The Code Club CourseAccess the Fiero Code Course - our training material that has been used to start and run hundreds of code clubs around the country.
Lesson 1: Intro & Overview
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Hold on tight. It’s going to be a wild ride.
We are here to help you navigate through the muddy waters of starting a code club in your library, school, or community organization.
But fear not. We’ve helped hundreds of librarians, teachers, and community organizers just like you start code clubs. Seriously, these men and women were just like you: curious and (if we’re honest) terrified.
You see, we learned early on that ordinary folks are understandably cautious about teaching people how to do something they don’t know how to do themselves. It kind of goes against common sense, right?
We hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong. (Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s for a good cause.)
Our goal is that over the next seven days we will not only convince you that you already have everything you need to run a successful code club, but you’ll become enthusiastic and equipped to launch into this new adventure.
Here’s what we’re going to go over in this course:
Day 2: Why Code Club
Simon Sinek says start with “why,” and we do everything Simon says. Teaching kids to code is one of the most impactful things we can do in our schools and libraries. We’ll help you get your heart behind the code club movement by sharing about job possibilities and life skills that kids get by being a part of a club.
Day 3: You Are (more than) Enough
Common sense would say we need to be an expert in a subject to teach it to someone else. Common sense is wrong. In this lesson we’ll convince you that any old Library Assistant or Kindergarten Teacher is fully capable of facilitating a code club. We’ll get into the nitty gritty of what part you, as the adult, play in our essential learning model.
Day 4: The Essential Learning Model
Coding is not as scary and mysterious as you think. In this lesson we’ll go over the model that’s used to run hundreds of code clubs. It’s an informal learning model where kids can go at their own pace and work on whatever they like. The model we lay out in this lesson is how non-coders can run amazing clubs.
Day 5: The Best Free Learn-To-Code Websites
Did your ears perk up when we said free? There are loads of great learn-to-code websites out there… maybe too many! If you don’t know much about coding you probably don’t know where to start. We’ll not only give you a roadmap to get you started, but we’ll share “The Comprehensive List of Learn-to-Code Websites.” These websites are powerful. They mean you don’t have to be an expert. Instead you get to have fun!
Day 6: A Day in the Life
Having worked with hundreds of code clubs, we know the winning ingredients. In this lesson we’ll walk through a day in the life of a code club to give you a picture of what it looks like and feels like in a successful club. We’ll share tips, tricks, and best practices we’ve picked up from some of the top code clubs in the country. This is the most important lesson in the course.
Day 7: FAQs & an Invitation
In our final lesson we’ll go over some frequently asked questions from people considering starting a code club. And to wrap it all up, we’ll send you an invitation to join our private Facebook community with code club facilitators from around the world where you can ask questions and find support as your begin your own code club.
Some light housekeeping before we wrap up.
First, these lessons are all meant to be bite-sized. You should be able to consume the content in under five minutes. With that in mind, before you open the lesson of the day, make sure you have five minutes to dedicate to reading it. You’re only going to get out what you put in. Some simple forethought will go a long way towards maximizing your experience in this course.
One idea is to create a “Code Club Course” folder in your email and store the emails for future reference.
Secondly, yes, these emails are automatically sent to you after signing up to receive them. They are, however, connected to Luke Miller’s real email address. He’s our Director of Customer Success, and loves helping people start code clubs. If at any point you have a question or comment, feel free to hit “reply” and shoot something back to Luke. He personally replies to every email that comes his way.
Lesson 2: Why Code Club?
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We kind of stumbled into this, you know?
We knew we wanted our kids to learn how to code. And we thought other kids in the neighborhood might want to learn too. So in 2013 we started a code club in our local library.
They gave us their big meeting room up in the corner on the second floor. The one that’s been used for scout meetings and glitter parties for the last five decades. You know the room I’m talking about. The one with that smell…
So we got the word out and set up shop from 3:30-5 on Monday afternoons.
We thought it’d be cool if our kids learned to code because maybe they’d like it and grow up to be coders. And we had some inclination that it could be helpful for them to develop that part of their brain.
But we were just scratching the surface.
In the years that have followed, we’ve been amazed at the impact that learning to code has on kids. So much so that we eventually quit our day jobs and decided to devote our lives to getting coding education to as many kids as possible (enter Fiero).
The following is why we care, and why you will too.
The statistics are amazing. They say there will be 1 million unfilled computer programming jobs by the year 2020. That’s not 1M total jobs, it’s 1M unfilled computer programming jobs.
