Developing Talent in Scotland

Running the dojo at CodeClan got me thinking about what both CodeClan and CoderDojo are doing, how they’re doing it, and what, if anything, they have in common.
Children coding at CoderDojo session

Developing Talent in Scotland

Written by John Bell, Event Manager & Mentor for CoderDojo Scotland

Laptops being set-up for CoderDojo sessionJust like CodeClan, CoderDojo is all about developing coding skills. That’s why I approached Scotland’s first coding academy to run a Pop-Up Family Dojo in June, where nineteen young people and many of their parents rolled up their sleeves and got stuck into coding with the BBC micro:bit, the pocket-sized programmable computer which the BBC is giving away to a million S1 students across the UK.

I lead a couple of CoderDojo clubs (or dojos, as we call them). CoderDojo is a global network of free coding clubs for 7-17 year-olds. Now in our 5th year, have over 1000 volunteer-led clubs, with 15 (and growing) here in Scotland.

I’d visited CodeClan before. It was a very positive experience. I liked the people. I liked their positivity, enthusiasm and their drive to skill-up career changers into highly employable software developers. I liked their innovation and ability to quickly adapt to the needs of their students and employer network. Why not run a dojo here, I thought?

The feedback we had from parents and children who attended the dojo was very positive. As well as the activities, everyone really liked being in the CodeClan learning space. I understand why. It’s cool. It’s got a buzz. It gives off the vibe of a San Fran tech start-up.

Running the dojo at CodeClan got me thinking about what both CodeClan and CoderDojo are doing, how they’re doing it, and what, if anything, they have in common.

Making it Real, Making it Relevant

Child coding at CoderDojo session

We live in a world where the tech and digital sectors offer many exciting career opportunities. In Scotland we’re lucky to be home to a thriving tech scene.

CodeClan’s contribution to that scene is to provide a path for those who wish to rapidly build their skills in order to move into this booming sector. One way they do this is to develop skills that are relevant and meet the needs of employers.

CoderDojo isn’t about directly preparing young people for employment in the tech sector. But it does have a part to play.

For some young people who come along to CoderDojo, a career in tech is something they already aspire to. They have plans. They have projects they’re working on. They’re driven.

For others, CoderDojo is more about being with their friends, playing with cool tech, learning cool new stuff and hanging out.

Children coding at CoderDojo session

Both are fine and we welcome all young people, regardless of experience or ability. Whatever their experience, CoderDojo helps make them aware of the possibilities of technology, of how it can be used to make the world a better place and how it’s possible to make a career in this exciting industry. It’s all about opening their eyes to the possibilities.

CodeClan builds skills that are relevant and in demand now. For the young people at CoderDojo, who knows what skills will be relevant in the future! (Note to self  – purchase crystal ball from Amazon). So how do we make sure the learning is relevant? Well, it’s relevant if it’s relevant to the individual young people themselves. At CoderDojo, learning is largely driven by the young people themselves, based upon their interests and passions, from websites and apps, to games and robotics. They get to choose what’s relevant to them.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

Children coding at CoderDojo session

The best way to learn is by doing. The best way to learn to code is by coding.

This philosophy is shared by both CodeClan and CoderDojo. Learning is immersive, interactive and massively hands-on. Get stuck in. Make mistakes. Share. Talk. Discuss. Fix. Solve. Do.

Learn.

Get Creative

At CodeClan, the ability to think creatively and solve problems is hugely important. It’s a large part of what software developers do, day in, day out. It’s a vital skill demanded by employers.

Children coding at CoderDojo session

At CoderDojo, solving problems is a really useful (and transferable) life-skill that we help young people to develop

And as for creativity? I’m regularly astounded by the creativity demonstrated by the young people who attend our dojos. It’s incredible. Check out Coolest Projects to see what our young people are capable of.

Those Who Can…Teach Coding

CodeDojo is incredibly fortunate to have a large community of volunteer mentors, many of who work in the tech and digital sectors. When working with young people, they bring enthusiasm for developing software, up-to-date knowledge, and are able to share with young people what software developers actually do in their jobs.

John presenting at CoderDojo session

Likewise, CodeClan have a team of highly-experienced instructors who, as well as being highly proficient technically, are extremely enthusiastic about sharing their passion for coding and have all-too-valuable recent experience in the tech sector.

Helping Hands

Learning to code isn’t easy. It can be challenging. Learners, whether they are adults or children, sometimes need a helping hand.

At CoderDojo we try to create dojos that are relaxed, sociable and informal, where young people receive encouragement and support from adult mentors and their peers. Whilst some young people wish to work on their own (and there’s nothing wrong with that), many like to work as a team, which is often a great way to learn.

Learning to code at CodeClan is an intensive, challenging and fast-paced experience, but if students need support, they can ask their peers, their instructors or the Head of Student Well-being.

Bright Futures

Children coding at CoderDojo session

When I see the good work that CodeClan and CoderDojo are doing to develop coding skills, it makes me feel incredibly positive about the future of the Scottish tech scene. Sure, there’s lots more that needs to be done, lots more that can and should be done, but there is talent here, and in the short-term and the longer-term, we’re helping shape this talent.

We’re helping shape the digital makers of the future.

Regular Edinburgh CoderDojo sessions at CodeClan HQ to be announced soon. Keep an eye on the CoderDojo Scotland website for developments.

Images courtesy of Amadine Eap, CoderDojo Mentor