05 Sep Code Club – Changing schools by making computing finally fun
Code Club – Clare Sutcliffe and Linda Sandvik (United Kingdom)
A little more than a year ago (in April 2012 to be precise), Clare Sutcliffe and Linda Sanvik started ‘Code Club’. “What if we were to send developers to schools to teach kids to code in after-school coding clubs? “ What started out as a very simple yet disruptive idea born from one too many beers shared between two friends on an ordinary Monday in March 2012, was to become a month later Code Club.
The pair developed Code Club in an effort to – one – bridge the knowledge gap caused by the lack of skilled computer software teachers in schools across the UK- and two – to make computing fun and engaging for kids again. No mean feat by any standards.
Their philosophy is simple: To inject fun with a capital F into computer classes by encouraging creativity and learning through exploration. Having noticed that much of the UK’s school curriculum for computer classes seemed out-dated and boring, and that all too often many schools lacked the financial resources to hire qualified teaching staff, Linda and Clare decided to set up a volunteer-led network of after-school coding clubs. Tapping into the wide knowledge base of the UK’s 333,000 existing computer software professionals in the process to power their volunteer network. Not content with just sourcing Britain’s most talented programmers, Code Club endeavours to go the extra mile in supporting their volunteer base. Not only does the company design all lesson plans for the latter group, but in addition, they also facilitate an introduction between their volunteers and local schools, helping them successfully pitch in the Code Club concept.
However we believe that the real key to their success can be summoned up in two words: Engaging children.
Code Club’s curriculum is specifically designed and tailored for children. As such, although created by a professional group of programmers, developers and academics, all new course projects are tested and rated by children aged 9 to 11 years old – Code Club’s intended users – before being added to the class curriculum. Furthermore, Code Club actively engages their ‘small partners’ into co-creation by hosting a ‘Hackday’ during which different teams compete to design the best new Code Club projects. To win, the ideas have to fulfil two conditions in line with its core philosophy. They have to be fun – They have to be inspiring. The winning projects are later included in the curriculum, ensuring a continuous flow of new and inspiring learning material every term. Class projects vary from basic programming and web development skills using HTML and CSS to learning Python in order to create fun and creative children’s games and animations. The company runs as a not-for-profit organization funded by donations, from the public, technology companies and grants. Donation requests range from £8 for a child to £150 for one club (consisting of 15 children).
While we live in a world that is ruled by technological progress, Clare and Linda’s founding believe is that it is imperative that children not just be passive consumers of technology but rather be taught how to create new technologies through engaging practices and through the acquisition of relevant coding and programming skills. Instead of inspiring children and showing them the vast possibilities of what they can do with computers, we are merely showing them how to carry out the most basic tasks in Microsoft Office.
Code Club currently runs 800 volunteer-led after school code clubs across the UK and is now expanding overseas with soon the inclusion of new course materials, translated by its volunteers, in French, German, Portuguese, Ukrainian and Turkish. Not bad for a young enterprise started just over a year ago and whose ambition and goal was to create a total of 20 such clubs just in the UK.
If it wasn’t already obvious from the above why we are so enamoured with both Clare and Linda’s story and entrepreneurial journey and why it is that we believe they are great inspirational role models for other female entrepreneurs, here are our reasons.
Clare and Linda are two passionate and determined female entrepreneurs on a mission to revolutionize and disrupt the way computer science is taught in schools and in the process they want to empower a future generation of computer ‘native’ kids who aren’t just avid users and consumers of new technology but equally so are active and avid creators of new technologies.
Not content to wait on Government or educational institutions to wake up and change the state of things. They took the bull by the horns and did it by themselves.
Code club isn’t unique or even the first in their attempt and to quest to bring us up to speed with the New Digital era by making coders out of all of us (other enterprises such as Coder Dojo, Hackety Hack or Codecademy have already embarked in this adventure) but none we believe, have been able to do so with such gusto, passion, courage, speed and utopian fervour.
Code Club is yet another prime example of how female entrepreneurship can and is positively shaping the world we live in, on a local, national and global level, for the better.
Website (UK): http://www.codeclub.org.uk/
Website (world): http://codeclubworld.org/
Watch this TED talk given Clare Sutcliffe and be inspired:
Globally Spotted: An article series featuring business ideas that made our hearts jump with excitement. Truly inspiring enterprises invented and founded by mums and female entrepreneurs from all over the world.