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Don’t teach code

I just stumbled across this blog title in my drafts from over a year ago. ‘Don’t teach code’ Which is timely as I just arranged to start a ‘Code Club’ at one of our local Primary schools.

The benefits of 7 year olds in Wales learning code are similar to those of them learning Ancient Greek; it’s not going to help them tie their shoelaces. What they do need is to be able to solve problems.

If they were trying to learn the story of the Iliad given the source material of Venetus A, learning Ancient Greek would be very useful. And if they are trying to create a simple computer game, knowing how to use something like Scratch would be advantageous. In both these situations however, the problem comes first.

Our young people and educators need the skills and resources to adapt to changes, to be able to make mistakes in order to learn from them, and to be able to play and test and experiment without necessarily having to find a correct answer. Space and time for this is sadly lacking in today’s climate of continuous assessment. Hopefully as an extra-curricular activity we will have the freedom to explore.

Any suggestions for a better name than ‘Code Club’!?



Educate to Create

This year, Bulgaria holds the presidency of the European Union, I was invited to Sofia to be a panel speaker at one of the associated conferences, Educate to Create.


The conference was billed as “an opportunity to bring attention to the pressing need to raise digital skills and competence levels across Europe and to support young people in using technologies for creativity, knowledge construction and effective and efficient learning.”

There were panel discussions and plenary sessions on the maker movement, digital creativity, educator training, partnering with industry,  how to raise digital skills across the board, gender equality and inclusion.

IMG_1452.jpgMy panel addressed Digital Creativity and maker skills – the role of teacher education. In my introduction I presented the Media In Action project which aims to provide educator training and resources with a basis in journalistic techniques, story telling and digital content creation.

In summing up we were asked what European policy should focus on for the next five years in the field of supporting teachers and teacher training.

My answer;

“Being the media literacy representative here I should say media literacy is the number one priority. It is essential for a functioning democracy, we all need the to tools to access, critically evaluate, interact with and create digital media.

But teachers don’t need one more thing bolted on, one more thing to be responsible for.

We do need to embed digital, media, “convergence literacies” throughout the curriculum. We need to support educators with practical ideas and practical resources, useful stuff, things you can use with your class tomorrow morning. We need to support them with training. We need to support them by creating time and space for educators to learn and to be creative with what they learn.

Teachers are already creative but we drum it out of them with constant bureaucracy, assessments, inspections, hoops to jump through.

We need to trust our teachers and their abilities to do their jobs. We should be fostering a culture of trust in educators so that they have more confidence in themselves to go and be creative”


It was an honour to share a stage with Deirdre Butler (DCU), Nina Lindstrom (Strawbees), Oliver Quinlan (RaspberryPi) and Jan de Craemer (Flemmish Ministry of Education and Training), who did an excellent job moderating us!

Feminist Maker Spaces

A post I wrote for the Taccle3 project output on STEM attitudes and encouraging girls and young women to engage in STEM…

I recently came across the article The Rise of Feminist Hacker Spaces and How to Make Your Own which describes the history and creation of Double Union hacker space in San Fransisco.  A hacker space is another term for a maker space, an environment in which people are encouraged to be creative and to make something from first principles, to build something from its most basic components. That something could be as ambitious as an all singing all dancing robot or it could be an item of clothing.

It got me thinking that there must be other groups doing great things for inclusivity, so I went searching for some. First I found Mz Baltazar’s Lab, and then an article about the rise of feminist hackerspaces in the US published by The Journal of Peer Production. The article explains the phenomenon in more depth than I ever could and is worth a read if you’ve got the time.

Here at Taccle we’re not expecting teachers to go out and start a maker-space, you’ve got enough on your hands as it is, but you may find inspiration for yourself, your groups and classes in the great projects below.  At the end of this blog post we have added links to some online resources to help keep your practice inclusive.

Mz Baltazar’s Lab – Austria

This intersectional feminist makerspace is an inclusive and accessible way for everyone to get involved with making and computing.

