In a cosy little room at Longford Enterprise Office on the Ballinalee Road, there is great work going on amongst children and adults alike.
Longford’s newly-formed - and only - CoderDojo has seen full attendance since it began, and that doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.
When the Leader visited a recent session, the room was near silent as participants were deep in concentration. The hush was only broken to celebrate a new trick learned, to ask a question or to share ideas for the next project.
“Code basically is the set of instructions that make your computer do what you want it to do,” explained Jem Howard, one of the mentors who have been helping out at the weekly sessions. “Nowadays, everything is basically run by computers, so if you can code you can tell the computer what you want it to do.”
While there are mentors, like Jem on board to help when needed, the emphasis is largely on peer-led learning, which also gives a friendly and social aspect to the group.
It’s not just for the children either, according to one of the founders, Joanna Pearman. Everyone learns something from it and even the mentors are picking up new skills.
She also went on to say that because it is a fun and social group, the children are learning without realising it. They also have plenty of incentives to learn, with exciting events such as the Coolest Project competition. Joanna also revealed that once they get the hang of the basics, the children will build the CoderDojo’s website.
Naoise Connolly proudly showed off her swimming simulator and revealed that she was about to change the backdrop “so that it looks like you’re underwater”.
Just across the room, Seán Gibbons explained that he, like the rest of his peers, was working on a programme called ‘Scratch’.
“I made a spaceship,” he said, turning his laptop to show his incredible work. “I’m going to make a Minecraft thing; a zombie, a skeleton and a creeper for Halloween!”
Meanwhile, just one room down, Nora-May Pearman Howard and Keara Shattell were discussing blogs.
“I’m on Tumblr, a kind of blogging website, and basically I write about all the fandoms I’m in,” Keara explained. Meanwhile, Nora-May was gathering her thoughts for a post on WordPress.
Back in the ‘coding room’, Jacob Crossan was working on a moving ghost that changed expression on the click of a button. Guiding him, and also learning along the way, was Zelda Connolly, who was experiencing her first session as a mentor.
As all children must have a parent/guardian stay with them for the afternoon, Zelda attended with her daughter and quickly became interested in the projects being carried out.
“It’s just a fantastic thing,” she smiled, as she and Jacob worked through Scratch together. “I brought my daughter here to it when she began and it’s teaching them skills they’re going to need.
“I think I learn as much as they do,” she added.
Zelda also pointed out that learning this new skill together is “a nice way to actually spend a couple of hours with your child.”
For more information on CoderDojo Longford, or to join in the fun (they are also looking for new volunteer mentors), search for them on Facebook or email CoderDojoLongford@gmail.com. The CoderDojo, which is free to attend, runs on Saturdays from 3pm - 5pm and tickets, available on Eventbrite, must be booked in advance.