How can Dojos run during a global pandemic?

Over the last four months I have been asking this question and I have been amazed by the enthusiasm and perseverance shown by CoderDojo volunteers around the world. 

Volunteers thoughtfully decided when it was right for them to pause hosting their in-person sessions in their country. Some began sending resources to parents (like our step-by-step projects, or Digital Making at Home videos). Others recorded code-along videos. One in five clubs told us that they are hosting live online sessions so young people can continue coding creative projects with their friends. 

 

Many Dojos have understandably remained paused. Some mentors have taken on additional caring responsibilities at home, while others need more time to prepare how to best support their Dojo participants. Thank you to the hundreds of champions who told us how they have been managing their club at this time.

I want you to know that regardless of what stage you and your club are at, we are here to support you.

Sharing guidance

We have developed guidance on how to run a Dojo online or virtually, from the learnings of those who have already started. 

Guidance for structuring an online club

Adapting to needs

In March, my colleague Kat and I began hosting regular community calls. It’s been amazing to have more than 1000 community members join and learn with us and our guest speakers. With your feedback we’ve been able to quickly adapt the topics to meet your needs. 

Listen back to previous recordings (we have discussed online tools, safeguarding, and much more). Or you can check out what calls we have scheduled in the coming weeks – see you there!

Learning by example

Volunteers’ experiences have been showcased in case studies and by community guest speakers on our calls. Community members, such as Yohei (CoderDojo Japan co-founder), have also shared advice in interviews. We will be sharing more of these updates from Dojo volunteers in the coming weeks.

Champions and mentors have connected on Slack, our discussion platform. Our #online_sessions channel has 400 members who share resources and offer support to one another.

Opportunities in uncertainty

Changing from an in-person club to a virtual or online club will not be easy for everyone. You may have to learn completely new approaches to working. However, developing these skills will enable clubs to transfer between online and blended learning, and adapted in-person sessions. There are also a host of worthwhile opportunities, which include:

  • The ability to continue sharing your knowledge and skills
  • Reconnecting with friends 
  • Joining forces with other local clubs to run online sessions
  • Helping young people develop interpersonal skills while working remotely
  • Creating a space for shy children to develop their confidence by showcasing projects on screen 
  • Ensuring your club’s resilience by maintaining relationships with those involved

 

What next?

It is unlikely that many of us will be able to interact in the same way at Dojo sessions for some time. I recognise the challenges we are facing. In the Dojos run by myself and my colleagues, we’ve dealt with practical issues, such as lack of hardware or internet access; we’ve wondered how to sustain engagement to adapt to families’ needs; and we’ve worked hard to ensure that ethnic minorities, girls, and those who are disadvantaged are supported to participate in our sessions.  

Thankfully, learning and connecting in a fun, social environment is still possible. While we may need to change how we do things, new opportunities will come from this too.

We are preparing different approaches for clubs to engage their attendees and volunteers. This will help Dojos be more sustainable and resilient in the coming months. 

How about you?

I’d love to hear about your experience of being involved in a Dojo during the pandemic. How are you thinking of approaching the future with your club? What guidance and support would be most useful to you? To get in touch, you can either:

Wishing you all the best as we work through this together, 

Nuala

Global Engagement Manager, CoderDojo Foundation

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