Code Club Aotearoa Blog

News, updates and dancing robots

23 June 2020

Volunteering during a pandemic

The experience of volunteering at Code Club during a nationwide lockdown

Over the last couple of months, hundreds of thousands of Kiwi kids were engaged in learning from home because schools and clubs were closed. A number of leaders and volunteers jumped at the chance to continue with sessions by moving their clubs online. We talked to volunteer Mark Dunlop from Saint Martins School Code Club about his experience.

Mark Dunlop | Saint Martins School Code Club | Christchurch

Q. How long have you been involved with code club and what inspired you to become a Volunteer?

I've been involved for at least 5 years, since my co-conspirator Craig Fisher and I started talking about giving something back to our local school. We both work in IT so it didn't take long before Code Club came up. I was inspired by the opportunity to expand the horizons of kids who otherwise wouldn't get the opportunity. If you can take down the wall before it gets in the way then you're making a real contribution towards resolving society's challenges with diversity and equity.

"If you can take down the wall before it gets in the way
then you're making a real contribution towards resolving
society's challenges with diversity and equity"

Q. How was the transition from working with the kids in a classroom setting to hosting sessions online?

Surprisingly easy. My kids are no longer at the local school but I still keep in touch with our primary teaching contact and was aware that nothing had been put in place during lock down. To help me get underway with an unfamiliar setup, Michael came along to the first session, but I needn't have worried. The kids were engaged and respectful of the volunteers and each other. We had up to 16 on a call but they all knew how best to take their turn and were quite prepared to remind each other of the etiquette.

Q. What did you enjoy about most about hosting the session via video communication?

It had the best of both worlds from group and individual teaching. At times it was like a masterclass where I worked with one student to help them solve a problem while the others looked on. At other times I quietly worked in the background until I understood a more challenging issue a student was facing. But best of all was the periodic demonstrations when a student finished an exercise. Their pride was beautifully reinforced by the admiration of their classmates.

Q. Can you tell us about the project the kids were working on during this period?

The kids were at different levels so we had up to three projects on the go. The Python ISS API (my favourite), the Scratch boat race and the Scratch Flappy parrot. It worked well as I frequently checked to see if any help was needed or anyone was ready to demo. At times I had to "volunteer" kids to demo as some of them were looking for perfection.

Q. What kind of impact do youth think learning in an online setting has had on the children at your club?

In many ways it was more focused and asked more of them. Being alone without the distraction certainly helped with the focus, while the challenges of working through a problem remotely meant they tried harder to resolve their issues first. I also felt they were closer together where it counted. Being able to see each other's faces got them out of their usual groups and being involved every time I stepped in shared insights they would have otherwise missed. I really didn't see a downside with this group.

Q. What advice do you have for other leaders wanting to engage their students in an online club session?

Get started. It isn't scary. Be prepared to let the kids tell you what to do - with conferencing and sometimes even coding. They're confident in this environment and that confidence spreads to other areas. I would also regularly check in during a session - even check in with kids by name if they've been quiet. Don't assume that silence means all is going well. And definitely volunteer people to present. Not all are comfortable putting their hand up but when you make it clear that it doesn't need to be perfect then the stress falls away. Finally, be generous with your praise. Focus on the good stuff and offer a learning opportunity if you see one.

"Get started. It isn't scary. Be prepared to let the kids tell you
what to do - with conferencing and sometimes even coding.
They're confident in this environment and that confidence spreads to other areas"

15 April 2020

Moving your Code Club online

How to smoothly transition to hosting an online Code Club

You’re a Code Club Aotearoa leader and you would like to continue hosting your club during the nationwide lockdown but you’re not sure how. We talked to teacher and leader, Sarah Kerkhofs, about her experience moving her West Rolleston school based club online and asked for her advice on how to overcome some of the obstacles involved when settling in to a virtual learning space.

As a host, what are the benefits of moving online?

Being online has meant that we can join with another code club and facilitator, and coders can log on from home. It means our coders can share their work with a wider audience too. Although we are fortunate to have some amazing volunteers, being online may mean that more people may be able to volunteer.

What are the challenges of hosting an online club?

Finding a rapport with someone new to the group is really tricky. I knew all of my coders face to face before we went online which meant that I knew what they liked and how they liked to work. Working online that takes a little bit longer.

