OurKidsCode led by Prof Nina Bresnihan will design and deliver coding workshops for families across Ireland while Pytch Phase 2 led by Prof Glenn Strong will develop learning materials for student-friendly computer programming at secondary school level. 

Both projects are being conducted in the Centre for Research in IT and Education (CRITE), a collaboration between the School of Computer Science and Statistics and the School of Education ​whose research agenda includes both the exploration of how technology can be used to enhance teaching & learning and the advancement of theories, research, tools and social practices of computers in education.

Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society at Science Foundation Ireland said: “Science Foundation Ireland are delighted to support OurKidsCode and Pytch Phase 2 under the Discover Programme. Both of these programmes will engage learners with coding and encourage learners to develop essential skills at two vital stages, during primary school and during the transition to text-based coding in secondary school. It is great to see these two projects empowering teachers, educators, and family members to nurture an interest in coding and computer science among students of all ages.”

OurKidsCode:  Establishing and sustaining family creative-coding clubs across Ireland

“I found it very fun doing the coding and helping other groups that needed help. I loved playing rock paper scissors and other games with my friend!” – feedback from a 10-year-old participant during the first phase of the OurKidsCode computer coding workshops

In its first two phases, with the support of the SFI Discover Funding Programme, OurKidsCode project used an iterative design process to develop and evaluate creative computing workshops aimed at families. The aim was to increase parental involvement in STEAM education and achieve better learning outcomes for pupils.

Project lead Prof Nina Bresnihan highlighted: “Engaging parents in computing education is challenging as they often lack the skills and resources to support their children’s learning in this area. This funding addresses this by allowing us to offer ongoing opportunities for families to engage in creative computing  activities together."

Families in rural Co. Longford making and coding a wearable device for playing Rock Paper Scissors

Evaluation outcomes showed that workshops succeeded in positively influencing parents` attitude to and interest in creative computing through the learning collaboration with their child, as reflected in a participant parent`s words, Excellent guidance and encouragement throughout, very enjoyable workshop, great to be so involved as a family!”

Now in its next phase, with further funding from the SFI Discover Programme and the addition of a new partnership with the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD), OurKidsCode will scale up the number of workshops delivered across the country to include local communities throughout rural Ireland. The project team anticipates wider interest, discussion and engagement in STEAM, thereby improving the understanding of its importance in society, and vitally, encouraging parents and children to consider computing in future decisions around study and career.

Programme Manager Louise Caldwell said, “We are delighted to be funded for a further 2 years by SFI and our new co-funder the Department of Rural and Community Development.  We’re seeing huge engagement and enthusiasm for OurKidsCode in rural communities.  Our focus is building a sustainable community of family creative computing clubs all across Ireland”

Pytch Phase 2: Bridging Blocks to Text in the Curriculum

The transition from block-based programming to text-based programming is widely recognised as a challenge to learners and educators alike. Pytch computer programming is a student-friendly platform that enables an easy transition from Scratch (block-based) to Python (text-based) coding. Both computing languages are widely used in programming education, Pyhton is one of the two languages mandated for Leaving Certificate Computer Science.

“I learned more in these few hours than I did in 2 years of coding in school. Pytch is great “  feedback from a Transition Year student testing the Pytch platform                    

Pytch was developed with support from the SFI Discover Funding Programme in collaboration with TU Dublin. It aims to directly support and promote capacity and skills development for delivery of STEAM education via facilitating engagement in the learning of Computer Science. Following initial demonstrations of the platform, the project gained support from schools, training boards, and national bodies.

“Pytch was mentioned by quite a number of students as one of their favourite parts of the course” — statement by the organiser of the evaluation feedback (Centre for Talented Youth, Ireland)

 Now in the second phase of the project, with further support from the SFI Discover Programme, the project team will develop and evaluate suitable and inclusive learning materials for use in classrooms that will lead directly into key strands of the Leaving Certificate Computer Science curriculum.

 Screenshot - Pytch in action

In the free Web based Pytch environment users write Python code on the left to create a game using familiar ideas learned in Scratch; on the right they can see their program running.

Project lead Prof Glenn Strong (Trinity College Dublin) said: “We are delighted to receive this award that will help us work with teachers and students interested in computer science. Learning programming can sometimes be hard – it can feel more like work than the fun, creative activity it can be. We have created Pytch to help bridge the transition from beginner programming to more advanced computer science.”

The funding will also enable the team to scale up the project offering with a national rollout reaching out to and training educators and facilitators across Ireland in schools, coding clubs, and national showcase events.

For more info on projects, please contact project leads Prof Nina Bresnihan - nina.bresnihan@tcd.ie & Prof Glenn Strong - glenn.strong@tcd.ie