Opening new doors for young Travellers with CoderDojo

John Madden is a coordinator with Involve, an organisation that seeks to enhance the provision of Youth Services for young people from the Traveller Community from across Ireland. Involve, formerly the National Association of Traveller Centres, works within the Youth Work sector with the core aim of improving the lives of young Travellers through inclusion and development. They have Youth centres across Ireland and are continually expanding. He shares his story on why he worked to introduce CoderDojo training to the youth workers and volunteers at Involve.

In large pockets across Ireland, people from the Traveller Community face great barriers to accessing services and supports that the vast majority from the settled community can readily avail of. The reason for this are many but often underlying is the discrimination, stereotyping and racism that is felt by the wider Traveller community for decades.

 

Expanding horizons with code

This adversity poses significant challenges for young Travellers and has a huge knock-on effect on confidence, and at times, motivation. By inviting CoderDojo into our services, we are poised to introduce the concepts of CoderDojo to the young people we work with so that we may be supportive in opening new doors and even expanding the horizons of many. All too often, our young people get pigeonholed and have impediments placed before them, often based on their own surname. That is the sad reality, but all of this can change and using tools such as what CoderDojo has given us, will be instrumental in the ripples of change that we can make as an organisation.

Inspiring examples

We look to the work of Kathleen Marie Maughan, the young Traveller woman who shone brightly in the Coolest Projects awards some 5 years ago to be a person that our young members can aspire to be like, especially when we look at her achievement with the anti-bullying project.

The reason for bringing CoderDojo to our organisation was to create more awareness around the field for young tech-savvy youth club members across the country. We saw the resounding success that was achieved by Kathleen Marie Maughan and saw the potential for so many more young people who might follow her lead. Our organisation also has an employment focus and given the huge rise in STEM education and its’ necessity for the future we want to be able to explore as many options with our young people as possible.

For us in Involve, CoderDojo was a phrase that we’d heard and seen in passing. So much so, that when it was mentioned to the young people in the Involve youth services that we heard questions back like, is that karate? But Tara, Darragh and Darren certainly demystified the entirety of it for us.

Train the trainer

CoderDojo Foundation team members came to Involve’s Head Office in May to give the Youth Group leaders of the Midlands a training course in what CoderDojo was and how they might be able to introduce it to their young people and maybe whet their appetite for more knowledge in the area. The vast majority of who attended knew as much as the rest of us, they had used computers in work, for social media and basic needs but the notion of coding was somewhat new to most. That, however, did not matter in the slightest as the team from CoderDojo put everybody at ease within minutes of starting.

Trial and error

Most of the day was spent learning how to do the basics in a very fun way, and guess what, it wasn’t rocket science. From the experience of the process, it’s almost like driving a car for the very first time. It’s unnerving and daunting. Nobody who gets into the driving seat for the very first time knows what they are doing and confidence is the key thing but how do you learn to drive? Trial and error but before you know it, it becomes second nature to you and the same can be said of all things CoderDojo.

After a number of attempts, most of the group were able to animate a flying hippo that zipped around the screen more or less from facing a blank computer screen. It took time, effort and patience but we got there in one single session. That laid the foundations for more that could be done through CoderDojo and how straightforward it can be to do with youth club members.

The experience was really worthwhile and we at Involve, cannot recommend them enough.

Perceivably, coding might not be for everybody but minds and outlooks can be changed with a great day of fun training where the learners are immersed in a hands-on, practical and highly supportive environment. Top marks to Tara and the team.

 

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