How do you motivate learners in an online setting?

I think the beauty of Code Club is that it's really easy to choose a theme that you like for your projects- whether that is fast food or Harry Potter. The scope for having choice and control is awesome, and isn't always possible in a regular writing or reading lesson. The other key aspect is that we always have sharing time at the end, where everyone plays everyone else's games. This gives the coders a purpose and a deadline! I think once they have had one sharing session the peer feedback and comments are also really motivating.

What are the benefits for parents?

Sometimes what we do at Code Club is a bit of a mystery, and they don't always see the point or learning involved. Having the learners at home means that parents can see what their coder and the rest of the club is creating. I also think it works around transport and other issues as well.

What are your best tips for teaching an online code club session?

  • Try a session with a colleague, a couple of kids or your partner first if you're not feeling confident.
  • Expect tech issues and be patient! Once the coders have logged in a couple of times then they will be fine, not even a professional orchestra sounds great the first couple of times they play a piece! It is also a good idea to ask the parents to stay close and help with set up for the first session, but tell them they won't need to help with the coding aspect!
  • If you are working on the Scratch projects having a scratch educator account is really handy. It means that you can find the coder's projects easily and they can share them with others in the group.
  • Think about how you will ensure everyone is safe, including yourself! We like to check in with a parent at the start of the session, just so we know they are there, and also ask our parents and coders to sign an agreement. Our meetings are recorded in the cloud too should we ever need to protect ourselves.

25 March 2020

We’re moving online!

Support with digital learning during Covid-19

Code Club Aotearora have decided that the best step we can take to remain productive during this quickly evolving situation is to recommend all clubs move their sessions online. We are pleased to be able to offer support to teachers, leaders and volunteers during this time of transition to the virtual classroom.

As you know, Code Club Aotearoa is supported by an amazing network of volunteers and teachers who we believe possess the skills necessary to deliver content via a virtual classroom. We feel it’s crucial to continue to support our students in their learning and moving the lessons to an online platform allows us to demonstrate the importance of digital technology and how it will shape the future of education and work. We want to show initiative and model to others how education can be just as effective when done remotely.

We have outlined the recommended steps for leaders and teachers to move their clubs online below:

  • As the leader, decide on the online video tool you will use to deliver the club sessions. You need to consider that some children may not have an email address and for this reason we recommend Zoom. Users (students) don't require an account to join the video call and it's free for sessions lasting up to 40 minutes. (If you go over the allotted time, students are able to rejoin by clicking the invite link again.) All you need to do is sign up, confirm your email address from your inbox and create an account. You will be asked to invite your colleagues, but feel free to skip this step. Select ‘schedule a meeting’ from the top right, fill out the form and press save. The last step is to copy and paste the link to the meeting. See screenshots below for reference to all of the above.

    Please note club session days and times do not need to change

  • As a club leader log into your Code Club account here.
  • Click on the name of the club you lead.
  • Click the sessions tab, then manage, followed by edit
  • Scroll down to find the Info (Free text field displayed in advert) text box.
  • Add your previously copied ‘join URL’ from your zoom (or video tool of your choice) account to the text box with a friendly message and this will appear on your public Code Club page, which parents can access. The link for your public Code Club page is available in the club details section next to short code. You will need to go back to your dashboard, select your club, right click the hyperlink symbol, copy this link and include it in your email out to your club community.
  • Your public Code Club profile on the Find a Club page will look like this:

    Now children will be able to join the club session remotely! The day and time should remain the same unless you need to change it, which you can do from your dashboard. If you’re good to go just log in to your zoom account, select meeting from the side bar and click 'start' next to the meeting for that day.

  • Moving online removes the barriers around access to devices within physical clubs. Please consider opening your club up to accepting new students, from both within your school and the wider community. Many teachers and parents will be looking for engaging online content, this is a great opportunity to use the power of the web for good!
  • Communicate with your club. We've got some sample text you can copy here. You can use the send email tab from the club's profile in your dashboard. Select all the check boxes so everyone associated with your club is aware. If parents never registered their children to your club via the website, now is a good time to ask them to do this.

