for the opportunity. It’s definitely sparked a passion.
He absolutely loved it. He created a blushing cactus. He was really proud of what he created. Thank you so much.
She really liked it and enjoyed attending the course very much. She has been using the things she has learned at home.
My son really enjoyed coding club, and learnt a lot from it. He continued to practice what he had learnt at home. Now his younger brother is keen to learn!
He really enjoyed the sessions and was keen to show us the apps he’d created. He had previously only done a little coding in Scratch so learnt a lot. He liked being creative with coding, making apps that reflected his interests and sense of humour. Thank you for these sessions.
She was keen to go each week, a sure sign of the fact she was engaged! She has an interest in coding from doing Scratch at school and was pleased to show us what she had learned.
Both of my girls really enjoyed themselves. They were proud to show me what they had made when they got home and both said they would love to do another workshop one day. Thank you!
He is happy with it. He is into coding and Phyton is one of the hard things to learn. He learned so much from these lessons.
Since March 2020 we have been offering learning opportuities online tailored to suit different ages and abilities.
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.
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.
This term, some of our students learned how to program the Meowbit and created their first Arcade games.
The Meowbit is a small handheld console for playing games. It can be programmed using graphical programming with the Microsoft Arcade platform.
The course teaches principles of computer programming and game design, which is a step up from programming in Scratch. The students learn about the physics of the game, creating animations and interactions with their characters. As always, there is plenty of problem solving challenges and a great sense of satisfaction when the game is completed.
Being able to test the game the students have created is part of the fun. This creates the perfect opportunity for feedback; is the game too easy or difficult? What can it be changed to make it better? Making changes, fixing bugs and finally publishing the game for the world to see is incredibly rewarding.
Our Make Arcade Games course is now open for registration for the November/December term.
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 likelearning 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.
Your children are all doing you proud.
A new term is just around the corner and all our courses are now open for registration.
We have just completed four weeks of coding a platformer game using the Microsoft MakeCode platform. The students who participated are in Years 7 to 9. Over four weeks the students designed and created a game which they can play on a game device, such as the KittenBot.
Creating a Mario style platformer game allowed the students to develop a deeper understanding of the process of creating a game – planning the story; creating the main character (and their enemies); scene changing; and designing platforms to the physics of the game (gravity, velocity, and acceleration). One important part of the process is the ability to solve the inevitable technical challenges that they come across along the way.
It was wonderful to witness the students sharing and playing their games with their peers. I told them all they should be very proud of the effort and dedication they put into creating their games in just four lessons.
Learning how to interact with the objects on the screen and use ‘event-driven’ programming to make their Apps come to life was really challenging, but the students rose to the challenge and created and shared some terrific Apps. They even created their own App icon to access them on their phones.
Well done to everyone who participated and I look forward to seeing you next term for our new Programming with Python course – registration is now open.
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.
I always encourage my students to make games when learning to program. They have to think about the aim of the game, the characters, the controls, the visual effects, and so on. Once they know all the basics, they can create their own and experiment.
Our group of Year 7 & 8 students have learned how to make Arcade games with Microsoft Make Code Arcade. This is a step up from Scratch programming.
We had a full term packed full of activities that led to a final ‘space shooter’ game where the students put everything they learned into practice. They created some fantastic games featuring some great characters.