Learnings from the May session

This review process seems to be working. Going into the May session, we were determined to make some real gains. We were organized and we saw some big improvements!

The morning rush didn’t overwhelm us, for example. We have a 3+ step checkin process so effectively getting 50-100 people in the door in a few minutes is a challenge. Big props to the mentors who arrived early, gave valuable input and took responsibility. And to the parents who brought pre-filled waiver forms!

We were also very happy to see the growing enthusiasm for our mastery badges, and the initiative that kids have shown towards them. The Mother’s Day theme made everyone smile. (We’re looking forward to the Father’s Day theme in June.) And our new all-digital presentation assessment process was a hit. So we came away from the day feeling pretty chuffed.

Of course, we’re an ambitious group so we’re not just going to be happy with the things that went well. Here are some things that we’re going to focus on next session:

  1. Summer programs! As professionals, we don’t have the months of disrupted schedule that kids have. It took us a little by surprise when we got a couple questions from parents about what their kids should be doing. We’ve got some suggestions and we’ll make sure that mentors know where to point parents. Our parent resources page, for example.
  2. We missed our lead mentor in charge of curriculum! He was unfortunately unable to attend in May. He has done a fantastic job and it sent us scrambling a little to fill his shoes. What do we learn from this? That we love him very much? Yes. That we should have more detailed lists of responsibilities? Maybe. As software engineers, we know all about single points of failure and missing this one person had a fair impact.
  3. We need to make a bigger deal out of our master badge ceremony. It’s a great milestone when a kid becomes really good at something, and we need to make mastery badge presentations a special experience.
  4. And as per last time (and the time before), we will continue to mindfully practice our processes so that we can run more smoothly, communicate more effectively and avoid forgetting parts. Practice makes perfect.

As always, we love hearing from parents and kids outside of sessions. If you’ve got a question about badges, summer programs, or session details, feel free to post a comment, or contact us via any of our social channels.

See you at the June Father’s Day session!

Posted in Uncategorized

Learnings from the April session

Well, it’s now a little over a month and one Dojo session after beginning our new review process and we have some more reflections:

  1. Our first reflection (and it’s a little meta), is that it’s easier to make reflections than to implement change based on them! It will take us a little while to build momentum on new initiatives and change doesn’t finish overnight. And some of our plans from last time were easier to implement than others. Last time I mentioned that we’re going to update the blog more often and – hurray – here’s another blog post. But a couple of our other plans fell apart a little at the April session. We’ve noticed that on the day, we tend to scramble initially, get our bearings somewhere in the middle, and become organized by the end. So we’re going to make more of an effort to get there well before the kids and make sure we’re in the right mindset when the morning rush begins. I suspect that this will be a gradual improvement for us over the next few sessions.
  2. Our new mastery badges got positive reactions from kids and parents alike. We’re looking forward to more of that going forward. It is a new initiative for us though, so we’re still ironing out exactly how the process works. Do we award badges at the end of each session? At the beginning of the following session? Do we ask students to present at the end with the other presenters or do we have a separate set of presentations? Do we need more badges to recognize more varied skills? We’ll need to experiment a little to see what works best. By all means, feel free to let us know if you have thoughts on the matter.
  3. On the topic of presentations: We love seeing kids show off their work, and we think it’s a great way to finish sessions. For so many reasons, we love the idea of presentations. But we’ve been noticing a general slump in momentum during presentations. We’re going to focus on this part of the session and fine-tune it over the course of the next few months.

We have regular meetups with the wonderful people who mentor with us at CoderDojo but if you attended a session recently and you have your own reflections, please share them with us. Comments below or on Facebook are great ways to let us know what you think. See you at the May session!

Posted in Session Reflection

Learnings from the March session

Over the last few months, the leadership team at CoderDojo KC has been quietly making notes and reflections in order to enrich the Dojo experience (stay tuned for a quick introduction to the leadership team). It’s been exciting to be part of but it’s sad when learning is limited to a select few. So we’re going to start posting our top post-session reflections!