Friends, these are the jobs of the future.
And these are good paying jobs. The median national salary for an entry level computer programmer is $61k. Can you imagine 1 million “help wanted” signs hanging in the windows of some of the highest paying companies in the country? That’s the what we’re talking about here.
The world is changing. We probably don’t have to tell you that. We’re moving out of the “old economy” and into the “new economy.” The jobs that have been around for generations are not necessarily going to be around much longer.
How amazing would it be to be able to say “Come hang out at my library for an hour a week and get the skills you need to have one of the best jobs for the rest of your life,” to the kids in your community? That’s something we can all can get behind.
A short anecdote:
We have a couple 13 and 14 year old girls in our code club that have been hanging out with us for a couple years now. They’re at the point where they’re making pretty impressive apps and websites. If child labor laws weren’t a factor, I think these girls could drop of Jr. High and make $60k this year!
These are the skills we need to be teaching kids. This is a no-brainer.
Of course we can get behind this coding thing!
But not everyone is going to become a professional computer programmer. And that’s okay!
Code club shapes lives. Seriously. Not in a touchy-feely-abstract kind of way.
Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox, says “Coding is the closest thing we have to a superpower.” Here’s what those superpowers look like:
- Rational Thinking. The kids who come through code club become super-problem-solvers. They think critically, and don’t give up when it gets hard. How? Because when you learn to code you get stuck once every two minutes…thus you get a lot of practice solving problems. And let’s be honest, we need more critical thinkers in the world.
- Lifelong Learners. Teaching yourself something new isn’t necessarily the easiest thing. Code club is the ultimate context to discover how to learn new things. Code club kids are the ones who will take on learning to code on Mondays, and learning the banjo on Wednesdays. They actually learn how to teach themselves something new.
- Relational Skills. In an increasingly digital world, we need every chance we can get to have kids in the same room, making eye contact, collaborating, interacting, and helping one another. Code club gives kids relationship skills.
We’ve seen hundreds of code clubs start around the country, and the stories are always the same. Kids are actually learning these life skills and being prepared for the jobs of the future.
What’s keeping you from jumping in? Why not bite the bullet and start giving kids superpowers?
The Deep Dive
Lesson 3: You Have What it Takes
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“I can’t run a code club. I don’t know how to code.” – Every Librarian/Teacher ever
We get it.
It’s intimidating to think about teaching kids how to code when you don’t know how to code very much or at all. I’ve had some people confess they’ve lost sleep over the thought.
But what if you didn’t need to know how to code?
What if your role wasn’t to be an expert?
What if it wasn’t your job to answer coding questions when kids got stuck?
What if you didn’t have to lecture, write step-by-step instructions, or write lesson plans?
What if you just got to be yourself, hang out with the kids, and have fun?
In code club, you can.
You don’t have to be an expert
We’ve got great news for you: It’s possible.
Your role is not to be a teacher.
People learn to code by doing it. The best code clubs have no lectures, no step-by-step instructions, and no lesson plans.
Let that sink in for a minute.
The biggest mistake we make is believing that we have to know all the answers in order to teach someone else.
Suspend that idea for a moment and begin to imagine an informal setting where kids are there because they want to be there. They’re interested in learning how to code, and they’re making friends with the other kids in the room. In this scenario, we’re all on a journey together. Adults and kids. No one is forcing anyone to learn. The motivation is already there.
The kids no longer need someone with all the answers… they need someone with a different skill set altogether.
The best code clubs have an adult in the room who fills the following roles:
You create an encouraging and uplifting environment. You learn everyone’s name and give out high fives and fist-bumps like Costco gives out free samples. You look over their shoulder and say things like “HOLY SMOKES, THAT’S AMAZING!”
You’re the one who helps kids when they’re ready to throw in the towel. “Stick in there, buddy. I believe in you. You’re so close to cracking this nut.” You help them overcome obstacles, not by telling them the answers, but by encouraging them to figure it out for themselves.
You got this.
You point kids in the right direction.
“Did you ask a friend for help?”
“Did you try Googling it?”
“Read the instructions again… I think you missed something.”
Facilitators offer lifelines like Regis in Who Wants to be a Millionaire. “Would you like to phone a friend?”
This is a walk in the park, right?
How do those roles sound to you? Do-able? If so, you are an ideal candidate to run a code club.
Let me ask you this: How much coding expertise is required to be an amazing cheerleader, mentor, and facilitator?
