We recently got involved with Time to Code – a new pilot volunteering programme aimed at developing tech skills in children. Let us tell you how we got on.
The initiative seeks to provide Key Stage 2 pupils with a greater understanding of the digital sector by developing their IT skills over a 10 week programme. The pilot scheme – founded by Business in the Community in partnership with Code Club – is supported by Belfast Harbour and is set to be rolled out to other parts of the UK in the next year.
The team here at Big Pixel Creative were keen to get involved with the opportunity to pass on some industry knowledge to the children at Taughmonagh P.S.
Luckily, we sent out the Big Pixel HQ veterans – Director, Steven Legge and Lead Developer, Kristam Moffett. Armed with 20 years experience, we figured they were the right men for the job. Time would tell if they were fit to handle 20 bright-eyed, enthusiastic pupils ready for a challenge.
Steven, our Project Manager and Director shares an insight into his time involved;
Our first few weeks were spent explaining the fundamentals of coding. As you can imagine, this was probably the most difficult part of the whole programme. Once the pupils gathered a firm understanding of the software they were up and running in no time.
The software we were training the children on was Scratch – an animation studio controlled by process-driven commands.
We explained how ‘if’ statements determined the output of what happens on screen. After applying this to the Scratch software, the pupils were soon able to see how their commands controlled the avatar on screen, moving and dancing when prompted to do so. It was at this point where we could see their enthusiasm really start to pick up. Not long after, some of the kids were even customising their avatars and creating their own add-ons which was really impressive.
Over the course of the 10 weeks it was interesting to see the pupils’ competency working with technology come on leaps and bounds.
Most of the children had limited desktop computer knowledge, mainly down to the fact tablets and smartphones now count for over 65% of all technology in households. We were able to strengthen these skills through the software as it combines logical thinking as well as IT literacy skills, meaning the children remained interested with the exercises we set for them.
We made sure to keep the tasks fun and engaging to keep the momentum going over mid-term. To track progress we set challenges and milestones to track progress and give a sense of achievement to the pupils.
Looking back on my time spent with the P5’s at Taughmonagh PS I found the most rewarding thing was seeing the different ways the pupils’ approached each task. Some were quite process-orientated and followed the instructions very methodically, whereas others wanted to create a story behind their avatars allowing them to explore their creativity.
It’s also made me realise I couldn’t be a teacher full time – no matter how well behaved the kids are. It takes a special type of person to be a teacher and I’m not one of them!
We were very proud to be a part of the Time To Code initiative. Working in such a fast-paced industry, it is crucial to stay on top of the latest advances in technology to be able to shape up the economy for future. Now, more than ever, it will be crucial for schools to teach STEM subjects at a young age to allow for a greater understanding of design-thinking. These skills will be invaluable in the workplace for years to come across a range of industries and it will be great to see the great future leaders the students grow up to be.
We would like to say a special thanks to Siobhan Scott and Stewart Fulton of Taughmonagh PS along with Ciara Mulgrew of Business in the Community.