Pair Programing At The Code Club


Running a Code Club sometimes means thinking quickly on your feet.

I recently started a new Code Club at work. We thought we had everything set up perfectly when disaster struck.

We went in to our assigned room half an hour before the club started and began to set up. Of the eleven computers we needed, only three had mice!

Nicola - my co-educator - frantically rushed around the building looking for spare pointing devices. I started switching the machines on. Half of them were unplugged. So, I began crawling underneath the desks to plug them back in. Fun!

I brought the kids in while Nicola logged into the machines. Once settled, I took the neophytes through the basics of the Code Club.

As the kids and I discussed the ethics of free software and the dangers of unchecked buffer overruns, Nicola signalled something was wrong. In a fit of genius, someone had decided to "liberate" most of the Ethernet cables from the computers.

In the end, we had 4 working computers and 10 children. This was a sub-optimal situation which needed immediate rectification. With just under an hour to get these kids hooked on Scratch, I took the decision to implement a Pair Programing regime.

I put a girl on each computer and split the boys between them - trying to mix the ages up a little. I explained how they had to help each other and share the keyboard and mouse.

Surprisingly, it worked pretty well! There were the usual clamour of hands raised to ask why Felix the Cat wasn't behaving exactly as they wanted - but having two people looking over the worksheets seemed to temper some of the more basic errors.

All the kids finished the first exercise, and some of them managed to stamp their own unique designs on the finished result.

Are we going to carry on with multiple kids to a single computer? Probably not. I felt guilty that a few of the kids didn't get as much time as they should have working directly on the projects. More than once I had to swap a pair round to make sure they got even time creating the program. There's a very real difference between seeing code being created and actually manipulating it yourself. It was a great way to introduce the kids to each other - and made for a fun and chatty classroom.

If you're running a Code Club, do be prepared for the odd mishap and try, where possible, to turn it into a learning experience for all involved.

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