Learning to code together, Dylan and Johanna’s story

Learning to read, write and tie up your shoelaces have long been basic requirements when starting school. Now computer programming can be added to the list. Coding was added to the curriculum for English schools in 2014 and should now be taught from age 5+.

When Johanna Herman signed her daughter Dylan, then aged 4, up to a MAMA.codes kids’ coding club, she had no experience whatsoever of coding. As a primary school starter, this is unsurprising. What is surprising however, is that she”s now creating her own animated stories, one term into Reception.

“Dylan had only ever played apps on her iPad,” states Johanna. “I started learning to code myself a year ago, and wanted Dylan to try too, but specifically with other children. She hadn”t any experience, but quite quickly took to it and was immediately able to show me loops she”d made which instructed images to jump up and down.”

Indeed, one memorable animation was made only a couple of weeks into her sessions. “She revealed a stand out project, consisting of a whole underwater scene, where she’d grown her own fish, got it to swim about and specified which direction it would move in, complete with a background pattern.” Dylan also had fun coding a snowman who hides, then comes out.

At MAMA.codes, children are provided with weekly topical projects in line with the Early Years (EYFS) framework and Key Stage 1 curriculum for pre-school and early primary school children.  The aim is to build digital confidence in children while they create. “Dylan showed me a character that she’d drawn and animated and even a garden complete with fairies that she’d coded to leap around.”

Classes are located in various parts of London, and for Johanna who is in Brixton, the Herne Hill classes  were most convenient. “Our classes are a short bus journey away, so very local and definitely worth the trip.” The classes, which last for 45 minutes are grouped according to age: 3-5s and 6-8s. “We did the taster and then I booked until half term.”

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Understandably, some children may be apprehensive before embarking on a course. “I signed Dylan up for the taster and just said that she was doing a course, and needed to bring along her iPad. I didn’t stay for the class, but when she came out she was very enthusiastic saying that she loved the people.”

Coding has sometimes been synonymous with a narrow, often geeky type of person. “What struck me was the creativity involved in Dylan’s classes and she’s taken to it despite not being a particularly ‘techy’ child,” says Johanna. She continues: “She just has fun and is a normal 5 year old girl, who’s into lots of different things,” adding that Dylan loves telling people about her latest achievements.

There are now so many extra curricular activities for primary school aged children, so how does MAMA.codes rank in terms of value for money? “Well, she attends a wide range of classes and in my opinion, what she’s learning is definitely value for money.”

There clearly isn’t a self-confidence scale for technical prowess, but Johanna has witnessed Dylan progress in terms of knowledge. “It’s just really good that she knows that coding is something that she can do if she puts her mind to it. She’s really grown up in the last few months.” So, while she might not be running around saying she’s going to be a future computer programmer, it’s certainly given her an insight into how coding works, and in that way, made it more accessible.”

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