Sitting in the back of a classroom at the IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark, I found myself surrounded by thirty excited 8-12 year old kids doing things I have no idea how to do. Some were designing circuit boards using Minecraft, a group at the front was coding games using a drag-and-drop platform called Scratch, and a quadcopter drone was hovering around the tables with a video camera strapped to the bottom.
This was Coding Pirates, a weekly class run by a group of “volunteer nerds” from around Copenhagen. They get together each week at the university and at Microsoft’s Denmark HQ to teach kids how to make ideas come to life using technology. The guys who run the program also happened to be getting certified as facilitators for our City X Project, and they invited us to pay a visit.
The classes aren’t traditional lectures or lessons. The kids dive into projects and learn as they go. I talked to Ian, a 12-year-old in his sixth week at Coding Pirates, and interrupted him while he was working on a tic-tac-toe game he was coding with Python. (I write this as if I would have a clue how to do that. I do not.) Ian said that he loves coming to the classes and his big dream would be to create a really complicated PC game like the ones he plays at home.
But Denis, one of the awesome Coding Pirates teachers, doesn’t believe that programming is really what they’re trying to teach. According to Denis, they want to show kids that “the devices they carry in their pockets and see around them every day aren’t powered by magic.” As they become familiar with what’s happening inside, the Pirates hope these kids will be able to use their knowledge to be more critical of problems they see around them and more well-equipped to use technology to take them down.
That’s one of the keys to Changemaking. We’re surrounded by ideas and technologies that we hear about on the news, read about in articles, and rarely are able to get our hands on and dig into. As Denis continued to explain, “Kids learn that none of them are really that hard once you start to use them. It’s not magic. It’s easy.”
The group has only been in existence for a month and a half. They have a full class and a waiting list 60 kids long.