‘Future Makers’ gave hundreds of children and young people a taste of programming, from website and game to wearables. Anyone can use the open source materials, as a learning tool or to plan similar events. The workshops consisted of 15 young people (8-11 yr and 12-17yr), three experts and three support staff. This first chapter helps you organise the workshops:
• One-Day Workshops are flexible and appeal to people who are new to programming.
• Summer camps: The one-day workshops can be run together to get children deeply engaged in programming. Onsite overnight storage saves transporting equipment.
• One-hour workshops are a good way to trigger the interest of a larger audience of young people, their teachers or parents.
• Drop-in Workshops attract people visiting the venue. It helps if the events are visible, promoted and don’t clash with other events. The drop-ins for young children involve computational thinking: children navigate a toy robot around a maze where each turn is accompanied by a code, demonstrating how code drives actions. The ‘Raspberry Pi Surgery’ introduced older children to Raspberry Pi allowed them to play with Raspberry Pi robotic projects.
Choosing venues across the city with good public transport links makes events more inclusive. It helps engage audiences who might not be able or willing to travel. Venues with other activities can provide a welcome break from the computers. Suitable venues might be limited so it is best to book in advance. However, the work involved in assessing and travelling between multiple venues is also significant.
- A closed room to avoid disruptions.
- A space large enough to allow people to move around, in particular for facilitators who help as many young people as possible.
- Sufficient number of power sockets and extension cables. The workshops require a large number of laptops, Internet dongles and soldering irons, sometimes all at the same time. ‘Daisy chaining’ extension cables is dangerous.
- Large workspace with room for laptops and other materials. Chair height needs to suitable for the use of laptops. Some activities are done individually while others in pairs or groups; the room will need to be able to accommodate the various arrangements.
- Overnight storage for the equipment where applicable.
- If you need additional equipment, ex: projectors, screens and television monitors, be very specific. Let the venue know in advance and provide pictures to illustrate your requirements. Not everyone knows what an HDMI port looks like!
- Make sure that loose wires and cables are taped down, in particular extension cords and delicate or potentially harmful objects removed.
- TV/Projector: Activities are demonstrated on a TV screen or a projector. Text is easier to read on a TV screen, in particular in bright rooms. A projector requires a blank wall space and a nearby power socket.
- Reliable Internet access is essential. Even stable Wi-Fi can struggle to cope with the number of connected devices. 4G pay-as-you-go mobile Internet dongles are a cost-efficient way to guarantee Wi-Fi access. We used 3 to 4 dongles for 20 devices.
- A break-out area for lunch, preferably contained for younger children. Parents were asked to provide a packed lunch.
Laptops can be moved around for group work and make the day more social. Software and materials can be installed beforehand. While a laptop per participant is ideal, the cost might be prohibitive. The Makers space at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow is available to groups and ready to use. If participants bring their own laptops, plan sufficient time to install software and connect to the Internet. It is good practice to establish a policy in case of damage to personable equipment. Make sure parents know that equipment brought to a workshop is at their own risk. Asking participants to bring a laptop obviously excludes some children. If you use the venue’s computers, you will need admin control to download software. Public venues tend to have highly restricted web access that might cause problems during a workshop and need to be checked thoroughly.
Glasgow’s Future Makers had the following staff per workshop:
- 3-4 Coding Experts led the workshops and helped with technical problems, including experts in each of the tools used.
- 2-3 Assistants or Volunteers helped set-up, answered practical questions, engaged with the children, took photos and managed social media. No coding experience required.
The workshops are an opportunity to involve volunteers from universities and colleges who are interested in a career in technology. Their support can help sessions run smoothly. All staff members must be part of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme (PVG). Children with additional support needs might require staff with appropriate training.
- Coloured pens
- 1 laptop or computer per child
- Chargers, USB cables etc
- Mobile Internet dongles with credit
- Cardboard placemats to ground electronic workshop materials (if using metal desks)
- TV monitor with HDMI connection + HDMI Cables (HDMI required when working with Raspberry Pi)
- OR digital projector with screen
- Extension cables
- Tape to tape down wires and cables
- Whiteboard or flipchart and markers
- Image release forms
- More materials may be necessary depending on the workshop
- Reliable Wi-fi (see above)
- Risk assessment forms for the venue and activity
- Evaluation form
- Attendance certificate
Online registration is an easy way to invite children, manage registrations and contact participants. Coderdojo used Eventbrite (free) but others are available. Parents can book in their own time and free the organisers’ time. The data captured is useful for the workshop evaluation. A waiting list allows filling the places that become available, even at the last minute. Venues might want to handle registration through their own in-house booking system. In our experience, it was difficult to keep track of registrations. Parents dropped off and collected their children at the venue where a member of staff would sign in and out each child. Older children were allowed to travel independently if they had advanced parental consent. Image Release Forms are required to take photos, videos or audio recordings from every person featured in the images and parental consent is needed for children under 18. It is easier to fill in consent forms during registration. Discreet stickers can identify anyone who does not wish to appear in footage. This is extremely important because there might be vulnerable young people who cannot appear in published materials.
Future Makers events were promoted through the website, social media, the local press, a festival programme and local community groups. Approximately 20% of children also came from the Coderdojo community. Early on, people could sign up to a newsletter to register their interest. Future Makers used Mailchimp (free) but other systems are available. A flyer was distributed to targeted groups. Facilitators and volunteers tweeted throughout the workshops #futuremakers and reached new local, national and international groups. Word of mouth is also an effective means of promotion. Organisers spread the word during the months leading up to the workshops and many parents had heard about them through a friend or relative. It is important to consider carefully the demographic of the target audience. Future Makers were in three groups: 8-11 year olds, 12-17 year olds and children as young as 5 attended the drop-in sessions. The events focused on groups who might have fewer opportunities to learn coding – aiming to increase the proportion of girls and children from less affluent areas.