Zip, zero, zilch.
You are no longer disqualified because you don’t know how to code very well. So we don’t want to hear that excuse anymore.
The Deep Dive
- Ted Talk: Build a School in the Cloud. This video dives into the research about why a cheerleader, mentor, and facilitator is so important.
Lesson 4: The Fiero Learning Model
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We’ll make this really easy:
Kids + Technology + (non-expert) Adult
That’s it. You now have everything you need to run a code club. Thanks, and have a nice day…
Just kidding! But seriously, this is the basic equation for how hundreds of code clubs are running around the country. And it works!
Let’s take some time to dive into our model. By the end of this lesson you will be over the hump on the information required to run a code club. It’ll be smooth sailing from there.
Notice the “s” on the end?
We learn best in the context of community.
This is designed to be a social event. That’s why we call it “code club.” When kids are in a room with other kids roughly their own age interesting things start to happen.
- Peer support. Kids begin helping one another. Someone got stuck? No problem, let’s just find someone else who already figured out that task and pair them off to work together.
- Collaboration. Kids begin working on projects together. “You do all the animations and graphics, and I’ll take care of the code on this one.”
- Competition. But in a healthy and helpful way. “Susie made a really cool game in Scratch… I wonder if I could make something like that.”
Let’s paint a picture and call it “code club.”
Kids show up at the library on a Monday afternoon. There’s 8 year olds and there’s 18 year old all in the same room. And they all chose to be there.
The kids grab computers as they filter in, and begin working on projects or learning new coding concepts. Before long there’s funny noises “BOING-ing” out of their screens, and kids are out of their chairs moving around the room to see what friends are working on. When a kid gets stuck, they ask a friend for help.
Code club… it’s got a nice ring to it.
It’s how a non-expert can run a code club.
Technology, such as learning software or online curriculum, means that you don’t need to teach anyone how to code. Let the computer do that.
If you’ve taken any online classes you’re probably familiar with the vibe. Log in, work through the material on your own time, finish at your own pace.
Technology accomplishes two main things:
- First, from the learner’s perspective, it teaches someone how to code in a logical step by step progression. Additionally, the best software and curriculum will have rewards built into it to incentivize the learners to continue learning.
- Second, from the adult’s perspective, it removes the need for any coding expertise to be present in the room. The expert is the guy/girl that wrote the curriculum. That means no lesson planning. That means happy librarians and teachers(wink wink).
The good news is, there’s no shortage of learning software or curriculum online for learning how to code (see tomorrow’s lesson for our top five favorites). The problem is not all of it is very good. (Our 5 favorite free platforms are in tomorrow’s lesson).
You’re the final piece of the equation.
Maybe the “kids” and “technology” pieces sound so good you’re wondering why you need to be there at all. Rest assured, you have a very important role.
First of all, if you weren’t there we’d end up with some kind of Lord of the Flies scenario. While it’s tempting, we prefer to have some order in code club.
But you’re not just a babysitter. You have a very important role to fill. We talked about this in the last lesson. You are a cheerleader, mentor, and facilitator.
Did you know that studies have shown that kids will achieve 2x more proficiency with a cheerleading, mentoring, and facilitating adult in the room than if they were alone? That means your presence will allow kids to go from 40% mastery to 80%.
That’s a big jump. Sounds like you’ve got an important to fill.
This is our learning model. Three pieces. If they’re all present, kids are going to learn how to code, and you’re going to change their lives. They’re going to get the skills they need to get the jobs of the future, and they’re going to learn meaningful life skills.
Just remember… kids + technology + adult. All three need to be present for this thing to work.
You know what the cool thing is? You already have all three.
The Deep Dive
- Website: Connected Learning. We borrow heavily from research that’s being done around Connected Learning for our model of learning. Learn more here.
Lesson 5: The Best Free Learn to Code Websites
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Let’s recap where we’ve been so far:
- Figure out why code club is so important… check.
- Become convinced I can actually run a club… check.
- Learn Fiero’s unique learning model… check.
Now it’s time to take you to the promised land. If you’re Frodo, we’re Gandalf showing you the way to Rivendell. So grab your ring of power, and let’s go on an adventure!
There are dozens of websites that teach kids to code and new ones are launching every day.
The problem is not all coding sites are created equally. Some are good, some are terrible. And because there’s a glut on the market it becomes very difficult for you, the non-expert adult, to know where to start.
