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May 3 / The Architect

Why I’m starting a CodeClub!

Waste of a generation

When you think about software, what comes to mind? Traditional office-based applications like Word, Excel and Powerpoint? Mobile “Apps” for iPhones and Android? Operating systems? Embedded software powering our cars, microwaves and washing machines? All are examples of software of course, just at different levels of user interaction.

Having working in the IT industry for over 18 years (has it really been that long?!) one notices trends. One major trend is the move to doing everything “in software”. First it was the hypervisor. No more physical tin for our server installs…there is now a layer of “software” abstracting our servers from real silicon.

It was inevitable that following server virtualisation came Network and storage virtualistion with virtual routers and switches like the Nexus and OpenvSwitch. All based upon software. Of course, physical switches contain software too – and quite complex software too – Cisco IOS contains 40+ million lines of code – that’s the same as Windows XP.

Alongside this is the explosion of “apps” for consumer devices, many of which written by individuals working in their bedroom.

Software is going to be important. And increasingly so. And the ability to write software are going to be crucial for our economy if we’re to keep up with demand, and every growing competition developing countries.

If you’ve been a student in a UK school in the past decade, you would of been led to believe “IT” (or ICT as it’s now known) means knowing how to write a letter in Microsoft Word, and add up a column of numbers in Excel and draw some colourful shapes in Paintbrush. This isn’t the IT I was taught at school, nor should it be what our children are being taught now.

We’ve thrown away two generations of potential authors of the next Angry Birds, the next Facebook or the next Xen hypervisor by turning them into Office automatons.

What a waste.

Don’t get me wrong, I think knowing how to use productivity applications, especially the Office suite used in the majority of workplaces is a useful skill, and should be taught at some stage in preparation for life in the workplace. But it’s not ICT, nor should it be labelled as such.


codeclubThe good news is that things are changing.

The government (perhaps swayed by a large pot of cash from Google and Facebook lobbyists?) appear to be planning to change the ICT curriculum taught to our future generation. The mainstream press seem to agree it’s a good idea.

Having purchased a Raspberry Pi, mainly so I could run RISC OS and XBMC on a computer the size of a credit card and for under £25, I came across a coding tool call Scratch that was baked into the Raspbian OS image. There are thousands of hobbyists doing crazy things with their Pi which is awesome, but one of the original aims of the Raspberry Pi foundation was to create a computer cheap enough that dozens could be given away to pupils to inspire them to code.pi

Here is where CodeClub comes in. Changing the nationwide ICT curriculum is like turning an oil tanker. It’s going to take a while. So in the meantime, CodeClub aims to plant the seed using volunteers teaching coding to 9-11 year olds via after school clubs.

The video below gives a good overview


I’ve been attending Croydon TechCity events since it was founded last year, and one evening was dedicated to technology in education, with one of the founders of CodeClub giving a presentation. As a result of this, a group of organisers started coordinating a plan to start CodeClubs in the boroughs schools.

Time to step up

Anyone who know’s me knows that I’m enormously busy. Working full time as an independent consultant, helping run the UK Citrix User group, speaking at and attending conferences, TechCity, Toastmasters, Purley Business Association, and running a hosting company whilst also being a good husband and father means I have virtually no free time. So fitting in a weekly code club will be a challenge, but I think it’s cause worthy of my time and effort.

So, I reached out to the organisers, registered on the website and was assigned my school earlier this week.

I’m currently honing my Scratch skills, reading up on how other CodeClubs have gone, and reading through the CodeClub curriculum whilst awaiting for my CRB checks to go through before I can officially start my club.

I’ll be blogging about how my club goes, so watch this space for updates!

If this has inspired you to do the same, sign-up on the CodeClub website as a volunteer, and get in touch with your local schools to start your own club, and prepare the next generation of kids with the skills that will allow them to succeed in a world driven by software.

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