How an After-school Club (Almost) Saved My Life

Is there something you can do outside of work to re-invigorate your creative side?

If you had told me 2 years ago that I would be dashing around a room full of 9-11 year olds trying frantically to answer their questions then I would have thought that you had been out in the sun too long. But since the autumn I have had a whale of a time running an after-school programming club at my local primary school. Doing this has rejuvenated my love for my day job as a developer at Apteco. The reason for writing about my experience is to encourage you to think seriously about giving up some of your time (or asking if you can use some of your organisation’s time) to do something different.

How Code Club teaches children about programming

I first heard about Code Club from a friend. It is an organisation that provides projects and support for running after school programming clubs for year 5 and 6 pupils. As a developer who went to primary school in the 80s I started to learn how to program when I was a similar age and cut my teeth on the BBC computers in the classroom and at friends’ houses. As I grew up, the computers available at the time allowed me to experiment, tinker and be creative, but computing today can be much more “appified” and sealed off from experimentation and exploration. I feel that children should at least have the opportunity to pull apart and toy with computers and programming as it has almost unbounded potential for creative minds as well as helping to develop problem solving and logical thinking. Therefore I signed up on the Code Club website, got in touch with the school that my daughter goes to and tried to get a club going.

What Code Club taught the children...and me

Running Code Club for an hour a week has been an amazing experience. We have had between about 10-15 children of mixed ability, interests and gender. Code Club provides a set of projects to work on in HTML, a programming language called Python and Scratch, a graphical programming language developed at MIT to provide a powerful but intuitive way for children to create software. Some kids liked to just work through the projects at their own pace and some were keen to embellish and customise what they were doing. Plenty of them asked interesting and insightful questions and I would always finish the sessions feeling that I had been given a good mental workout. Hopefully everyone that has come to the club has gained some sort of insight into how computers work and how they can be made to do whatever you want. Perhaps more importantly, they have also had experience of trying to solve problems and debug errors which can be applied to everything that they do academically and in life generally.

Channeling your creative side

The club has left me feeling inspired by the creativity of the children and has got me thinking harder about how to apply this at work. This in turn got me to thinking about how FastStats enables marketers to unlock their creativity and right now we are experimenting with how FastStats can help marketers understand textual data so that they can make sense of all the social media information they are collecting.

But most of all I learned that if you feel like you could use a bit of inspiration in your day job too then stop wondering and see if there is something you can do outside of work to re-invigorate your creative side.

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Adam Robertson's picture

Adam Robertson

Developer

Adam Robertson has been a developer at Apteco since 2004 & has at one time or another led development on Discoverer, Excelsior, PeopleStage & the FastStats® API. He has in-depth knowledge of the Microsoft development ecosystem & has a keen interest in developing testing tools & practices.