The first lesson was a great success. It was held before the Christmas break – so I was eager to make sure that interest hadn’t waned. Far from it – we were over subscribed!
We had 10 PCs and 12 kids – which lead to some sharing of equipment. Everyone involved seemed to enjoy it (including me) – so I thought it would be worthwhile to make some general notes which I hope may be of use to other instructors.
- Girls like coding! Around a third of participants were mini-LadyGeeks. The CodeClub plans are suitable for boys and girls.
- Sharing a PC sucks. I don’t know if it’s better to exclude kids who turn up late, or make them do “pair programming” – but it’s harder to learn if one person is doing the work and one is an onlooker.
- Make sure you have all your handouts ready. Due to a printer mishap, we had to share some worksheets – that’s not great when kids are working at different speeds.
- Scatch is very simple. Which means the enterprising child can find half a dozen ways to make it misbehave! With 10 children clamouring for attention, it can be hard to spot where the bug is. Sometimes it’s best to say “Delete everything, start again, and follow the instructions really carefully!”
- Some kids finish early and want to be stretched. You can either give them the advanced assignments (add more monsters, change their colours, etc) or you can deputise them into classroom assistants. Guess which option I chose!
- Kids can be really creative – both in terms of the customisations they build and the questions they ask. I’ll never forget how a little girl with an Alice band asked me “How can I make the monster drip with blood and then have its head explode when I click on it?”
- Parents can be a hindrance. Remember when you got a train set for your birthday and your dad “helped” you by putting it all together, breaking it, and then claiming it wasn’t his fault that you weren’t enjoying it? Any kids who can use a mouse can probably get by without parental help.
- That said, having parents view the child’s work at the end of the lesson is really encouraging. It lets the parent know what their kid has been doing and it gives the kid a chance to show off.
- Have a memory stick for each participant to save their work on. Thanks to Telefonica (my employer, I’m not speaking for them, may contain nuts, etc.) I was able to give a flash drive to each kid. I put on a copy of Scratch for Linux, Mac, and Windows – along with some other programming resources. Not every kid will have a computer at home, but Scratch will quite happily run from a memory stick on a school or library machine.
- Use headphones if the program needs sound. It stops the kids from getting distracted by hearing the noises eminating from their friends’ PCs. In a library setting, it stops you getting glared at.
- Have helpers. I’m enormously grateful to the staff of Woking Library who have been helping me. Dealing with ten excitable children is slightly more complex than I imagined!
…and all that’s just from two sessions! Wonder what the next will bring?