On April 13th, 20 kids, their parents, and 13 mentors and volunteers gathered at Clockwork for the inaugural CoderDojo Twin Cities event. HTML 5, Python, & Scratch groups were set up to make development and learning to code a fun, sociable, kick-butt experience for the kids. And there’s just one rule: “Above All: Be Cool.” And “be cool” they did. The day was filled with “A-ha!” moments and “Look what I did!” excitement. And the enthusiasm hasn’t stopped! As you can see in the pictures below from the second meeting, the kids were enraptured.

What is CoderDojo?

CoderDojo is a global movement about providing free and open learning to youth, with an emphasis on computer programming. Volunteers help girls and boys learn to code and provide a friendly, supportive learning environment for all learning levels, from absolute beginners to experienced young programmers.

Matt Gray, Clockwork’s VP of Technology, co-founded CoderDojo Twin Cities in January with Rebecca Schatz of Code Savvy. The first Twin Cities chapter welcomes kids and teens ages 10–17. In an effort to reduce economic barriers, CoderDojo Twin Cities also provides computers for kids who can’t bring their own. The Twin Cities group has met 3 times (the 4th event is tomorrow!). 

You can find out more about the Twin Cities chapter or visit the main CoderDojo site.


Pictures from CoderDojo week 2


Why we care (and why you should, too)

“I taught myself to code at a young age, but I had a lot of support. In 6th grade, I had the opportunity to audit a computer science course (teaching Ada!) at Saint Cloud State University. Working with a mentor (my professor) taught me a lot, enabled me to level up my own abilities, and convinced me that I’d found my future career. The next thing I knew, I had started a web development business during the Internet’s infancy with my 10-year-old brother. I want to catalyze educational, supportive, and transformative experiences for kids and teens interested in learning how to code, and CoderDojo fits that vision perfectly.”

Matt Gray, VP of Technology
Clockwork
CoderDojo Twin Cities Co-Founder

 

“We’ve often found that self-taught coders make the best colleagues; they’re the ones that are in it because they love doing it and can’t imagine doing anything else — not just because they’re getting paid to do it. But in order to self-teach, kids need access at an early age. And not all kids are lucky enough to have that access (or to have someone around helping them understand it.) We’re excited to offer not just access to the technology — with equipment and a space to work — but access to skilled mentors to guide kids. There’s no better way to develop a love for coding than learning from someone who also loves it.”

Meghan Wilker, COO
Clockwork
CoderDojo fan & sponsor

 
What do participants think?

I’ve really enjoyed mentoring with the web mentoring team at CoderDojo. The kids have been so excited, and they are incredible learners. It has really been a joy supporting them and engaging with their curiosity. The other mentors have been wonderful to work with. CoderDojo is a really cool thing. More kids and more mentors should join the fun. The events are designed to support new learners and new mentors, so it is a very welcoming environment. I hope CoderDojo Twin Cities is only the beginning of bigger changes in Minnesota. We need to create learning opportunities and positive experiences around technology for all children.”

Zachary Johnson
Zachstronaut LLC
CoderDojo Mentor

 

“CoderDojo is making new makers. My kids are Minecraft obsessed. They’ve watched every video they can find, spend hours spawning in and building new worlds, and harangued us for months about figuring out how to get them set up on a Minecraft server. 

But that still only taught them how to play with someone else’s vision, with someone else’s tools. 
 
So watching my 11-year-old daughter light up the minute she realized that she could string together some words and symbols in this little terminal window that would completely change what she could do and how she could do it in this game she’s played for months? It’s magic. It’s a great feeling of power and accomplishment. It’s changed the conversation from “can I get my own phone?” to “can I get a Raspberry Pi?” 
 
Best of all, I’ve heard words come out of her mouth that I never dreamed were possible: ‘I wish (my brother) could come.'”
 
Emily McAuliffe
Clockwork
CoderDojo parent
 

“The mentoring experience has been pretty amazing. Watching how excited some of the kids get with technology and some of their “Wow! I didn’t know I could do that!” moments, there’s nothing like that; their sense of wonder is astounding. 

And we’re literally at a point in time where anyone with an internet connection, enough willpower and the right guidance can start making a difference. It means a lot to me to show energetic young people that power at an early age, and prepare them for a future where coding may be one of the most empowering individual skills any person can have. Computers are changing society as we know it, and skill with technology is a wonderfully empowering skill to have. The feeling that you can make almost anything happen is rare for adults, I feel like, and just by knowing the capabilities of technology, I get that feeling a lot, and it’s a great feeling to have. We as a society should embrace that empowerment, in my opinion, and it’s organizations like CoderDojo that can start that change for our coming generations.”

Will Buck
Virtuwell
CoderDojo Mentor

 

One of the best things about programming is the creative process involved in developing a great piece of software. The game world in Minecraft naturally lends itself to playful creativity and exploration—partially why many kids are hooked on the game. These are some of the reasons that we thought that teaching Python with Minecraft would be a great combination to spark the kids’ imaginations.  So far, we have focused on teaching basic logic and fundamental programming concepts such as variables, conditionals, loops using the Minecraft world as a canvas and reinforcing concepts through many code examples.  We hope to work towards building their knowledge so that students are able to create their own programs and Minecraft mods.

My favorite moments mentoring for CoderDojo Twin Cities have been watching the spark that occurs when a student has an idea that they want to try implementing, helping to guide them to a solution, and then see their wonder and amazement when they succeed!  I never want to lose that spark myself and I think that helping these kids learn will continue to inspire and energize me!”

Jessica Zehavi
Clockwork
CoderDojo Mentor

 

Photo Credit: Sharyn Morrow