Why I love CoderDojo (and you should, too)

On Sunday I got up early to pack up laptops and LEGO onto trolleys, strike out into Greater Manchester, and hope for the best. I had to get up on a freezing morning, spend most of the day on my feet, and pack up after everyone. I loved it.

Why? Well, on that day something called CoderDojo happened.

Manchester CoderDojo takes place on the second Sunday of every month. Broadly speaking, a bunch of volunteers come together, take some computing bits and bobs with them, and teach kids about the joys of programming.

When I was a little girl, I used to be a member of something called NAGC (the National Association for Gifted Children), which you might know better as Potential Plus UK. Broadly speaking, it puts on events for gifted and talented children (in the top 5% of the population) where they can meet each other and learn about things beyond an often restrictive school curriculum. To children who are often isolated, bored and restless, this is a lifeline. I credit NAGC with helping me survive childhood.

CoderDojo is a bit like that, although we have a wider ability range - some children we can still help with our Mindstorms kits, some children were born in the iPhone age and are already coding apps (eek!). The organisation I volunteer with puts on some really, really popular workshops there, although that might just be because we have little robots running around.

I really like helping out with CoderDojo because of the concept. Whether you think coding's fun or frustrating or both, you probably won't go a day in your life without using some kind of program to help you get by. I know lots of people would have benefited from having some introduction and challenge and general mucking around, rather than sitting around in IT classes learning how to turn computers on and make spreadsheets. (No joke - that's what we did at school until I was 14!)

More than that, I love volunteering because of the people. The CoderDojo I volunteer at has volunteers and guests from around Greater Manchester, so you get to meet all sorts of people - students, people who work in STEM, people who work in outreach, families who are really invested in programming, absolute beginners...On a good day, when talking to people doesn't exhaust me too much, I absolutely love it. I love seeing a child's face light up when they understand a concept. I love seeing parents nurturing their children's love of computing. And I love being able to share ideas with people - a lot of people are really enthusiastic about Robogals' work and want us to do schools workshops or coding clubs. It's something I never thought a shy person like me would enjoy doing, but hey, the world's a weird place.