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Coder Corner – what can we learn from kids?

Within an hour of stepping foot in the office for my digital internship at The Team, I was in full swing on my first project – I had to throw myself in head first, switching on my creative brain and immerse myself in the fast-paced dynamic of the creative environment.

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With less than four days to complete the project, there was no time for settling in.

The challenge

Working with Nick Corston – The Team’s Business Development Director and founder of the Little House of Fairy Tales initiative – I was asked to develop and design a children’s computer game using Scratch, for Coder Corner – the task The Team was hosting at the Little House of Fairy Tales event on 4 October.

Alongside the game would be a presentation to guide the children to use the Scratch software, so they too could make their very own computer game, Banana Breakout.

The process

I spent the first day re-familiarising myself with the Scratch program, which I had last used in my first year of University in Wellington, New Zealand. On day two I began work on Banana Breakout, based on an early Atari game called Breakout.

Breakout was one of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak’s first creations together. The pair created the first prototype in four days and ended up selling it for $5000, money which they later used to help start Apple.

Once I had built the game I showed it to Nick to get feedback so I could make any final tweaks before getting to work on the lesson plan for Coder Corner. At first I thought creating the game itself would be the hardest part of this project, but that was not the case.

Designing a lesson plan is where the real challenge began. I had never taught 5 to 11-year-old children before, so I had to put myself in the same mindset of kids that age and create a lesson plan that would be informative, easy to follow and stimulating enough to keep their concentration, enabling them to code their own computer game from scratch.

The lesson plan required a lot of revising and user testing. I eventually managed to condense a 70-slide PowerPoint presentation down to 40 slides before getting the final sign off. I was a little nervous because by that point I had still only tested my lesson plan on people over the age of 25.

The event

On the day of the event, I was apprehensive to say the least. I had no clue if it would work and if the kids would be capable of completing the task. It was also still the first week of my placement and I wanted to create the best impression possible. Nick was confident and assured me that I would be surprised at what the kids are capable of. And boy was I!

The enthusiasm and ability that the children demonstrated was overwhelming. Seeing the amusement on their faces when they were creating funky coloured coconuts in an array of colours and shapes and then playing the game they had coded and created was extremely rewarding. It showed how coding can be done by anyone at any age. The event exhibited the technological and creative potential of future generation’s two qualities and attributes that I believe should be encouraged in education.

I felt very privileged to be a part of the Little House of Fairy Tales. It showed me how important it is to encourage kids to be as creative and imaginative as possible, both in and outside of education.

There are no wrong answers when you’re being creative – it is something that should be encouraged within the education system and not drummed out of children. As Ken Robinson said in his famous TED talk: “If you are not prepared to be wrong. You will never create anything original”

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