A day at the dojo – inside the CoderDojo revolution (video)

22 Feb 2012

Siliconrepublic.com editor John Kennedy spent a Saturday afternoon at a CoderDojo in Dublin. This remarkable movement, just months old, has led to hundreds of kids writing software code and is about to be replicated globally.

As I lumbered with camera equipment across Pearse Street in Dublin on my way to the Science Gallery, an interesting spectacle emerged before my eyes. Parents with laptop bags escorting their kids who had their own little laptop bags walked hurriedly into the gallery. It was cute, and there were a lot of them.

Once inside and up the stairs I was struck by the fact that up to 160 people were queueing to get in. Many of these people booked their place online earlier that week and were being reminded if they didn’t bring a ticket printout they weren’t coming in.

Once inside, classes were broken into subjects like HTML and Python and parents sat with their kids – some as young as nine and 10 – as they learned together how to code.

The ability to code, to write in various computer languages, is effectively the ability to bring your imagination to life in the 21st century in the shape of products like apps, games, e-books and even movies. The ability to code will be a vital economic force for creating the jobs of tomorrow. indeed landing a job today and tomorrow. Some of the kids already know this, many want to build their own companies and games because they are inspired by luminaries like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but universally they were there because they love coding.

Siliconrepublic.com’s John Kennedy visits the recent CoderDojo at Dublin’s Science Gallery 

And united by their love of coding, they can above all be cool, which is the No 1 rule of the CoderDojo.

Eight months ago, the CoderDojo movement was kick started by teen programmer James Whelton after he completed his Leaving Cert. With the support and encouragement of entrepreneur Bill Liao, the first CoderDojo opened in Cork.

Since then the movement has grown to include 12 Dojos that take place across Ireland with a further six Dojos in the pipeline.

On any given Saturday afternoon across Ireland, you can be guaranteed that at least 600 kids between the ages of nine and 16 are learning to write software code. Liao tells me that this may even be in excess of 700 kids coding every weekend in Ireland. This would have been unthinkable a year ago and, as he points out we as a country were in danger of creating a generation of kids who just consumed technology but created nothing.

Since then we’ve been inspired by the example of Harry Moran in Cork who is the youngest Mac app creator on the planet and who learned to code at CoderDojo, and Jordan Casey the youngest iOS developer in Europe who is self-taught and can’t wait until CoderDojo arrives in Waterford.

Throughout the day at the Dublin Science Gallery I met several of the young kids who are determined to learn how to write code. I have to admit I was struck by their focus, their hunger for knowledge and their desire to build great products, but ultimately by how much fun they were having.

Both Liao and Whelton are also planning to bring the movement international. In recent months, CoderDojos took place in London and the first US CoderDojo will be happening this weekend in San Francisco and in the coming weeks in New York.

Effectively, a movement born in Ireland, a movement that will serve the country well in the years ahead, is about to become a global movement.

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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