Launch of major new programme to help parents teach children creative computing

Trinity College Dublin and the National Parents Council (Primary) have come together to create an exciting and innovative programme aimed at engaging families with young children in creative computing.

The programme, OurKidsCode, was launched on Saturday October 6th. It will support parents and guardians who are keen to provide these increasingly important opportunities and skills to their kids.

OurKidsCode is being led by researchers from Trinity’s School of Computer Science and Statistics, in collaboration with the National Parents’ Council (NPC), and with funding from Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover programme.

Recent surveys conducted by the programme team have confirmed that there is both a great need and a demand nationwide for family opportunities to learn creative computing. However, because of a lack of confidence, knowledge and skills, many parents and guardians find this challenging, which means very few have worked with their children to develop coding skills and a more active use of computers.

To help bridge this gap, the programme team will design, develop and deliver family creative-coding workshops, which look at ways of engaging families as computational co-creators. Learning will be supported by an online community of practice and the project will be evaluated for its effect on building the con?dence and engagement of participants, with the design and resources created as open educational resources.

Assistant Professor in Computer Science at Trinity, Nina Bresnihan, is leading the OurKidsCode programme.

Professor Bresnihan said:

As a parent of young children and a lecturer in Computer Science I wanted to create opportunities for children to have a creative relationship with technology. Families from my children’s school came together to enjoy workshops around the kitchen table and I started to realise the huge potential for parents to play a significant role in sparking and supporting interest in computing.

OurKidsCode began by surveying over 1,200 parents, and the results confirmed that parents clearly recognise the importance of computing. Indeed, 95% of them agreed that all children should have an opportunity to learn about computing and 84% said they’d like to learn with them and help their children understand what computer programming does. We are excited to now develop a suite of workshops that will offer these opportunities to hundreds of primary school children and their parents and guardians nationwide.

Margie McCarthy, Interim Director of Innovation and Education, Science Foundation Ireland, said: “Science Foundation Ireland is committed to making STEM accessible to all and to developing and nurturing STEM talent in Ireland. Through the SFI Discover Programme we aim to encourage and empower young people and their families to explore STEM in new and engaging ways. Coding is an increasingly important field in our economy and society, critical to diverse areas such as biosciences, engineering, information technology, and art and design.  For that reason it is vital that we give all children a chance to try their hand at coding, and show them from a young age that they can grow up to be the innovators and problem solvers of the future.”

Primary schools will provide after-school venues for interested families, while the programme team will train facilitators who will deliver the workshops. The team hopes up to 500 participants all across Ireland will benefit each year.

Case study: In recent pilot workshops held in Co. Dublin and in Co. Mayo, family groups met after classes in primary schools. They followed materials developed by the programme team to guide them in creative computing projects. They used coding and electronics to enhance the game Rock-Paper-Scissors and to create a Dance Mat connected to a computer which could be coded to play music as you stepped out the dance. Parents and children reported thoroughly enjoying themselves together, and that they had learned from each other as they encountered the technical and design challenges.

“A great idea – I feel very disconnected from my kids’ computer use,” one parent said.

“Excellent learning opportunity for us all – youngest (6 and a half years old) right through to the eldest – (eleven and a half year old),” was the view of another.

For more information about OurKidsCode see: http://www.ourkidscode.ie

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Media Contact:

Thomas Deane, Press Officer for the Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Science | deaneth@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 4685