Allowing children to become acquainted with their digital skills as much as possible in a free and non-school environment, that’s the mission of CoderDojo. CoderDojo is active worldwide and organizes workshops and coding clubs to inspire children in the wonderful world of ICT. But what is the success story behind CoderDojo?
CoderDojo was originally founded in Ireland nine years ago by James Whelton and Bill Liao. In June 2011, the first official CoderDojo took place at the National Software Center in Cork. This became a great success, and shortly afterwards the first Dojo in Dublin was established. Since then, dojos have been organized in various places around the world such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Japan
CoderDojo Belgium was founded at the beginning of 2015. Since then, the organization has grown to more than 150 Dojos with around 2,000 enthusiastic volunteers, who reach more than 18,000 children each year.
Amandis spoke with Sarah Tertyschnikow, Community Lead of Flanders
Sarah is the Community Lead of Flanders and provides support for the various Dojos in the region. This means that she launches new Dojos and also provides support to the existing ones. The support is tailor-made to keep the community together and to help them grow.
CoderDojo focuses on children between 7 and 18 years old, although Sarah does notice some differences. “In most of the Dojos the age is between 8 and 13 years. It’s a big challenge to keep children older than 13 fascinated. This differs from Dojo to Dojo, and in some Dojos these children even grow into Coaches. "
The majority of the children who participate are boys, but Sarah does see a strong advance of girl participants. CoderDojo is also focusing efforts on this; every year they organize CoderDojo4Diva’s, which is an annual event created especially for girls.
The goal of CoderDojo is to reach as many children as possible in an accessible way. “Children who want to participate don’t need any foreknowledge. The most important thing is to inspire the children and where we can, we will respond to their needs, " says Sarah
“The most important thing is to inspire the children and where we can we will respond to their needs”
Sarah Tertyschnikow, Community Lead Vlaanderen
According to Sarah, the success story of CoderDojo is due to their positivity and belief: "It is a positive story, we ensure that we do not do this for profit, but from a sincere conviction that children can be inspired by programming." The CoderDojo movement believes that programming knowledge is becoming increasingly important in the modern world of technology and that it is easier and better to learn these skills from an early age. CoderDojo wants to ensure that every child receives this chance.
“Because of the positivism and the sincere conviction in which a CoderDojo is given, it is certainly worthwhile to come by”
Sarah Tertyschnikow, Community Lead Vlaanderen
What do children learn during a Dojo?
All Dojos are run by volunteers, which means that the teaching offered depends on the coaches. At the Dojos, girls and boys learn programming, create websites, develop applications and games. They meet other children and show each other what they have worked on. In this way they are not only learning programming but also sharpen their social skills, presentation skills and creativity.
The basis in all Dojos is Scratch, a program developed by MIT for children. "The idea is to get children to understand the logic behind programming," says Sarah. CoderDojo lets children and young people discover IT in a playful way.
The offer is very variable within a Dojo. Children can practice Scratch, Microbit, Arduino, HTML, CSS, ... but as already mentioned, the offer depends on the coaches available during a Dojo.
Amandis spoke to the coaches of Zottegem
Dojos are set up and organized by volunteers who have the right drive to coach and guide young people. Jo Verhaevert, coach and organizer of a CoderDojo in Zottegem, first came into contact with CoderDojo in 2018. His children were talented at programming, but Jo found no relevant facilities close to home. After a visit to a CoderDojo in Geraardsbergen, Jo decided to start a CoderDojo together with his wife Annelies in their hometown of Zottegem.
Jo is a professor at the University of Ghent and teaches various courses related to wireless communication in an Industrial Engineering course. "It is extremely important that children start working with programming and technology from an early age to know whether it is their thing or not," says Jo.
“It is extremely important that children start working with programming and technology from an early age to know whether it is their thing or not” Jo Verhaevert, CoderDojo Coach
One of the goals for coaches is to stimulate the ICT mindset among young people. “Children need this thinking-pattern and you will sometimes notice this in the workplace. People with an IT background will often understand changes in change management more quickly, ”says Sven Stevens, co-coach CoderDojo.
According to Jo, getting in touch with ICT from an early age has an impact on study choice. "You notice that on info days or open days, when people come with a question about a technical education, they have already been busy programming during their childhood.”
Coming in contact with IT from an early age certainly seems to have an added value.
More about CoderDojo
CoderDojo is based on the dedication and passion of its many volunteers. The demand is still bigger than the supply, which means that CoderDojo is constantly looking for new motivated volunteers. Would you like to know more about CoderDojo or become a coach yourself? Then take a look at https://www.coderdojobelgium.be/nl!