  1. We’re going to post regular updates on this blog to help everyone see the depth of CoderDojo. This is a blog post. Hurray!
  2. We need to keep track of which mentors come to each session. We love being mentors and we know that all of our mentors love it too. Mentoring at CoderDojo is a strictly volunteer affair and an enriching part of some very highly trained professional’s weekends. The mentors who often attend have learnt the ropes, and may want to be able to help more. Keeping track of mentor attendance will help us identify those mentors!
  3. We have a love-hate relationship with Scratch. It’s a fantastic tool for new coders, especially the younger ones. Kids get good at it and they want to do what they’re good at. Hurray! But they often get stuck building gratuitous sketches that don’t take advantage of the full power of Scratch. Not to mention they miss out on learning the other complex programming technologies that mentors use every day. That’s a shame. So we’re going to put more emphasis on helping kids with complexity.
  4. After each session, we’ll gather at least the leadership team at the next KC Geek Night and reflect on what worked and what didn’t. We have leadership meetings before each session, but by that time it’s been weeks since the last session. Reflections and memories fade.
  5. Circling back around to  #2, we are going to start handing out per-session responsibilities to some mentors. Even if we have really insightful and implementable reflections, the small leadership team alone can’t afford to be micromanaging during sessions. Our mentors are very capable people and we want those qualities embodied in each session.

Are you a mentor with a suggestion? Or a participant or a parent? Or a CoderDojo co-conspirator from another city? Post a comment or come to the next Geek Night to keep the Dojo love alive!

Posted in Session Reflection

Girl Scout Troop #177 learns to code

When our October session sold out in less than a week, I immediately began getting distressed emails from parents who wanted their child to be able to participate. One requested a special session for her daughter’s Girl Scout troop, so we had recruited a few mentors for those 10 girls at Tomahawk Elementary’s school library. Because the girls had very little experience with computers, we chose to get them started with HTML basics from code academy, so the ones who caught on quicker could move at their own pace, and mentors could spend more time with the girls who needed more help.



Session Details:

  • Friday, November 15th, 4:30-6:30pm
  • @ Tomahawk Elementary
  • 10 kids
  • 4 mentors
Posted in Session Recap Tagged with:

Codeacademy.com’s After School Coding

With a very successful session under our belt, we allowed more kids to attend the November session, and recruited 22 mentors and 3 volunteers to support them. We changed things up a bit by directing the kids to sign up for CodeAcademy.org. Code Academy has released two tracks – a fall semester for HTML and a spring semester for javaScript. Each semester is based on 9 weeks of learning, but we allowed kids to move at their own pace, and of course they blew through it, surprising and delighting some of the new mentors.

When some of the kids were clearly easily conquering the material, we challenged them to form teams and build javascript trivia quizzes to test each other using tools like jsfiddle’s collaborator feature, which kept them happily occupied.

Session Details:

  • Tuesday, November 5th, 4-7pm
  • @ Google Fiber Space
  • 45 kids
  • 22 mentors
  • 3 volunteers
Posted in Session Recap

CoderDojoKC’s first session – building websites.

For our first session, we wanted to have the kids create something to get them excited about the endless possibilities the knowledge of coding offers. We gave the kids basic examples of html pages and different tags to use to style content, gave them a brief crash course in CSS to change colors and fonts, and encouraged them to make websites about themselves or things they liked.

When planning for our session, we were unsure of the kind of laptops the kids would be bringing, and how permitting the parents would be with allowing them to download software. So we found a chrome extension IDE that syncd with DropBox, which would allow the kids not only to build their site easily, but host it as well.

This solution didn’t go exactly according to plan, we ran into all sorts of permission issues and problems differed from PC to Mac. However this ended up being a great teaching tool; Mentors were able to show the kids debugging techniques, and once a solution presented itself the kids were quick to implement it and apply it to other situations, and even helped other kids who hadn’t progressed as quickly to figure it out. This was the exact mentality CoderDojoKC was hoping to inspire – not only a love of technology, but effectiveness in problem solving, and collaborating to help reach a common goal.

At the end of the session we invited the parents to come watch a presentation where all the kids were able to go up on stage and show off their website. One created a great tribute to Pokemon, another detailed her favorite dog breeds, and to the mentor’s delight, another embedded What Does the Fox Say? into his homepage.

Check out the photos from this session on our facebook page!



Session Details:

  • Saturday, October 5th, 9am-12pm
  • @ Google Fiber Space
  • 26 kids
  • 9 mentors
Posted in Session Recap

Bringing the Dojo to Kansas City

CoderDojo is phenomenal concept greatly needed in Kansas City. There is a huge need for technical, code-based skill sets, and access to tools and ways to learn isn’t as readily available as we would like. Enter CoderDojo, a fun concept of teaching kids to code through the power of volunteers and mentors. Mentors, put your coding black belts on, and get ready for a great experience.

Posted in Uncategorized