How the CoderDojo community in Japan has adapted to change

In early June, Lucia Manzitti, Head of Code Club UK and Ireland, caught up with Yohei Yasukawa, co-founder of the CoderDojo Japan Association regional body, via video conference (you can learn more about CoderDojo regional bodies here). Lucia learned about how the CoderDojo Japan Association has adapted its model to support the CoderDojo community in Japan to continue to learn and connect.

 

There are currently more than 210 CoderDojo clubs in Japan. As the coronavirus pandemic began to develop earlier this year, Yohei and the CoderDojo Japan Association team wanted to find a way to support their community of Dojos: “In April, we found that [the CoderDojo community in Japan] needed online sessions, and that they were struggling to switch from in-person to online sessions.”

The move to online sessions has proven to be a big success for the CoderDojo community in Japan, with 172 online sessions held between 1 and 18 May alone. While they don’t have the exact data for participation yet, Yohei shared that a staggering 781 people attended online Dojo sessions held via Zoom in May. Yohei explained that this success is due to the positive response of the community, and the strong relationships within the community.

CoderDojo Kashiwa holding an online session in recent weeks

Focusing on new opportunities

The CoderDojo Japan Association wanted to move fast in order to support its large community to make the transition online. They listened and responded to the needs of the community, using funds from the regional body to secure video conferencing tools for Dojos who needed them. The CoderDojo Japan Association also developed a page on their website to show upcoming online events.

Online events shown on the CoderDojo Japan website

Yohei highlighted that instead of viewing this move to online sessions as a disadvantage, the community has responded positively. They have discovered new ways to connect and collaborate: “Now, most of the Dojos in Japan have a positive view. They have online sessions because the young people enjoy connecting; the Ninjas can meet participants from other CoderDojos […] by connecting Dojo with Dojo across Japan. So now we have a good feeling about the online sessions.”

A supportive partnership network

The CoderDojo Japan Association has more than twenty corporate partners, including Google Japan and SAKURA internet, and Yohei emphasised that the CoderDojo Japan Association’s partners have played a key role in the success of the online sessions. Their support has enabled the provision of video conferencing licenses and route servers for the CoderDojo community in Japan. Yohei explained how these tools have allowed for new learning opportunities and connectivity: “Using these servers, [the Ninjas] can set up Minecraft, and then they can do programming. They can do anything in the Minecraft world across Dojos.”

A Minecraft session with five Dojos in participation

The community has also received support from many online learning platforms, such as Progate, TOPSIC, and HackforPlay. According to Yohei, having access to these platforms has allowed the mentors to teach programming more effectively: “[The learning platforms] are provided free of charge for the CoderDojo community in Japan. So if you do the online sessions, you need to think about what to do in [these] sessions. Using the online learning platform to run the programming, you can share the screen and show how we do programming.”

Strong relationships

Yohei added that the strong relationships within the CoderDojo community in Japan provided a foundation for their success at moving online. Yohei told us: “Before the pandemic, we already had good relationships between Dojos and the CoderDojo Japan Association, and also between us and the corporate companies. Building these good relationships, not only between Dojos, but with the corporate companies, and with the Ninjas and guardians — a trust — that is one of the reasons why we could successfully switch [to online sessions] and also successfully respond to the change this year.”

Building strong relationships within the community is also something that Yohei spoke about in his talk at Scratch Conference Europe 2019. Collaborating, sharing learnings, and hosting frequent meetups allowed these relationships to grow across regions.

Final thoughts

Yohei’s final piece of advice is to find the hidden benefits to doing things in a new way. He emphasised that, while the circumstances may be challenging, there may also be aspects of a new method that are enjoyable: “Actually, in Japan, we have been enjoying having online sessions to connect Dojo to Dojo, people to people. I think there are pros and cons to online sessions, but we can focus on the pros. We can make use of the online sessions and find them enjoyable — we can enjoy responding to change.” We agree wholeheartedly, Yohei!

While the majority of Dojos in Japan continue to run online, some are beginning to host in-person sessions again, in accordance with local public health advice. The CoderDojo Japan Association has been providing support for both in-person and online clubs through sharing guidelines and best practice.

Maintaining strong relationships is hugely important to supporting the CoderDojo community to continue learning, as this interview with Yohei has shown us. We’d like to say a big thank you to Yohei for taking the time to speak with us.

Want to move your CoderDojo sessions online? Find guidelines from the Raspberry Pi Foundation here. We also host frequent webinars and online training sessions. You can also join the conversation on our global Slack channel.

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