By the end of this course you will have five solid websites you know you can trust. And more than that, you’ll have confidence to start a club because you’ll know where to start. You all ready for this? (Watch this… you’ll thank us later.)
Scratch was developed by the wonderful men and women at MIT to be a platform where kids could make games and animations. They nailed it.
Scratch is great because it uses Scratch Blocks, a coding language where kids can drag and drop and snap together coding commands. It removes the need to learn the tedious semicolons and quotation marks of most traditional coding languages. That means literally on the first day kids are going to be able to start making really cool stuff.
The team at MIT is less concerned with developing their own curriculum and more concerned with developing an amazing platform that makes it easy to learn to code. That said, there are about a dozen built-in tutorials if you click on “Tips” at the top of the screen. We start everyone out with the “Getting Started Tutorial” (makes sense, right?), and from there you can have kids work through any of the other tutorials on the page.
On top of that, you can do a Google search for “Scratch Activities” and it’ll pull up a bunch of lessons that other people have created for that platform.
Bitsbox is primarily a mail-order coding learning system, but they have a couple activities anyone can do without paying for a subscription.
To access this activities you need to navigate to: https://bitsbox.com/code.html and click on “New App” and select one of the “Do an online activity” options. From there it’ll walk you through a couple really cool projects.
3. Khan Academy
Khan Academy may best be known for online math curriculum, but they’ve expanded to include coding. There’s a lot of good curriculum in there, but the one I’ll highlight here is the HTML/CSS courses (link here).
HTML and CSS are coding languages used for making websites. Khan Academy has done a good job of creating a nice step by step curriculum to teach these languages. They’re a little different from many learn to code websites, because they include instructional videos throughout the curriculum. This is helpful for learners who prefer to hear content rather than read it.
4. App Lab
App Lab is a platform created by Code.org for making phone apps. Pretty cool, huh?
Like Scratch, they use a block language which makes it easy to get an app up and running.
The coolest feature is that you can text or email a link and open it up on a smartphone. For instance, when a kid finishes an app they can send it to their parent’s phone and start playing their game there. There’s nothing quite as rewarding for a ten year old as seeing your phone app on an actual phone…
On their homepage they have some projects that you can “remix” (tweak and make your own), and they have some tutorial videos you can follow along with. Like Scratch, they don’t have a lot of curriculum on the site itself, but if you Google “App Lab Activities” you should be able to find some good stuff.
Code.org has been an incredible advocate for computer science education in this country. They’re probably most known for their Hour of Code and National Day of Code initiatives.
Code.org has developed a handful of amazing tutorials to teach the basics of computer programming called Hour of Code. Each lesson takes about an hour, and they’re developed with a variety of ages in mind. They all have a cool theme from Star Wars to Angry Birds.
Beyond their own Hour of Code tutorials, they’ve catalogued dozens of other tutorials made from a variety of organizations. You can find those here.
There you have it! Five high quality learn-to-code websites. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
It’s up to you to decide how to use them, but remember to use that informal learning mode we talked about in yesterday’s lesson. Let kids go at their own pace, choose what they want to work on, and have fun with it.
Now, I’m going to be honest… just because there’s free learn-to-code sites out there doesn’t mean your job is going to get easy. You’re going to have a to do work to lesson plan, research the systems, and get a feel for how they work. I’d estimate upwards of 6 hours a week in prep time.
Want an easier way?
Consider partnering with Fiero. We make it easy. So easy.We provide training, software, and support that will slash your weekly prep time to 10 minutes. All you need is someone passionate about kids, computers, and the internet. And we’re very affordable. In fact, we may even save you money when you consider the amount of hours it’ll take you or a staff member to prep for code club.
We host a weekly webinar, and we’d love to see you there! Learn more here >
The Deep Dive
- Blog Post: The comprehensive list of learn-to-code websites (20+ learn to code websites with a description of each one)
Lesson 6: A Day in the Life of a Code Club
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Let’s walk through this together.
By the time we’re done, you’re set. You’ve got everything you need to run a club.
Here’s what a day in the life of a code club looks like:
10 min before
Make sure the computers are ready to go. If you’ve got laptops, make sure they’re charged.
Get in the zone. (We’ve found this video to be invaluable for getting in the zone)
Set the tone for code club.
Greet kids and parents enthusiastically. Practice being the cheerleader.
Help them find a computer and get situated. Tell them where to go to get started. Remember yesterday’s lesson? Have all the options we shared yesterday available, and let them choose things they’re interested in. Or you could have everyone work on the same general platform (though you still should let them go at their own pace and choose individual lessons if possible).