Recommended steps for parents:

If you don't hear from the leader of your child's club, please contact them by navigating to the Find a Club page, locating your club and using the contact club pop up.

Support is available from Code Club Aotearoa staff.

If you would like support in any form please email us. If you'd like to chat through things over the phone please ask for our number in your first email and we'll be happy to arrange a call.

We know there will be a few wrinkles to iron out getting your club online as many students have never participated in remote learning before. Be patient but be assured that you are taking the best step to maintain the safety of your students while continuing to support their learning. Also know you are leading the way, this will not be a permanent change but it is a great chance to model to schools and parents the viability of online learning. Thank you for working with us on this.

9 September 2019

Club Story: Huiterangiora Digitech in Ūawa and Tokomaru Bay

Huiterangiora Digitech was formed in 2018. Inspired by our own tamariki, we came together to offer a Code Club in Ūawa and Tokomaru Bay, at the Tolaga Bay Inn and Hatea-a-Rangi School.

We started with a small number of students on a weekly basis, and then delivered a holiday programme at the end of term three to approximately twenty taiohi. After trialling a few different delivery methods, late in term 4 we adapted our programme to work in with the weekly chess programme so that taiohi could learn complementary skills in chess and digital technology.

Huiterangiora Digitech sits under the Tolaga Bay Inn Tech and Innovation Hub, and offers opportunities for taiohi in Ūawa and Tokomaru Bay to grow the necessary skills to successfully utilise digital technology for innovation and economic growth. The future of work is digital, and we envisage our taiohi to be at the forefront, with the ability to harness their knowledge to work and prosper from their home base, Te Tairawhiti.

The Huiterangiora Digitech hub aims to provide these opportunities in a community environment to support and enhance classroom learning; taiohi combine their imagination with an understanding of programming, robotics and technology to take their inventions to the world.

The three pou which underpin Huiterangiora are:

  1. Taiao (science and the environment): Consideration of our carbon footprint within the hub, our everyday practices and our future digital creations;
  2. Ira Tangata (gender equality): Enabling digital fluency for young women and men, with a focus on future economic empowerment for women; and
  3. Te Reo Māori: Creating a space for te reo Māori to be celebrated and normalised in the digital world in a community setting to complement kura education.

Follow Huiterangiora Digitech on Facebook.

Would you like to tell the story of your club? Get in touch.

8 July 2019

"If Ada Can, I Can": She Can Code 2019

The story of Ada Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer, is not commonly known outside of tech circles. During TechWeek 2019, though, She Can Code and Ada.Ada.Ada helped thousands of young New Zealanders hear about Lovelace and connect with her story.

She Can Code is a national programme that celebrates the girls, women and non-binary coders in Aotearoa. The mission of She Can Code is not only to celebrate our coders, but to share their stories in order to help the next generation of girls and non-binary children see themselves in the tech industry. It made sense to collaborate with Ada.Ada.Ada. – the high impact show that tells the story of tech pioneer, Ada Lovelace. During the show Ada wears an LED dress which she operates live on stage with a wearable tech satin glove!

This year She Can Code took hands-on workshops to five locations: Christchurch, Waimate, Timaru, Wairoa, and Kerikeri, and the international Ada.Ada.Ada stage show travelled with us!

The nine days of She Can Code kicked off in Christchurch, with one hundred and twenty girls attending the She Can Code workshop. They learned about coding, computer science principles using CS Unplugged, engineering with Sphero, digital making with Microbit, and smart horticulture and IoT with the Electric Garden.

After the workshop we opened the doors for the Ada stage show, which was attended by hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds. The Ada show is performed by British creative Zoe Philpot, who is supported by her stage manager Kady Howey Nunn. The shows shares Ada’s story – from being the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, through to her pioneering mathematical work. Underpinning Ada’s story is the theme that Ada achieved great things in the face of a society that did not recognise women mathematicians and inventors. The show finished with the young audience chanting, “If Ada can, I can!”

“I loved the show and will be back again next year. It's a chance to celebrate our girls within a tech setting, and our girls loved it.”

After Christchurch, we headed to four Aotearoa towns: Waimate, Timaru, Wairoa and Kerikeri. It was important for us to visit places that wouldn’t normally have access to technology events. There are too many highlights to list from these towns – from the fantastic Sphero obstacle course in Timaru, to the gorgeous weather and community spirit in Waimate.

