In less than 3 short years, CoderDojo has swept the world with its unique approach to teaching kids to code. Beginning in Cork, Ireland, more than 390 dojos have spread across 43 countries, in part because of their easy entry model--find a place, find people to help out, and go!
It took twelve-year-old Jordan Casey nearly eight months to build “My Little World,” a game inspired by slugs in his grandma’s garden. Today Jordan runs his own game company, Casey Games. How many more kids will be inspired to create companies as a result of CoderDojo?
In New York City, Rebecca Garcia co-founded her Dojo out of a desire to give back. In her day job, she’s a Developer Evangelist for Squarespace. On nights and weekends, for the past 3 years, she has run CoderDojo NYC. “The first session we had, 10 mentors came and only 2 kids,” Rebecca remembers. So they printed up flyers, registered on parent activity lists, and grew organically. Now, more than 80-100 kids attend each session.
CoderDojo stands apart from other CS classes for children because of its flexibility, both for kids and for volunteers. Kids (ages 7-17) and volunteers register one session at a time. That way, new kids always have the chance to attend. The lack of a strict commitment also fits the “I might want to travel or take a job across the country” lifestyle of most of the organization’s twenty-something volunteers.
What's your coding face?
Programming is serious
business—most of the time!
CoderDojo also stresses that any age of kid can learn, and tutors emphasize a “see, do, teach” model to learning. Kids begin sitting together at a table to learn basic HTML and CSS, but they quickly branch out to their own independent projects. Many kids become mentors of new attendees, fostering an environment of success based on both personal achievement and knowledge sharing, instead of linear, self-focused advancement.
Coder-Dojo’s one rule: “Above All: Be Cool”
Kids can be kids in these super friendly and flexible spaces. New students don’t have to worry about knowing less, and super speedy learners can plow forward on their own and ask questions when necessary.
“CoderDojo has spread so fast because of the low barrier to entry. We try to make our stuff project-based so kids can leave with something.”
Kids are excited to come away from each session having built simple personal websites or HTML 5 games. More advanced learners will work on Android or iPhone games over several sessions and at home.
“Most of the people in the world with computers are men.”
Whether that’s true or not, these three little girls mastered computer class and show that girls code too.
“When I was younger, my sister made an investment in me. She paid for me to go to computer camp.”
Tutors express their gratitude toward people in their pasts who helped them enter into programming. CoderDojo enables tutors to give back to kids and support a whole new, diverse generation of coders.
“As a 21st Century generation, students learn all of their knowledge through the cyber world. If they know how to code it themselves, it will enhance their opportunities.”
Self-reliance is a common theme echoed by parents, teachers, and staff at CoderDojo. They all want to help kids develop the skills they will need to be leaders, and they see computer science as a necessary field of knowledge for anyone looking to succeed in the future.
Girl Scouts code!
CoderDojo boasts equal numbers of girls and boys, children from a diversity of ethnic and income backgrounds, and as many youngsters as teenagers.
“We put our own money into it, the holiday party, buying snacks, even our name tags.”
CoderDojo NYC relies entirely on donations, though they rarely fundraise because preparing lessons for kids comes first. Volunteers commit their time and even dip into their own paychecks to keep the program running.
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN
CoderDojo NYC needs laptops so that kids without their own hardware can participate!
It’s tough to teach kids to code if they don’t have their own laptops. This month Omakase is fundraising for Chromebooks, which price in at under $200 a piece. Currently, CoderDojo NYC hosts their events in locations that have laptops for loan, but even then there are never enough.
With between 80-100 students registering to attend each session, CoderDojo NYC wants to offer more spots to students who don’t have their own laptops. Some of these students attend the Young Women’s Leadership School and the Urban Assembly Gateway School in the Bronx. Currently, one teacher has her students all write essays, and she selects only the top five students to attend because they can’t bring their own laptops.
The CoderDojo NYC staff is eager to teach, and the students are begging for this opportunity to learn, they just need some outside funding to remove this material barrier to entry.