In Da Code Club with Ashley Unitt

Code Club is a great initiative driven by NewVoiceMedia Foundation volunteers, designed to get kids aged 9 – 11 learning how to code and finding out more about tech.

Ashley Unitt, Chief Scientist and Founder of NewVoiceMedia, set up our first Code Club session just six months ago and we have since expanded to three classes a week.

Ashley is an active volunteer at the club every week and is always thinking of new ways to inspire the children we teach. We set up a special Show & Tell where we invited clubbers and their parents to our office in Basingstoke to show off their new skills and share the fun projects they’ve been working on.

The event was a fantastic experience for everyone involved and we received lots of positive feedback from our staff, children and parents.

Thank you so much for the wonderful session at your offices. My daughter loved it and as a parent I felt really pleased that she had an opportunity to see your offices, meet your staff, present her project, and see how coding is used in a real work environment. It was an invaluable experience and one I’m sure will have a lasting impact on her” – Lisa Edwards, Code Club parent.

I caught up with Ashley to find out about the recent Christmas Show and Tell and the success of our growing Code Club.

I’m sure you’ll agree, his  enthusiasm shines through.

What was the purpose of Show & Tell?

When we decided to run the special Christmas Show & Tell, I wanted to accomplish three things: celebrate all the fantastic and creative work the children had done, give them a taste of what we do in the “real world” and build more of a buzz at NewVoiceMedia about Code Club.

Every week at Code Club we finish with a short show and tell, giving the children a chance to present what they accomplished that week. We wanted to show that we do the same in our company every two weeks too.

Did you have any reservations?

We were a little nervous about how the children might react when presenting in front of a large room full of people. We didn’t have anything to worry about though, they all showed the fantastic energy and enthusiasm they display every week at Code Club. Indeed, it was more difficult getting some of the adults to come and try out the children’s games in front of an audience.

How did the presentations go?

We tried to mix the children’s presentations with our regular presentations. We were keen to not dumb down our presentations, just put some more explanation around them. This turned out to be a good idea and I think added a lot to the children’s experience.

One great thing about the children was their honesty and openness. They weren’t shy about saying they didn’t understand things or if their demos weren’t fully working.

The children’s presentations were filled with great creativity and invention. For example, one girl showed her adventure game, the first of twelve parts of an exciting adventure. Our colleagues had great fun playing the games whilst the children explained them, indeed several of them were outsmarted by the games!

What did the children gain?

The children loved seeing what we do in the “real world” and the relevance of what they do in Code Club. I think they went away seeing that having a career in coding can be rewarding and fun.

What has Code Club achieved over the last few months? 

From not really knowing what we were doing, we’ve now got a lot of dedicated volunteers and are running three groups every week at the Basingstoke Discovery Centre. I’m pleased that we’ve been able to take one group from knowing a little of Scratch to being able to code complex applications in Scratch, understand HTML and Javascript, some electronics and physical computing and be moving on to Python.

Most importantly I hope we’ve inspired many children, both boys and girls, to want to be able to learn more and continue to code into adulthood. This may be for their career or purely for pleasure, it doesn’t matter.

What is your favourite thing about the club?

I think it’s the boundless enthusiasm the children have for coding. Every week they arrive early and want to stay late and there is so much fun and laughter every session. They are buzzing with creativity and a sense of accomplishment when they complete things. It completely recharges me for the week.

What are your visions for the future of the club?

To me it’s very important to share the joy of coding with as many children as possible. Software now runs the world, it touches pretty much every physical thing we use, every service we consume, it even governs many, many processes behind the scenes. For many children growing up today, their lives will be shaped by software, it is very important that it is not some magic black box to them, that they are not passive consumers but can understand, question and shape the world through software rather than being shaped and governed by it.

I feel it especially important to reach girls at 9-11 and teach them that coding and software is essentially a creative art and somewhere they can excel before social pressures tell them otherwise. I’m very proud that about half of our children attending Code Club are girls.

Here are some facts about Code Club:
  • We now run 3 classes a week - Monday, Thursday and Friday, 4.30pm until 5.30pm in the Discovery Centre, Basingstoke
  • It’s entirely volunteer-run as part of NewVoiceMedia’s Foundation programme
  • It follows the curriculum from an organisation called Code Club ([video width="1280" height="720" webm=""][/video]
Find out more about the NewVoiceMedia Foundation
Rohini Kothari
Rohini Kothari

Rohini is the engagement & foundation business partner at NewVoiceMedia

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