So I am finishing up my 5th Coding Camp of the summer and I will be helping with another camp next week. While this summer has been hectic and crazy with all the camps and traveling, I have enjoyed the experiences this summer has offered. The TN Code Academy and the South Central TN Workforce Alliance have worked together to bring many coding camps to cities and towns across Tennessee, and I have been privileged to teach at many of these. I have stayed in a big tech town teaching to students at a very prestigious school and traveled deep into the country teaching to students who barely have internet (many did not). Here are some interesting observations from the week:
- No matter the student’s age, gender, location, or experience with technology, Scratch has been the one thing that most students have really enjoyed as a first step. Each camp offered different challenges, but we started day one with Scratch every time. While some students have enjoyed Scratch more than others, it has been the perfect first day activity. Something like this would be perfect for a classroom setting.
- Younger students seemed to want to stay in Scratch longer. Older students moved on the Code Academy and wanted to learn syntax more. While this makes sense, it was still an interesting observation.
- Most students came into the camp with no or very little prior knowledge of coding, programming, developing, etc. I think I can count of two hands the amount of students who had prior experience (out of the about 80 students we have reached so far). This just goes to show that kids want to learn about this stuff but may not know exactly where to start or go. I hope the campers have taken with them all the resources of where to go to learn more and share with others who may be in the same place.
- The camp stays better focused when there are at least a few older students in the camp (older than 15 years of age). The influence of the older students was easily noticed. The younger students would stay focused for longer if there were older students in the room working. The camps would normally allow ages 12-18 and most student ages were around the 13 & 14 mark.
In the end, one thing that I am glad I determined to do early on was to just let the kids explore and not worry about lecturing forever. Just let the kids figure out where they want to go, what they want to learn, and how fast to get there. The main thing I would do is start with going over some basics, show multiple resources, answer any questions at that time (usually there were none), and then let the students start working. Most students were so interested in learning that I didn’t have to worry about keeping them on task or holding their hand through material. It was refreshing to see that even though the popular opinion on kids is “they don’t care and don’t want to learn,” we just have to let them figure it out.
The last camp is going to possibly be the largest group of the summer. I hope that these camps start spreading an interest in coding and development with teenagers, and we can see the next generation of inventors, developers, designers, and creators.