I started a Code Club at my son’s local primary school in May 2013. The number of members has varied quite a lot from a high of 19 at the beginning down to a core of six at the end of last term. Numbers should go back up to around twelve after the summer break when we get a new influx.
Over the last eighteen months or so I’ve developed a set of hints that could be of help to anyone setting up their own Code Club, can be downloaded here. I also presented along with my son at the 2014 Scottish Ruby conference details here
Code Club Tips
- Ensure scratch is installed on all the computers we’ve been using version 1.4 as most of the machines were pretty old.
- Keep the atmosphere light and informal if you can. I allow the pupils to call me by my first name which I think helps with this.
- Print the worksheets in colour, one for each pupil.
- I like to Laminate certificates.
- Laminate the cue cards to make them more durable.
- Don’t jump in straight away to give a pupil the answer to a problem / bug encourage them to find the solution themselves it’s often just a case of reading the instruction again.
- As the term progresses get the more able pupils to assist the less able ones but make sure they are teaching how to do something not just doing it for them.
- Watch for pupils spending excessive amounts of time on art work, they may need some individual attention to help them understand what they are doing.
- Add other things into the lessons if you can to show other aspects of coding. For example we have built a Makey Makey piano, played a little with Arduino, built a basic robot and experimented with a Sphero. The Sphero website has got it’s own lesson plans for teaching things like time and distance and angles.
- The best age range for me has been P5 – P7.
- Reading the instructions fully for each stage of a worksheet seems to be the biggest problem and comprehension can be an issue for younger pupils.
- When I’ve had a classroom assistant they have often been best used making sure that pupils are properly reading the worksheets and explaining what some words mean.
- Discipline hasn’t generally been an issue but I have explained that my rules are different to the normal school one’s. I don’t operate a levels system and anyone causing excessive disruption will be asked to leave.
In addition to the materials provided by Code Club I’ve also introduced them to a number of other technologies including
A couple of the members built some simple circuits based on an Arduino UNO and at the end of the Summer term we built a small robot.
The whole class spent a lesson building Brushbots and then competing against each other with them
We built a Banana piano using a Makey Makey and Scratch
We built this robot as a group. The robot uses an Arduino with a motor controller and a ping sensor to detect objects which it tries to avoid. I explained to them how each of the individual parts worked and the associated code before assembling it all together.
I won a Sphero at the 2014 Scottish Ruby conference and have used it in a number of lessons. The Sphero can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. We have been using my iPad for this. The kids work in teams of two or three and use the lesson plans provided by the Sphero team. So far they have learned about Speed, Distance and time as well as angles.
We received a number of Raspberry Pi’s from Google and the Raspberry Pi foundation. We are currently in the process of building a Robot with a camera and two motors controlled by an iPhone.
DIY Gamer Kit
We applied for a set of DIY Gamer Kit’s from Code Club and “Technology Will Save Us” I’m glad to say we were awarded a total of seven kits. Six for the club and one for myself to build . With the help of my son we have built the first kit and he made a small animation.