Good question. I've never seen myself working with kids in any capacity, let alone teaching them stuff. But there I was last August 2018 embarking on a small mission to start and run a code club to try and get more Pacific Island kids into IT by showing them how to code, and that computers were cool things you could learn and do lots of crazy and wonderful stuff on!
The idea of starting a code club definitely didn't start last year. It was the culmination of a larger back story that had to do with realizing I had worked in IT for over a decade and rarely (if ever) came across another Pacific Islander who designed, built and operated computer and network systems. How was that possible?
A story for another time. But suffice it to say, one thing lead to another and next thing I know I'm looking at how to get started running a code club.
I guess once you make a decision, you have to get going.
So I signed up at CodeClubNZ as a host.
The site has lots of information for budding code club hosts, and all the online resources ready to get you on your way.
But that's the easy part (from the host perspective anyway).
I needed a venue. I needed some computers and I needed to find some kids who wanted to join a code club.
I'm not a teacher so I don't have access to a classroom, or school ties etc. At first I used a few local contacts to go meet a couple private education institutes and discuss a mutual exchange of some venue space and time for collaborating with them on boosting diversity at their institute, maybe even giving a few talks.
Those didn't quite feel right, in my opinion, for who I was targeting and the kind of club I wanted to host. So it wasn't until my brothers friend Dayne of 'I <3 Avondale' recommended I reach out to a local primary school's new Principal, Paul Pirihi to see if he would be interested hosting a 1-hour weekly code club session at his school.
He was all for it.
Did they have wifi we could use?
What, if any, costs to host it there?
Great, I had a venue... but no computers.
I was pretty keen to get going at this point, and if it was now only a matter of money, then I, computer geek and industry professional that I am, had the know-how to source and purchase computers that were not only fit-for-purpose, but were reasonable priced.
I researched a bit online for refurbished laptops that had enough "oomph" to power flash-driven browser sesions; were compatible with later versions of Ubuntu Linux (has to be Linux); and that I could buy in a batch of 10+.
Why do they have to be 10 of the same machines?
Well, the machines had to be identical so any troubleshooting or software rollouts (mass deployments) were easier managed because they were all the same machines.
I was going to be building and maintaining these laptops, so I wanted to make it as easy on myself as possible :)
But why didn't you just use the school ones? (assuming they had any you could use)
Weeeell, for one, I wanted to de-couple (such a buzzword) my code club from any establishment so I wouldn't be at the mercy of the venue should the needs of the club not align with them anymore and needed to move.
Another reason is, at least if I'm in control of the machines I can configure and maintain them completely as I saw fit and, again, wouldn't be at the mercy of using machines in unconfirmed state of health etc.
Again, I wanted to make it as easy on myself as possible. I was sure I was going to have plenty of other things to use my stress on ;)
So. I found a refurbished computer supplier on the North Shore, who were pleasantly surprised when I inquired after one of the DELL machines from their website, that I would take the whole batch of 10.
I made myself comfortable in mum's living room that weekend with a stack of Dell laptops that were ex Ministry of Defense units, and set about installing Ubuntu Mate on all of them.
Why Linux? The kids won't know Linux?
I learned a lot about computers using Linux and to this day it's my preferred OS for doing any geek work. I believe if the kids are going to be on an OS learning computer stuff, might as well start as I would mean or want them to proceed - on Linux.
Speaking of kids, now that I've got the venue and laptops sorted.. I needed to think about filling the 10 spots in the club!
I ummed and aahed about this for a bit. Do I reach out to the local community as a whole? Do I approach all schools and ask to put up a notice to advertise there's a local code club in town?
In the end I figured it's best to just start with an already accessible audience, being Rosebank Primary School as I was already partnered up with them, and we offered the 10 spaces to the school first and then filled any spaces online afterward.
Online you say?
Yes. As much as Facebook is the anti-christ, it has its usefulness in reaching the audiences I needed to reach. And so a Facebook page was stood up and now operating as the 'Avondale Code Club'.
So, we've got 10 kids ready to roll for our first session... but hold on, who's going to be teaching these kids??
continued in Part 2...