Giving Back - CodeClub and AppsForGood

It occurred to me that I've been very lucky in my computing career. I had parents who encouraged my love of technology, who were able to teach me BASIC, and buy my brother and I our first computer when we were still quite young. That old BBC Micro served me well and helped springboard me to where I am today.

I think it's time for all of us in the technology industry to encourage young people to explore the fascinating world of computers. Our lives are dominated by computers - and knowing how to program them is as essential as knowing how to start a fire was to our ancestors.

Computers aren't televisions. They are not passive entertainment devices. They are not appliances which can only perform the functions set by their creators. They are the very embodiment of our age - electronic servants which, with the right coaxing, will do our bidding and help us change the world.

That's why I'm investing my time in helping kickstart kids on their journey to hackerdom.

Here are the two projects with which I am involved.

Apps For Good

Apps-for-GoodI've spent the last year working with the CDI AppsForGood team. They run programs in secondary schools which get kids to design and build Android apps which will be useful to them and their peers.

Sadly, I was rather dismissive of the idea when I first heard about it - but I have since seen the error of my ways.

So, I've spent the last year Skyping into schools and - Dragons' Den style - hearing pitches from teenagers, and giving them feedback.

It has been immensely fun! Some of the app ideas have been really inventive - apps to help prevent anorexia and bullying, apps to help you with your bad hair day, apps to help you with dyslexia, and apps to help you find books your friends like - I've taken great delight in explaining how do do a basic customer survey, how to create a minimum-viable-product, what common pitfalls to avoid. The kids seem to really enjoy having an industry expert take their questions.

You should become an AppsForGood Expert. Seriously, whether you're a coder, a designer, a product manager, CEO, StartUp Founder, or UI expert - you'll find it incredibly rewarding.

It's really simple to participate - Skype sessions are 45 minutes and really easy to fit around your day. Become an AppsForGood Expert today!

Code Club

Code Club logoAs I mentioned a few days ago - I've helped start a CodeClub at my local library. I signed up with CodeClub, downloaded their excellent lesson plans and, yesterday, taught my first class.

I was really nervous. I taught kids at drama lessons many years ago, but this was my first time in years facing a hostile audience of savage youths! We had eight kids turn up - including two girls (no doubt future LadyGeeks).

After a quick intro from me, the kids tore through the worksheets - while I ran around answering their questions and fixing their problems. I was ably assisted by librarians from Woking Library.

What surprised me most was how willing the kids were to diverge from the worksheets and go off on their own flights of fancy.

I thought the class went really well - and hopefully we'll run some more in the new year - but I'll leave the final verdict up to the kids.

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Your Move

So, what are you doing to spark wonder and delight in young people?

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