One that stands out, though, was our day and night in Wairoa. Our team left with the impression of a strong, connected community and we were inspired by the local leaders who are helping set a digital vision for the future of their tamariki. The Gaiety Theatre in Wairoa was packed for the hands-on workshops and the Ada show! Zoe, who had brought Ada all the way from London, shed a few tears when her show was honoured by an impromptu haka from the audience.

Following the show we visited the local museum, where displays honoured leaders in the region, going back centuries. After the museum we were welcomed onto the Pūtahi Marae where we spent the night hosted by Kiwa and Hinerangi Edwards. The evening was filled with stories of their ancestors on the walls of the wharenui.

It was an honour to be able to take the She Can Code workshops and Ada.Ada.Ada around Aotearoa, and we are planning to continue to celebrate our girls, women and non-binary coders, and to share their stories. One parent’s comment sums up why we believe in She Can Code and why we’ll partner with those who champion diversity in tech: “It was great for my daughter to see that she could do anything! She doesn’t need to know everything, but can work it out with a team around her.”

17 June 2019

Journey to the heart of Aotearoa

What do rural communities need to be part of our digital future? Michael Trengrove finds some answers at a two-day hui at Tolaga Bay.

There is no one town that defines who we are. The soul of Aotearoa is spread from the islands south of Foveaux Strait, across to the Chathams in the east, and onwards to the far north. If there was a single town though, one built around community, heart and culture that could sum up the essence of who we are as a people, and where we’re going as a nation, surely it would be Uawa (Tolaga Bay) on the East Coast of the North Island.

Our team was recently invited to Tolaga Bay by the local digital trust Huiterangiora Digitech to attend a two-day hui that involved the community. Together we wanted to explore digital learning pathways for their tamariki. We were invited alongside community leaders Kiwa Hammond and Ropata Ainsley from the Korou Digital Trust (Wairoa), Nikora Ngaropo from Young Animators (Auckland), Lisa Paraku, Spark’s Māori Business Strategy Lead, and James Aslett from the Raspberry Pi Foundation (United Kingdom).

We were honored to be welcomed onto Hauiti Marae with a wero – a traditional Māori challenge – laid down and then accepted in the pouring rain. Once inside the wharenui, a series of speeches introduced us to important members from the Hauiti Marae whakapapa represented on the wharenui walls. We also learned about landmarks of significance, such as Titirangi to the south, the deep ocean trenches to the east, and the Ūawa river that flows through the community. After the pōwhiri was complete, I was left with a sense of feeling truly welcome in this country, perhaps an experience I was having for the first time in my thirty-seven years of living here.

"Rural communities have an important role to play in the digital future of Aotearoa; it’s vital that Aotearoa continues to produce top global tech talent, and for this to happen youth must be able to access opportunities where they gain knowledge and digital skills. This will take our nation forward."

The community had done a fantastic job of putting together the agenda for our two-day hui. The remainder of the first day was given over to exploring important landmarks, visiting other marae in Tolaga Bay, and learning and practicing Tū Tauā (Māori weaponry). After dinner, the evening was spent in the wharenui where each group stood up and spoke about their digital enablement projects and their vision for a better Aotearoa.

Day two started early with a 6am walk along the river; don’t tell anyone, but you can still catch snapper off the bridge in the middle of the town! The day was all about allowing students to participate and be introduced to different digital enablement programmes while being supported by their whānau and community leaders.

Our team provided Python programming at the existing Code Club run out of the Tolaga Bay Inn, and a digital animation workshop for youth in the wharekai. We also ran an introduction to Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko (the National Digital Readiness programme) for teachers, and looked at ways to deliver the new digital technologies curriculum that would be authentic and relevant to the community.

In the main wharenui, we had the Electric Garden fired up to show students how they can gather data from their school’s vegetable garden, and analyse that data to then be able to make positive changes to their garden’s growth. The day – and the hui – ended with everyone together in the wharekai, thanking the amazing chefs who had cooked venison, snapper and all sorts of delicious and locally sourced kai.

