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

Making retro arcade games

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.

Using Make Code, the students create their own characters pixel by pixel – and then program it to control the game. Although the students use block programming, they can view their code in JavaScript or Python which helps them to understand how the code works under the hood.

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.

We have two new coding clubs for Years 7 – 9 starting in November 2020:
Make Mobile Apps
Introduction to Python

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.

Wearable Tech Workshop 1

In our efforts to inspire more young people into the world of Wearable Technology and with the support of The Institute of Engineering and Technology, we had our first ‘Wearable Tech Workshops’ to students in North Somerset.

The first of five workshops took place at Portishead Library, who kindly sponsored the room, over the February half term of 2020.

We were pleased to see students from across North Somerset secondary schools for a three hour workshop. The students made a variety of things, including electronic badges, hair bands, light up pockets, etc.

It was a productive morning and I hope to welcome more new students to future workshops.

Due to the Corona virus situation, the workshops have been postponed until further notice.

Summer of Code 2019

The third #SummerOfCode has come to an end. A big thank you to our sponsor Viper Innovations for hosting us again and providing drinks, snacks and some magic for the children (yes, talented magician included!).

Day One: we got off to a really good start with our first workshop for 6 and 7 year olds. The children arrived with their tablets ready to create an animated story with ScratchJr… and they all did! By the end of the two-hour workshop, the children were confident enough to create an animated story and also learnt some coding basics. At break time we were treated to some magic by one of the members of staff!

On Day Two we covered all the basics on how to create a ‘Space Invaders’ game in Scratch and how to program it. This was a challenging workshop, especially for the younger attendees, but they should be very proud of what they managed to achieve in a short period of time.

Day Three was all about physical computing with BBC micro:bits. The children busied themselves for a couple of hours learning to program the micro:bit and controlling a light (On/Off), turning on a fan, making music, dimming lights, etc… all with code.

Day Four was packed with students from different schools across North Somerset. We had a mixed-gender group and all were keen to learn how Apps are made. The children created their first Apps using the JavaScript language and were then able to play with the Apps they created.

Day Five was about learning with Python. It was great to see that some of the children came well prepared with Python already installed! They created their first Python chatbot and they were all pretty proud of what they achieved in only two hours.

A big ‘thank you’ to our sponsor Viper Innovations for supporting the event and helping us give the children these opportunities. A special thanks to all Viper’s STEM ambassadors and helpers.

Wearable tech for Year 7s

Codingbug was delighted to be asked to work with Annie Lywood – the founder of Bonnie Binary – to deliver a ‘wearable technology’ workshop for 50 students at Newent Community School in Gloucestershire at the end of the summer term.

We gave the students an introduction to ‘wearable technology’ and they then had a go at making their own badges. We brought in all the materials the students needed for the workshop, including electronic components, conductive threads, felt… and examples for them to try.

E-textiles badge
Giant doughnut badge created by a student.

The school provided many of the extra tools we needed for the workshop, including crocodile clips and multimeters.

The students were a real pleasure to work with. They all learned to use conductive yarn, sewed in their first ‘soft circuit’ and made their badges light up. As always, debugging is an important part of the process and they all had a go at using the multimeter for that purpose.

A big thank you for Mr K. for treating us so well and staying with us throughout the morning and afternoon sessions. We hope to repeat the experience again in the near future.

Making Apps with JavaScript

JavaScript is the programming language that powers the web. It adds interactivity to a website and applications are written in JavaScript everyday – ranging from a single page application, games, apps, programming drones to the Internet of things.

At Coding Club, the children have been learning how to program apps with JavaScript using Bitsbox. Bitsbox is a paid online learning application, but anyone can sign up and start using the free tutorials or the hour of code. They also offer a monthly subscription with lost of goodies.

The Bitsbox interface consists of a phone simulator and a text editor, so the results can be seen straight away. A QR code can also be scanned so the apps can run on a phone or tablet. This is a great way to introduce text-based programming to young people.

Most children in Year 4 and above who are confident with Scratch should be able to write apps with JavaScript and understand the concepts. Bixtbox has definitely been a big hit with the kids.

Making apps with JavaScript

JavaScript Playground

Code combat

Last school term, I facilitated half a dozen sessions with a group of secondary school students who had the opportunity to get started with javaScript through play. We used the strategy game Codecombat, which allows students to write code and use computational thinking to guide their character through obstacles and battles. Continue reading “JavaScript Playground”