It was a pleasure to give a short talk to potential volunteers at the Code Club Leeds meet-up yesterday. Here’s a summary of what I discussed.
- Check your motivation
You’ve got to be doing it for the right reasons and there are many good reasons to want to volunteer. Check your intentions and set yourself personal goals for what you want to get out of the experience. At the end of the day it has to be about the children and getting them engaged and having fun whilst learning these new skills.
I firmly believe if you are motivated for the right reasons and enthusiastic about the cause that will project on to the children. I know I was inspired most by my teachers who not only knew their subject but knew how to engage.
- Make life easy, use the starter projects
The starter projects are a great place to start, ensuring that there is a level of consistency between clubs. Be sure to read through and practise the projects before hand so that you can think about potential problem areas and further areas of enhancements if students finish early.
We did have to lead our group a little using a smart board to demonstrate the next task and then letting them get on with it. But this doesn’t work for all students as you’ll discover, get out of the way of the ones that pick it up a lot quicker!
- Check the equipment
I didn’t before I arrived for the first session only to discover we couldn’t run the latest version of scratch, the version the starter projects are based on. We were seeing lots of performance issues like machines freezing and an unresponsive UI because of the pc spec. We turned to the web version which was better but again we’re running on old browsers so the experience wasn’t what it should have been. However we managed to work around those things with my IT experience coming in to play.
- Work with your employer
If you’re in full time employment then you’re going to need to get time off to attend a club. Work with your employer to come to an arrangement that works for both parties. Choose a school close to your office which will reduce the travel time and in the end you may only need a couple of hours off each week (3pm-5pm) but be prepared to make up that time if need be. An alternative could be to start a pre-school club which means you’ll get to work slightly later than usual but doesn’t disrupt your work so much.
I highly recommend it to anyone looking to give something back to their community and hoping to inspire young people about a career in IT.