OurKidsCode – Louise Caldwell – Transcripts

OurKidsCode – Louise Caldwell – Transcripts


Myriam talks with Louise Caldwell, the Programme Manager of OurKidsCode which aims to engage families of primary school children to take part in creative computing. A unique learning environment for children and their parents. We will discuss the learning environment that is created for both parents and child to work together on computing activities like coding, how STEM learning can be done through practical, hands-on experiment and also how we can empower children to teach us one thing or two. Cooperative learning is key to this project and can also take place outside of the classroom! The project is based in Trinity College, Dublin and is funded by the Science Foundation Ireland.

I have decided to call my podcast Learning through different voices and different eyes as I am interested in hearing views of practitioners, parents and other businesses interested in the values of play, learning, education and parenting. Surely other topics will come up as we go along with the podcast!

Transcription of our conversation:

Myriam Doyle – Hi and welcome to my podcast learning through different voices and different eyes. My name is Myriam. I’m the owner of Mimitoys.ie. I’m a mom, I’m self employed, and I work from home. The objective of the podcast actually, what’s behind the podcast is what led me to start Mimitoys back in 2004, which is encouraging children to use their natural ability to play and learn, and grow their confidence and self esteem through you know, using their senses imagination, creativity, talents and skills. So the objective of this podcast is to give practical insights to parents and carers. So you’re all very welcome.  

Today, we’ll have a chat with Louise Caldwell, and Louise, you are the program manager of OurKidsCode. OurKidsCode is based in Trinity College and is funded by the Science Foundation of Ireland. And the aim of the project is a series of workshops to engage families, families of primary school children, to take part in STEM and computing activities. What grabbed me, Louise, that you’re offering and when I was checking your website, is really the learning environments that are encouraged, which is parent and child learning together and taking part in these STEM computing activities together. So, Louise, can you tell us more about OurKidsCode? 

Louise Caldwell – Thanks for having me. So I suppose the main thing about OurKidsCode that’s a little bit different to other maybe coding workshops or computing activities that you might see aimed at children, is that actually our design and the research from which our project was born, shows that Irish parents really wants to be involved in their children’s learning. And they’re really feeling like they’re at a disadvantage in terms of their own confidence levels. When it comes to technical skills, and computing and coding and all of this, they’re really very afraid of it to be honest, that’s generally what we found. And so that’s why we’re different. So what we have designed is a series of workshops, these can take place online or in person. And what these workshops aim to do is to bring the families together in groups, so we usually have about three families together, if we’re online, we would have maybe six families together if we’re in person. And we work through with them through a two hour session of a creative computing project. Now, the aim of the outcome of that project is not even to teach coding, it’s not even for the children to come out with any skills at the end of it, the main goal of our project is to increase confidence. And that confidence, I suppose, the indicator for that confidence for us is fun. And we believe that if the families come together and engage together with our facilitator, have a fun experience, it’s given them a positive experience of coding and of computing, that maybe we’ll move the dial for them in their own confidence in terms of how they may look at it again in the future. And then hopefully, that having had this positive experience and their attitude may have been made, you know, impacted in a positive way, that maybe they’re more likely then to go on and choose STEM subjects in secondary school and therefore, you know, a lifelong, maybe career that has some stem involved in it, which is really what we’re about. 

Myriam Doyle – Absolutely. And I find STEM is always a scary word for everyone, because it’s science, math, technology, engineering, and for most parents, even though I’m sure we are all we all have a bit of a STEM mind regardless of what we do. Someone we have some of the skills, logical, etc. But it’s really bringing STEM to something we can understand. As parents and kids and parents, I think we both have very different knowledge in terms of technology. You know, I think our children I know they can do so many things that they can’t with social media. However, when they ask them to do a spreadsheet or Word document and use all the gizmos, they’re stuck, you know, saving a file or something like that. So it’s very interesting that you’re bringing these words, coding, STEM, computing, it even could be even part of everyday conversation.  

Louise Caldwell – Yeah, and I think I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there really like there’s two things that we’re doing that I suppose are completely unrelated to coding or STEM at all. One is fostering a sense of teamwork and how to problem solve in a group right So that’s something that we’re all innately we have skills in that department, right? But we perhaps in a family dynamic don’t necessarily get the opportunity to see that in each other. Right. So that’s a really an important part of the workshop. And then secondly, is collaboration. So everybody’s going to bring something different, you know, you could have one parent who, you know, is very confident and really wants to get the job done. But they don’t want to get it wrong, you know, so there may be afraid to make a mistake somewhere along the way, or that they’re going to break something, and maybe the child is working with them, or children, you know, we’ll help them push through that and just, you know, not be afraid to just kick things and see what happens, you know. And, you know, and the reverse is true as well. I mean, it totally depends on the people in each family and the dynamics of each family. But generally, like the feedback that we get, and we get the feedback within the session, you know, everybody does a little online forum. And it’s immense, how much fun and how much in the comments people say, children and adults, because both of them fill in the form, how much they say they enjoyed this time with their parent or with their child. So that’s really an eye opener, you know, another thing that you mentioned there, which I think is really important, is, you know, coding, I think, in many ways can seem like an abstract notion. But what we’ve aim to do with this particular project, and how we approach things, and how we’ve designed and developed the materials, is we make very practical things, right. So it’s not just doing coding on a computer, it’s, for example, one of our sessions, we make a dance mat. So we take a little unit called the Makey, Makey, the kids and the parents together work to, to code, some music. And then they wire up these paper plates with little bit of clips and different things. And we make an actual dance mat that played a tune when they step on it. So it’s trying to join the dots between this physical artifact, if you like, and what’s happening on the computer and show that every single item that we interact with in our daily lives these days, has some code behind it. And that’s why you should be interested in this, you know, it’s not just a back end computer running lines, absolutely, which is also the image we have of coding, you’re in front of your computer, and it’s totally abstract, whereas it can actually be very, very practical, and easy in our everyday life.  