Take a back seat. Once the kids are on a site, you get to fade in the background. They’re going to go at their own pace, and have fun with it.
The best facilitators wander around the room, ask kids what they’re working on, and give high fives and fist-bumps. You are not the captain. They are. You’re along for the ride.
Remember: cheerlead, mentor, and facilitate (see Day 3 for a refresher).
Don’t answer questions
This learning model required kids to take ownership for their own learning. That means you can’t tell them the answer. They need to figure it out for themselves. There are no easy answers handed to them in code club.
You can help though.
Encourage them to not give up.
Suggest they go and work with a friend if they’re stuck.
Help them Google it and find an answer.
You’re job is not to tell them the answer to the question. It’s to guide them to solving the problem for themselves.
Code club is social. Remember?
Look around the room, and if everyone has their head down, try to shake things up. Here are some ideas:
- Do an icebreaker before you start.
- Put on some background music.
- When someone finishes a project make an announcement so everyone else can go see it.
Wrap it up
At the end, wrap this baby up.
Make sure everyone knows what a good job they did. Help them clean up and put the computers away. Announce details for the next club meeting. Let them know they can keep coding at home if they want.
Ba da ba, ba da bing
You did it!
See, that wasn’t so hard. You’re a natural. You got this. C’mon!
Here, have a cookie. You deserve it.
The Deep Dive
Lesson 7: FAQ’s and a Commissioning
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Our lesson is upon us. Try to hold back the tears.
We want to tie up all the loose ends. We want to demolish any last lingering hesitation that’s getting in the way from you saying “Yes. I will run a code club.”
If you don’t see your questions answered below, please reach out and let’s chat one on one.
We say 8+. The kids have to be able to read to use the computer.
Any old computer with an internet connection will work. All of the resources we shared are web-based, meaning you don’t need special requirements. Some groups have funding to buy new computers and we always recommend Chromebooks. They’re perfect for code club. And they’re cheap. Like, really cheap…
You don’t need a whole lot to make this work. Any high speed internet connection will do. As long as it’s not dial-up, I wouldn’t worry about it.
4. How long should it last?
Somewhere between 1-2 hours.
5. How frequently should it meet?
Once a week. Trust us. It just works better when you’re doing weekly meetings.
6. What if we don’t have many computers?
A few computers go a long way. Think about doing a BYOD (bring your own device). Then the computers you do have are just to fill in the gaps when kids can’t bring their own. Also, it’s not the end of the world if you have to double up on computers.
7. Can we use iPads?
Sort of. It’s possible, but we don’t recommend it. Coding has too much typing and clicking. Tablets aren’t very good at that. There are two apps we like for iPad: Scratch Jr. and Swift Playgrounds. They’re for younger kids, but do a good job if you have kids who can’t read.
8. What kind of room should we use?
A room with a door works best. Code club can get…chaotic.
9. Can I learn to code and start making $70k?
Why not! Just remember who helped you get these skills when you’re ridiculously wealthy… Seriously though, we have adults in our clubs around the country learning.
We have cultivated an amazing online community of librarians, teachers, and community organizers who are either running or interested in running a code club. It’s a place to ask questions, get feedback, share cool stories, and find the support you need to do something special.
This is your invitation to join us. Click this link to join our private Facebook group for code club facilitators.
Hope to see you there!
Congratulations! You’ve completed the Code Club Course. You now know how to run an amazing code club.
Before we set you loose with some inspiring words, we wanted to take a second to share more about Fiero.
Fiero helps libraries, schools, and community organizations run code clubs.
How? Three things:
Training. We train one on one to make sure every facilitator is set up succeed. All fear and hesitation are obliterated in our two hour training session.
Software. We shared some of our favorite learn to code websites. We’ve built a software that becomes a one-stop-shop for your coder. All they have to do is log into our website, and we’ll guide them to learn anything about coding they want to learn.
Support. We’re here when you need us (and you probably will need us from time to time). Call, email, text… let us know how we can help make your code club a success.
With Fiero, you’ll have an incredibly popular program that’s easy to pull off. Our services are extremely affordable, and we’d love to get a custom quote over to you. Just email or call.
Now, get out there and be remarkable! We believe in you. Put a date on the calendar, get the word out, and host your first code club.
Let’s build something awesome… together!
And keep in touch! We’re here to help. Please reach out at any time if you need some free consulting, a pep talk, or ideas to find funding.