Hacker Moms – San Francisco

“We give mothers of every gender the time and space to explore DIY craft and design, hacker/maker culture, community workshops, entrepreneurship and all manner of creative expression — with on-site childcare. Our HackerSprouts program teaches children the creative process through educational childcare and STEAM-based workshops. HackerMoms creates families that build together.”

Prototype – Pittsburgh

“Prototypers have access to shared tools, space, events, knowledge, and support. All genders and disciplines are welcome to join. ”

Liberating ourselves locally

“Liberating Ourselves Locally (LOL) is a people of color -led, social justice Maker Space in East Oakland. Led by a gender-diverse, majority queer and trans crew of hackers, healers, artists and activists of color,

LOL makes space and resources for community to come learn, play, experiment, and build skills while working on projects they love, for self-determination and community power”

Dragon Hall Tech Hub – London


This group is all about “Bridging the Digital Divide” bringing new technologies, coding clubs and opportunities to those who would not usually be able to access them, the focus here is on including marginalised groups including: learning disability; homelessness; mental health; LGBT, BME and young women.

“Dragon Hall has a strong track record of engaging the most vulnerable, disenfranchised children and young people in society, providing activities that promote inclusion, social justice and enable them to realise their potential”

Inclusive resources

There are a lot of great projects going on around Europe with the intention of teaching young people to code, to think logically, to make and create. There are a couple of well known schemes you can easily get involved with by signing up online such as Coder Dojo and Code Club.  There’s also Girls Who Code.

If you’re not ready or able to sign up for a club there are other freely available resources; This blog is written by girls and young women who are learning code and want to share their experiences and hopefully inspire other girls encourages learning through projects such as designing an emoji and mixing music. Other fun projects are showcased here including making games in Scratch. (The sew-electric projects look great but require additional materials)

Google’s CS First has some 1 hour activities and some longer projects designed to introduce Computer Science

Lesson Plans

For lesson plans click on ‘Ideas and Resources’ on the Taccle3 Portal page or use the links below…

Taccle3 English language site

Taccle3 Welsh language site

Taccle3 Dutch site

Taccle3 Finnish site

Taccle3 Estonian site

Taccle3 German site

Taccle3 Spanish site

Wales National Digital Learning Event 2015

Jen and I went along to the National Digital Learning Event and Awards in Cardiff earlier in June. We handed out Taccle books and went to some workshops. There were a few to choose from but I attended a technocamps session which explored some ways of teaching computer science using lego bricks, (build a simple lego structure, now explain to your partner how to build an identical structure without them seeing what you have built) using people, (direct your person around the room using simple commands) and using Cargo Bot. I like what technocamps do, kit like Lego Mindstorms is pretty expensive, so they take the kit around to secondary schools and colleges across Wales for one day workshops. For lots of ideas about how to teach computing, coding and programming for the rest of the year you could check out the Taccle2 blog and the Babitech page.

In the afternoon I had fun playing with Sonic Pi , which uses code for composing and performing music, you can see me in the video below (just after the 2 minute mark) getting flustered because there was a mistake in my loop. Don’t let that put you off, it was really good fun and a great way to get instant and useful results form your code.

The best thing about the day was seeing the great things being done across Wales with Ponty locals Big Click scooping the Commercial Digital Project Award

You can see all of the other inspirational kids and teachers getting their tech on at the Hwb website with projects like e-safety, coding with minecraft, creating an interactive local map and staging a robot wars competition.

Keep an eye out for next years entries, Welsh kids are good with technology, the competition should be tough!

A Plain Speaking Guide to the KS3 Computing Curriculum in England

Babi Tech

I did some writing for O2 Telefonica at the end of last summer, you can find the published versions and more on the O2 guru bites site but I thought the Babitech and Pontydysgu audiences would appreciate their own versions…

A Parents Guide to the KS3 Computing Curriculum

Learning about computing is learning to think in a logical way. You need to be able to break a problem down into smaller parts, to look for and recognise patterns, to work out what the most essential details are and come up with a step by step method for solving the problem which anyone could follow and produce the same results. All of these things can be taught without any technology at all. You could programme your kids to make the perfect cup of tea!

If you have children in years 7, 8 or 9 in England, they will be studying the…

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