Kids, code, and cakes at the Coding Goûter in Paris
Coding Goûter – “Goûter” being the french for a children afternoon snack – is a monthly event where children and their parents put their hands on various programming tools, algorithmic games and puzzles, development environments, languages. And as it’s an afternoon snack, we eat cakes and candies throughout the afternoon!
The first Coding Goûter in Paris took place early December 2011 at the invitation of Jonathan Perret. He hosted the session at the software development company where he is an associate, a company specializing in agile programming. A good fit :-)
Since then, three Coding Goûters took place, with increasing success and attention from parents and even media. The fourth Coding Goûter is taking place this sunday, March 4th.
Why Coding Goûter?
We want to give our children the possibility and the aspiration to be creative with and empowered by new technologies.
Many of us learned to code as kids, or teenagers, or later, but in all cases we enjoyed it.
Coding seems an essential skill, just after reading, writing and arithmetic. For some of us it’s their job! We want to share this with our children.
Programming is not taught in French schools. (And no, making page layouts for a bulletin, learning to send emails or to create a blog, this is not a programming course)
The computer clubs that allowed some informal and formal meetings in the 1980s have slowly dissolved in the ubiquity of computers.
Mixing ages expand sharing
The children’s age range is wide, 6 to 14 years in the first Coding Goûter.
The mix of ages, that one might think would complicated things, is actually a nice surprise.
This allows pairs that change with according to the moments. A little 6 years old girl and an older 11 years old try together to give precise instructions to Robomind to get him out of a maze. But the pair will be recomposed when each one will turn to other activities, the youngest turning to drawing with another child.
Mixing ages is also forcing us out of the classic “let’s do some Scratch with 8-10 years old kids” and into offering a wide range of tools.
Surprise: age is not linearly related to the tools. A 14 year focuses on Robozzle, a puzzle where you control a robot, and learn recursion and functions along the way; a 10 year old wants to learn Objective C and Xcode to create games for iPad. Then the next Goûter, he moves on to GameSalad to prototype faster.
Not teaching a course, learning together
It’s a children’s afternoon party, this is not a class and that’s just fine! We are here to make, discover, share, and use, not to follow a curriculum of fixed competencies.
It’s OK to be distracted, to move. We are in an open space and the children as much as the parents sometimes change chairs, move around the tables.
A Coding Goûter session lasts more than 3 hours. This gives time to explore different things, to think about something else, and… to waste time!
The younger ones can turn to drawings when they had too much, parents show their iPad applications to each others.
School schedule made us used to format children or teenagers activities in slice of 45 minutes, or maybe 90 minutes at most… It’s nice to see that we can benefit from much longer sessions if we are not obsessed with continuous focus.
The videoprojector used as collective totem
During the first Goûter, we had a collective starting time where we all focused on Robozzle, to try to find together the solution to some of the tutorial levels.
The videoprojector was our collective giant screen, and each one connect to it for some time in turn, for the pleasure of seeing her/his own work-in-progress shown in big.
There was even more sharing with the videoprojector during the second and third Coding Goûter, with a true demo session closing the afternoon. Each child came to plug his computer and explain what he had used, what he had done. Applauds are a must!
Learning with the children, learning from the children, learning to help the children to learn.
Yes, the goal is to have our children test things. But we, the parents, also had fun discovering tools, methodologies to work with the children, the rhythms and pace of such an event.
We had some surprises about what we thought was simple – but was not. We had some ideas to help the youngest better familiarize with the tools. Hey, and what if we selected really simple Robozzle levels for 5 to 7 years old children? And about Context Free, are existing examples really adapted to modifications, or are they too visual prowess oriented?
And as often, there are expert children who know more about their favorite tool that adult novices. Fortunately, Emma, 11, was there to help Jim, 31, and Léo, 6, to discover Scratch! ;-)
Our Coding Goûter is already full. We want to keep the family atmosphere, and therefore we do not plan to grow in term of participants.
What we do plan to do is to help those who wish to organize their own Coding Goûter!
Do you want to share the Coding Goûter experience with your kids, or maybe other people’s kids? Jump in and organize a Coding Goûter with other parents. You just need one of you being a real, seasoned, and rock solid developer; and to explore the available tools a little in advance. Do *not* forget candy and cakes! They are part of the recipe ;-)
Need advices? Or you’d like to participate in the next Coding Goûter? Go check http://codinggouter.org