And so it happened! We set out to conquer schools. We have been a bit stressed - after all, teenagers are a particularly demanding group of recipients. Fortunately, our team, consisting of positive and open-minded people, became quickly acquainted with what is in line with the current trends and, armed with this knowledge, visited some of the primary and secondary schools in Poznań.
We met with 40 students aged between 14 and 16 to get to know the future recipients of our SmartBox better. We wanted to find out what is the approach of young people to learning programming. Our initiative was very well received by teachers, who welcomed us to the IT class with open arms. They were very much involved in discussion about programming languages.
However, it was not so easy with the students... Teenage life is a mixture of extremely intense emotions, experiences and challenges. It is quite a challenge to break through and grab their attention, but their eyes brighten when they heard that a real (flesh-and-blood) programmer would appear in class and take them on a journey through various tools to self-learn programming.
The meeting lasted 90 minutes and there were several goals we wanted to achieve. First of all, we wanted to find out if the students we met had ever learnt programming and if so, how? We asked them to fill in a short questionnaire asking about their preferences for learning new things, we also wanted to know if our respondents knew any websites or tools for learning programming.
Students were also asked to assess their needs and motivations to learn programming. There was also a task, specifically created by our programmers, for checking the current state of students' programming knowledge.
In the further part of the meeting, we invited our young audience to get to know the sites which help to learn programming. We programmed in Kano.me, Codecombat.com and, of course, in Minecraft! For some of the students it was the first encounter with such tools. To our surprise, no one decided to scroll through Facebook! Everyone was coding with great engagement according to the instructions presented on the screen. Thanks to Kano.me students created wonderful graphics. They also had a lot of fun while playing and creating Minecraft.
Regardless of their age or gender, students eagerly performed all tasks. We heard a lot of praise and questions that motivated us to continue our meetings with students during the lessons in the future.
Finally, we reached the third stage of our meeting - collecting the students' opinions about the tools we presented. We wanted them to focus for a couple of minutes and select the elements, courses of action, or strategies that particularly drew their attention. For this purpose, we used the cart sorting method. The participants were handed out yellow sticky notes, on which they were asked to write down the elements they liked the most, to which they paid the most attention and which they remembered best.
The most common answer was the intense, bright colours used in Kano.me, caracter images from Codecomat.com and Minfecraft graphics. Nevertheless, one of the most important lesson to be learned from study is that the attractiveness of the tools is not enough to motivate teenagers to start learning programming. It is essential that the learner have an inner motivation to explore the subject. If programming (or at least interest in computer science and logical thinking) is not within the recipient's area of interest, they will not take any action.
We also see a great need to build relations with people who have the best contact with students, i.e. with teachers and parents. They are the ones who have the opportunity to develop young people’s passion by suggesting them the tools for learning programming. Creating the right environment can allow CodeAll to be used during IT classes, which, as our respondents pointed out, is often constitutes the very first encounter with programming.
One thing is certain! We continue our work work towards familiarising young people with programming! If you are a teacher and would like us to come to your school, and conduct the CodeAll workshop, let as now at: firstname.lastname@example.org