CoderDojo Kinsale… Biggest ever!!!

Wow just wow what a day Friday was. I still can’t really believe it.
I started the morning, having just spent two days at Startup Bootcamp Dublin mentoring aspiring tech startups, filled with optimism and then I went to a symposium on Primary school education in Ireland run by the IPPN (Irish Primary Principles Network) where I was asked whether I see any hope for the Irish education system at all given the rapidly changing global landscape.

As a successful home schooler of my own kids I was left pondering this as I headed down to Cork from Dublin to launch the first Kinsale CoderDojo. What troubled me was there was so much good will in the IPPN room and yet such a feeling of there being a mountain to climb to fix the system and also such a sense that whatever Primary schools did with young people the Secondary school system would quickly break it.
Its still troubles me as if Ireland wants to pull out of its current fiscal nose dive its goings to need a lot of talent and the school systems is not really set up for that it seams. It troubles me less now though after Friday night and Saturday morning. Let me tell you why!

Alan Clayton had said initally that we would have twenty odd kids for the Kinsale launch. He then told me that he felt it might be up to fifty as I completed my mad dash down from Dublin raced up the stairs to do the launch I heard an ominus amount of noise. Turning the corner I found a room with 103 young people and an additional 40 of their parents and mentors. Thank goodness someone had provided me with a microphone.

The Trident Hotel has great IT and in the face of so many laptops at once the wifi system simply packed its bags and went on holiday leaving me standing at the front of the room desperatly in need of a plan and frankly a double scotch.

After getting memory sticks with text editors deployed we had everyone live with a copy of Notepad++ or text wrangler and off we went. I started by explaining that we were an open source movement and that everyone was expected to help out each other. I also loudly name checked our one rule “Above all be cool” and we were off. Having everyone sitting in circles at round tables proved to be a very good idea for collaboration.

It was positive delight to see the engagement of all the young people as the restled with the five or six HTML tags and how to relialy create, save and browse their very own web pages. I was just amazed to see how much was accomplished and by the end of the session we had a little competition to see who had made the coolest web page. The winner was a young lass who with only five tags created a little saling ship out of text that sailed across a clam blue sea of tildes ~~~~~~ on the page.
I really want to get  copy of that code to put up here on the main site as it is quite beautiful. I also noticed plenty of the adults learning new tricks which I think is an excellent outcome as well.
The good folks at Eli Lilly have offered there cafateria as the  future permanent venue for Coder Dojo Kinsale and thank goodness for that as if we have more people attend this coming Friday we just would not fit in the Trident and this is also what gives me hope as this kind of offer makes the movement sustainable.
The evening left me totally exhausted yet filled with optimism as if we can pull such a crowd in Kinsale we are set to have successful CoderDojo’s pop up everywhere. So congratulations to everyone who is making it happen!
The day after we again had a full house in the NSC Cork Dojo and the wonderful Will let the class with his usual exhuberance and again I was filled with a sense that things are really on the right track. Despite the imperfections in what we are doing really useful and fun learning just happens when you put young people into the right situation they overcome the obstacles themselves.
So here is my coclusion, after much reflection, I believe that the hope for our education systems in Ireland is actually in the spirit or young Irish people as from what I see they are not going to let us or any other obstacles get in their way. We in turn can transcend our mere “hope” for the future and get traction for our young people with some very simple things. Encouragement, enthusiasm, teamwork and setting a scene where getting good at something is fun and cool.

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