Top tips for choosing content for your online sessions
In November and December, we will be sharing tips about different aspects of running online coding sessions, and hearing the experience of club leaders who are running their clubs online.
Once you have decided to start running your club sessions online (that’s great!), you will likely be thinking about what content to cover. It can be quite different delivering content in an online session compared to a traditional in-person session; projects that may have worked really well previously may not be as applicable now.
Two of the club leaders who contributed to our previous blog post emphasised the importance of keeping it fun and simple in terms of content. This week, we caught up with club leaders Christina and Vanessa, and heard about their approaches to choosing content for their online sessions.
Vanessa and Christina’s experience
Q. Tell us about the content that you typically choose for your online sessions and your reasons for choosing this content.
In my first session, we tried to replicate our in-person setup, where each Ninja worked on their own project. We quickly realised that this format wasn’t as suitable for our Ninjas on a video call. After speaking to Christina, we followed in her footsteps and began to recommend projects from the Raspberry Pi projects site. These projects were chosen based on our Ninjas’ skill levels and programming interests. We have recently changed format yet again, and have been experimenting with code-along sessions. Our Dojo currently starts with an introduction to the technology we’ll be using, and a mentor intro and icebreaker for 5–10 minutes, then we code for approximately one hour, and we finish our Dojo with a Kahoot! quiz.
Every month, we choose projects from the Raspberry Pi projects site based on a theme. For example, October’s theme was Halloween and November’s is gratitude. I like using these projects because I know they are free and use external links that are free as well. Depending on the format, we might do an icebreaker at the beginning around the theme, such as “What’s your favourite Halloween candy?” This way, participants are using their voice or the chat early on, and I hope it helps them to feel comfortable to share or ask questions later. I know Vanessa mentioned that she’s following in my footsteps, and I’m following in hers as well, as we have started using Kahoot! at the end of our sessions.
Q. What have been the main things that you have learnt since you started your online sessions, in terms of choosing and delivering content?
I have learnt a lot! Our first online session was my first time leading this Dojo and I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve been involved in a few Dojos with different formats over the years and I’ve always liked informal sessions, where Ninjas work on their own projects. However, it led to some confusion from our Ninjas as to what they should be working on in the Dojo. This is where I took Christina’s advice to recommend projects to our Ninjas. We set up a document so that Ninjas could view our projects throughout the week and choose what they were comfortable with. This was working well, however I missed code-along sessions and wanted to see if they would work with this group; two sessions later, we are seeing much more engagement on the call than ever before.
We are still working out the best method for running icebreakers in the beginning of the session. Suggestions are very welcome!
I have learnt that Kahoot! is a wonderful tool, as it has added an extra social element to our online sessions, and it’s fantastic for helping all the kids to join in.
When you’re just starting your club, I recommend beginning with one of our learning pathways. For example, the Look after yourself pathway is a great set of projects that introduces kids to Scratch and builds on skills with each project. That way, kids (and parents!) have an idea of what you’ll be doing and can have a place to refer to before or after your coding session.
I also recommend asking your participants! During my most recent session, we coded in Python because a participant asked for a Python project in a previous session. I was able to find one using the filter on projects.raspberrypi.org. I’ve already had requests for projects for our next session. In allowing kids to request content, it’s helping to increase engagement, and kids feel like they are a part of the club experience.
We know that 12% of Dojo champions who responded to our recent poll are planning to run their Dojo sessions online soon. We have some useful resources to help you get started at: https://coderdojo.com/ways-to-run/
Remember, running online is going to be a very different experience, so try not to compare it to your in-person sessions. It can be rewarding for young people and volunteers in exciting new ways.