“I just want to make a horse riding game!”
That was Isobel’s plan for her first CoderDojo on 7th April 2013. I just wanted her to enjoy it and didn’t expect her to learn much on her first visit. I thought she’d just be testing the waters, having a look around, seeing if there were other girls her age there (very important when you’re seven).
So we decided to make a day of it. The CoderDojo is at the MadLab, right in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter so just wandering around was a bit of an adventure.
Making Scratch Friends
It was busy and chaotic at the beginning in the best way possible. Isobel hooked up with a couple of other girls her age who are old hands at CoderDojo. They joined a Scratch group aimed at the younger children. It was led by the fabulous, inspiring, endlessly patient DJ Adams who came up with an idea to write a program that would take the monotony out of Times Tables. They all thought this was a much-needed tool!
With a mix of gentle questioning, allowing the older children to use their knowledge and experience, he took the group through the process step by step. Isobel’s new friends helped her out a couple of times which made it all the more sociable. It was just lovely to see such young children completely engrossed in a problem-solving task together.
Wouldn’t it be great if they could do stuff like this in ICT classes in school? I’d love to see teachers being able to pick up something from elsewhere in the curriculum (times tables is a good example) and then exploring it in a computer class.
Even better, after DJ had finished, the girls started chatting about how they could make the times tables program even better! Could they get the monkey to move its mouth? Could he explode at the end?! DJ set Isobel a challenge – could she get the monkey to put its arms out when the answer was even and down when the answer was odd. That got her thinking….
The Banana Piano
So much interesting stuff going on all over the CoderDojo! Isobel’s new friends dragged her over to see Steven Flower – the organiser of under-18 events at MadLab – make a piano out of bananas.
Yeeaaah, the banana piano is good, but Isobel just wanted to get back to her program so she could work on getting the monkey to react to odd and even numbers. She’s still not sure how to do it but knows she has to make another “costume” for the monkey sprite so gets to work on that.
Another wonderfully generous, patient mentor talks Isobel through the modulo operator. Suddenly, she sees a way of solving the challenge. It’s exciting for both of us – but it’s time to leave.
She wants to work on it on the train home. I draw the line!
But as soon as we get home…..
Nothing was more important to Isobel than fixing that program! She still needed guidance to get it to work and it took a lot of trial and error. But she got there in the end.
We did NOT make a horse riding game!
For me, that was the biggest achievement. I saw a different side to my daughter. Who’d have thought she could be so passionate about something which doesn’t involve writing a story (about ponies, usually)?
I met lots of familiar faces at CoderDojo, met new people whom I hope to see again and I came away with lots of new ideas for our CodeClub. Sadly, we won’t be able to go to the next CoderDojo because it clashes with the Mellor March – the big annual charity event in our village. But we will be back!
And finally, I’d like to say thank you to all the wonderful mentors who make CoderDojo such a fantastic experience for children and their parents. I’m very grateful.