Myriam Doyle – And the other thing that I’m really interested in, is the learning environment you offer. Children, because of the school system, think the adult knows it all. And the child is there to listen and to hear and to take it on board. And we often forget how much they know. And you know, I’m back to my, you know, the natural ability that they have to understand things, maybe they cannot put words on it, completely, but really, they have such a natural, instinctive understanding of the world. So that is brilliant for them to understand that they can bring something on the plate. And actually parents don’t know everything. And adults in general don’t know everything. And we should be listening to our kids a little bit more. So it’s nice for them to have that space to say I can do that. I can show you how to when you can show me how to so, I’d say it’s really exciting. Louise, has the project started, is it rolling? 

Louise Caldwell – So it’s been rolling with COVID, but we managed to just get going anyway, last year, we redeveloped one of our workshops, and we got it online. And it’s a two part workshop. And one of our key partners in the project is the National Parents Council, the primary. And so we’ve been rolling out with them and their team of facilitators. And that’s been running online since last June. And it’s continuing to roll out at the moment. So if you if you wanted to get involved in that if people wanted to hear more about that they can contact the National Parents Council directly and be added to the waiting list there. There’s a huge list at the moment. Interest is enormous, which is amazing. Secondly, we are rolling out with another partner, which is the Department of Rural and Community Development. Now, they have a network of broadband connection points, which are the as part of the rural broadband network to get broadband high speed broadband into all parts of Ireland. So many of the county councils are in charge of these old community centers all over the country. And we’re running a pilot with those at the moment. We’re running the four week program, which is our original kind of offer, if you like and through those four weeks. And it’s really interesting that you just mentioned there about kids wanting to take more charge and to be in control of things and to you know that they are not only capable of it, but that in many ways, you know, we’ll be encouraged to do that. Now, it’s four weeks, but you know, it can be longer can be shorter, it really depends on the group. But a huge part of that model is spent and designed to include the children and the parents taking part and then taking over as the four weeks roll on. So very much around the teamwork and collaboration that we spoke of at the beginning where At the project, you know, itself requires that, but then there’s this sense of, Well, this group of families who have come together now for these few weeks to meet, that they actually need to collaborate together and to work as a team. And we encourage that. And then by the end of the four weeks, really, the families are equipped, not least the adults, but also the children to run part of the session themselves. And to decide and how to evaluate whether or not one project would be a good thing to do is it’s something we’re interested in. So there’s a huge amount of, you know, one way flow in week one, but that really flipped by the time we get to week four, it’s the facilitator sitting back on, okay, you tell me what I can help you with, and we’ve given you the skills and hopefully you’re going to watch it, put them into practice. So the aim is, then ultimately, you know, to get families to potentially meet beyond that, you know, it’s a, it’s an opportunity to have a little coding club set up amongst a few interested parents, and then maybe, you know, if we get enough of those in a little area, we could have a little cluster, and we can have a chance of these families who are interested in continuing some of these little creative projects with computing. 

Myriam Doyle – Absolutely. Because I know, you mentioned the word community. And maybe in rural area, it’s actually nice to have such projects that will bring the community together because often, it’s not there in the options, it’s mainly sports, and if you love the GAA and the various sports club, but there is rarely a community that’s built around parent and child doing something together. So I can see how interesting it is, you know, for kids that say, were not sporty, but would like to engage in something in a fun and interactive way, etc. With their parents. That’s fantastic. 

Louise Caldwell – And I suppose that most parents want to be able to continue with these things, you know, and obviously, joining our kids code, we’re funded by Science Foundation, Ireland, so there’s no fees to for us to come because no fees to run it. You know, and if anybody was interested in becoming a facilitator, you know, we offer free training. So if it’s not available in your in your area at the moment, you know, contact us, we can get you trained up and you can start it there. We have all of the toolkit, it’s ready to go. So if anybody is interested in running in our kids called series of workshops in their area, let us know and we’ll certainly get trained up. 

Myriam Doyle – That’s brilliant Louise that’s so fascinating. And I think I could have asked to talk to you for hours. But thanks very much for your time today. So all the information on the podcast will be on the Mimitoys.ie website Podcast page and the Mimitoys YouTube channel. And we will put all the information that you mentioned about facilitator location, the format of the workshops, on our website as well. So Louise, thank you so much. 

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