Do I need to book every session?

Not anymore! You now need to just book once for ‘summer term’ and then you can attend all the sessions in the summer term! We are limiting the group size to a maximum to ensure everyone gets individual attention, and we also only have a small number of laptops for students who do not have their own. However we do hope to expand, so if no tickets remain please select ‘join the dojo’ you should receive email notifications whenever a new event is announced.

If you become unable to attend please cancel your ticket (or email loughton.uk@coderdojo.com and tell us).

We will give priority booking to people who have attended before, so it may take a couple of days to send you a confirmation if you’re new.

Do I need to bring a laptop?

Yes if you can. It is much better to use your own laptop so you can continue coding at home. If you can’t then that is OK but you will have to ask us in advance if we have a spare one you can borrow for the evening.

What kind of laptop should I bring?

Any Windows laptop, Linux laptop or Apple Mac laptop should be fine. It should have an Intel CPU. At least 2GB of RAM, ideally 4GB.

If you haven’t got a laptop, first you should try asking your family members if you can borrow one. They might even have an old one that they no longer use because its “too slow” but if you get in touch with me we can probably re-install the software and get it working. Alternatively if you want to buy one this Chromebook is very good for the price, if you install Linux on it, which I can show you how to do. Or you could get a refurbished Windows laptop for the same price. (A bit slower, but probably easier to use than Linux.)

Do I need a Micro:bit?

In the past we have done Python coding to control the Micro:bit. We will do some more if there is demand for it.

In any case you don’t need to buy one. You can borrow these for free in advance from Loughton on Debden library (just ask the librarian.) We also have a few we can lend on the night. If you want to get one, the cheapest I have seen is this one

Should I bring a phone/tablet?

In the past we have some App Inventor. We will do more if there is demand for it.

If we are doing a session on App Inventor and if you have an Android phone (even an old one with no SIM card) or Android tablet then yes bring it.

Currently I don’t have any plans for Apple iPhones / iPads but that may change in the future.

What activities have we done?

  • Making a game with Python
  • Making a mobile app with App Inventor
  • Designing a website with HTML
  • Setting up an old PC as a server
  • Installing Linux
  • Programming Minecraft with Python

Ultimately it is up to you what activity you would like to do each week, but we will be offering suggestions.

Is there anything else I can get to encourage my kids to code?

It’s not a requirement at all, but I’m very fond of the Raspberry Pi. It’s a great little device for kids to play around with, without any fear of them breaking the family computer.

Are parents required to stay or required to leave?

No, it’s entirely up to you, but we find the children achieve much more when their parents stay.

Is the CoderDojo free to attend?

Yes. We are volunteers and we get no money for doing this.

Is there an age restriction?

Yes, CoderDojo is for ages 9-15.

Can younger siblings stay and watch?

No.

Why aren’t we doing Scratch?

Scratch is a great, fun introduction to programming. Anyone can learn it from a book, website or video. However, it’s already taught to every child in every UK primary school. So if we did Scratch, how would CoderDojo be any different than school?

Looking deeper, Scratch is based on blocks. There is a limit to how much you can do with blocks. At some point, certainly before GCSE level, children will hit that limit. To progress further requires switching to a proper text based language. The one most commonly used for education is Python, so this is what we are focusing on. Having learnt Python there is no limit - the same language will be used for GCSE, through A-level, up to degree level and then on to a career in software development.

Nevertheless, Scratch is still a brilliant introduction that I would recommend any beginner does for 3 to 6 weeks before beginning a proper programming language. So we may use with younger children!

If we are making games, why aren’t we using something designed specifically for games such as Unity?

If we do a course where the learning objective is to learn how to make games then we may indeed use Unity. Or we could even use a tool that requires no programming whatsoever! However, with the Python course our objective is to teach Python programming, and games are just a fun way of maintaining interest while we do it. And I love games.

Why do we have to type in the examples ourselves?

I have considered supplying pre-written copies of the code (and will probably do that with the longer programs) But I think typing for yourself is very valuable to beginners, because it helps you learn to type, and to type precisely without mistakes (which show up as syntax errors). Even if it took you a while, you should feel proud that you typed a correct program in the end!

For writing essays nowadays people can use voice input and touch-screen input, but for programming the majority of programmers still type on a keyboard, and there’s no sign of this changing in the immediate future, so practising your keyboard skills now is still very important for the future. (You can do this at home with a program such as TuxType.) That said, many programs contain similar code, so it’s also a useful skill to be able to copy and paste from your other programs!

What the possible activities we could do in future?

  • Continuing Python and Pygame Zero programming we’ve been doing.

  • Python programming in a different domain, e.g. web applications or desktop applications or mobile applications.

  • Writing visual novels with RenPy. It’s not really coding but does use bits of Python. If you like visual novels it’s great fun, but if you don’t this might be very boring.

  • Making games with Godot. It’s a professional engine like Unity so is more complicated than Pygame Zero, but the coding language is very similar to Python and I think the older children could cope with it.

  • Art. It’s not strictly coding related, so we’ve covered it as a side-activity while making games. We could perhaps have some children focusing on producing art which is then incorporated into a game by other children focused on programming. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to split the group in this way. There are many different levels of ability, but I’d rather even the lowest level do some coding rather than saying we’re going to give up on them and not even try.

  • Music. Outside my area of expertise so we would need to ask for some help.

  • App Inventor (again)

  • Micro:bit (again)

  • HTML/Websites (again) I was not very impressed with the application we used before, Trinket.io. It seemed to cause a lot of unnecessary confusion with saving files etc. Possibly repl.it would be a better alternative.

  • Setting up a Raspberry Pi server - difficult to do with a large group because would need many RPs and monitors, so we would need to obtain funding somehow.