Viewing: Visit to CoderDojo Manchester

Visit to CoderDojo Manchester

Joseph has been a mentor for CoderDojo Scotland since the very start, supporting the Dojo at Glasgow Science Centre and then those in Castlemilk and Bridgeton. He is now expanding his horizons and moving to Dundee! Good luck with the new job Joe, our loss will be Dundee's gain.

Here is Joseph’s report from a recent visit to CoderDojo Manchester.

On 8th May 2016, I went on a fact finding visit to Coderdojo Manchester ( It was great to see a group of young mentors running one of the activities. They were doing a Roblox activity and had a couple of laptops up on a screen to engage everyone, which seemed to be working as their table was constantly full. This is something I’d really like to encourage, alongside input from adult mentors with experience of teaching coding, as who better to put on a workshop that young people are going to be interested in and engage with than young people themselves?

Something that came across very strongly during my visit to Coderdojo Manchester was the level of parental engagement. I met and talked to several parents during the four-hour session and all were getting really involved in the activities with their children. I had a long conversation with one dad in particular who told me he and his seven year old son had only started coming to the Dojo three months ago but had learned so much – both of them – in that time. The resilience his son showed whilst working on the coding challenges was incredible for such a young age and his dad echoed my amazement when telling me what they had achieved, together, in the last three months. Now that CoderDojo Castlemilk has moved to a larger venue, more parental involvement is something we could look at.

Coderdojo Manchester is a really large Dojo, run in a big, airy, open space. I wasn’t sure before I went how the four-hour session – twice as long as I am used to – would work, but the huge range of activities meant everyone could choose what they wanted to do and move between stations at leisure – a great opportunity particularly for younger coders who might not be able to concentrate on a single activity for very long. Furthermore, it gives everyone a chance to find their niche by trying out a variety of activities throughout the day and throughout the year at the Dojo.

CoderDojo Manchester

Some of the stations at Manchester Coderdojo were fairly standard – a whole table of Raspberry Pis, for instance, was full all day – but there were also some stations which took me a little more by surprise. In particular, my interest was piqued by a table hosting the “littleBits” kit, a huge set of electronics – colour changing LEDs, buzzers, motors, various sensors, programmable speakers, … the lot! See for more info. Younger kids, especially, seemed to take really well to this station and the fact that a circuit can be built and used in just seconds helped to keep them interested. Although littleBits is not programming it is possible to combine it with other tech, like the MakeyMakey, once kids have mastered the logic going on in the circuitry – logic being a hugely important aspect of programming.

Just along from the littleBits were a few novelty coding enthusiasts who were in the process of creating a robot orchestra by programming electronics like servos (basically a motor which enables you to control the angle of its spin) and had come along to showcase their work. Great to see how people are using the concepts being learned at the Dojo out in the real world! Might just inspire some of the kids to take forward an idea of their own.

It was great to know that, in addition to this huge Dojo, many of the mentors here also run or help to run smaller Dojos in the area, serving more local communities. All the young people – young mentors and learners –were very confident which was fantastic to see but I think this is no coincidence. Possibly, less confident youngsters are less likely to get themselves involved in such a large club, be it a Coderdojo or any other type of group. So I think we need the best of both worlds: these smaller, local Dojos will, I’m sure, serve these young people’s needs best, helping them to grow their confidence in a smaller environment. They may then one day search out the bright lights of Manchester Coderdojo!

To sum up, this was a great day from start to finish. I was made to feel so welcome by the team at Coderdojo Manchester and everyone (mentors, young mentors, visitors, café staff, parents, learners) was really keen to share their experiences with me and answer my questions. I think the Coderdojo community country-wide should engage in dialogue with each other – be that electronically or in person – because there are so many good ideas out there that the next Dojo might just not have thought of yet but which would be a fantastic addition to their Dojo. Finally, a big thank you to all at Coderdojo Manchester for welcoming me and I hope we stay in touch!

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