.net: Why do you feel it’s so important for kids to learn to code? We often hear (although not from web industry figures!) people arguing it’s a relatively niche skill.
CS: Yep — that’s one opinion I hear occasionally too! But what I’d say is Code Club isn’t necessarily about creating an army of child coders. We’re about inspiring children and opening their eyes to new possibilities. Coding is so helpful when it comes to supporting subjects like science and maths. We have a lot of anecdotal evidence coming in from teachers that students who previously disengaged in those subjects are now totally engaged because they can see a real-world application for what they’re learning. They know if they learn trigonometry, they can make a monkey swim through the sea in their computer game — and that’s a real example of something we do in Code Club!
.net: So is Code Club about emphasising play and creativity as much as coding?
CS: Well, it’s another way of getting things into a child’s learning memory. We actually don’t make a big deal out of the code stuff, which I know sounds really weird. What we do is say “you’re going to use a variable, but you don’t need to know what that means yet — let’s just use it”. Then later we’ll talk about that again, and the kids will already know it. It gets snuck in, like vegetables into a meal!
.net: Why do you think Code Club’s captured the imagination to the extent it has?
CS: I think it’s probably very timely. People were ready for something like Code Club. We’ve also made it very easy for people to volunteer. We write the projects and help people find schools to volunteer at via our website, and people really like that. But then why wouldn’t they if they’ve the passion?
.net: What was the thinking in taking Code Club worldwide?
CS: We’d had so many people from other countries asking us for advice. They wanted to do what we’d done and needed to know how, and we wanted to make helping them as easy as possible. Rather than telling people again and again, we decided to set up a framework. We’ll give people the information they need and they can go off and do everything themselves, and create all these communities worldwide.
.net: What are your hopes for Code Club’s future?
CS: I want to have Code Club set up in 30 countries within a year. That doesn’t mean one club in 30 countries, but fully functioning communities in those countries. We’ll support the people who create the communities, and they’ll support the individual volunteers.
There’s a lot to do in supporting and encouraging those people — it’s a lot of work, but it’s fully worth it, and we’ll try to make everything as easy as possible. I just want Code Clubs across the world — thousands and thousands of them, ideally!