From me, the key takeaways from the hui are: communities know their people and they already have the knowledge needed to solve local problems. Rural communities have an important role to play in the digital future of Aotearoa; it’s vital that Aotearoa continues to produce top global tech talent, and for this to happen youth must be able to access opportunities where they can gain knowledge and digital skills. This will take our nation forward. The establishment, vision and goals of the Tolaga Bay digital trust Huiterangiora Digitech, is – I believe – something that can be replicated by community leaders around Aotearoa. We can make sure no child is unable to participate in the digital world. Our role at Digital Future Aotearoa is to simply support, encourage and champion these initiatives when we’re invited to do so.

26 March 2019

Dyslexia and Code Club Aotearoa

Our mission is to make coding available to every kiwi kid, including children with additional support needs due to dyslexia. Learning resource developer Rebecca Donnelly has put together her top tips for supporting children with dyslexia at Code Club. This resource can also be downloaded as a PDF!

Dyslexia is a learning style that affects an estimated 1 in 10 New Zealanders, and 70,000 school aged children, so it’s likely you have a dyslexic child in your club.

Children with dyslexia often have strengths in logical thinking and problem solving, which are great skills for coding and programming. They sometimes find other tasks difficult though, such as reading and writing. Rather than singling out a dyslexic student for special support, which can make a child feel outcast from their peers, we recommend you provide a range of learning methods for all students at your club! This will benefit the whole club, because not all cases of dyslexia are diagnosed at school, and even children without dyslexia learn in different ways. With a varied learning environment, students with and without dyslexia will flourish at your Code Club!

"Rather than singling out a dyslexic student ... we recommend you provide a range of learning methods for all students at your club!"

Our Top Tips Summarised

  • Provide a range of learning methods for all students at your club, and let children self-direct their learning.
  • Print Project Instructions or help students put instructions side-by-side with the Code Club project in their browser.
  • Start Students Coding in Scratch and help students become familiar with the Scratch block colours to learn block functions.
  • Create physical ‘coding blocks’ or use toys to simulate Scratch in the real world.
  • Provide tools for visual checking of code such as a good integrated development environment (IDE) that can colour codes commands and variables.
  • Copy and paste text into a word processor to spell check code.
  • Plan out code on paper before starting to type.
  • Speak to the student’s class teacher or parents to find out about support given at school.

Print Project Instructions

One problem children with dyslexia face is poor short term memory. When working on a coding project, many students switch browser tabs between their Code Club project and the project’s instructions. For students with dyslexia, not having the instructions on the screen at all time might make it harder for them to remember, or to keep track of where they are up to.

One way to get around this is to give students the option of using printed project instructions, or by helping them put the instructions side by side with their project page in the computer window. This allows each student to think about how they learn, and make decisions for themselves. Helping students tick off each step as they work through the instructions will help them keep track of where they are (students can ‘tick off’ the browser-based instructions as well). If you are concerned about paper waste, collect the instructions back at the end of a session and use them again next term!

Start Students Coding in Scratch

Scratch is an excellent place to start a student with dyslexia, as the coding commands/blocks are colour coded. This means that once a student is familiar with the colours and shape of each block, and learns what that block does in the program, they become less reliant on reading. You might need to have a little extra patience at the start to help students read each block to learn what it does.

If you have the time and resources available, creating printed and laminated ‘Scratch blocks’ for physical programming could help a student with dyslexia! You could also do this with coloured Lego blocks and a label maker. By creating a physical and tactile way to simulate Scratch in the real world, students with dyslexia are able to learn how Scratch works in the digital (and abstract) world. For students new to coding, a toy could be used to ‘act out’ the blocks of physical code in the same way a Sprite would in Scratch.

Provide tools for Visual Checking

A problem for children with dyslexia using a text-based language like Python, is that spelling mistakes are difficult to spot. One solution is to use a good Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that changes the colour of the text when it recognises variables and commands. For example, it is much easier to spot that you've spelt 'print' incorrectly if you know it should be pink but it isn't! It’s the same idea as the squiggly red line that appears under spelling mistakes in word processing programs. (Alternatively, you could copy and paste the text into a word processor and run spell check – but watch out for the automatic corrections!)

An offline editor may also let students change the text colour, text background, and font, which can make it easier for them to read, as can changing the screen contrast. Some students may also find it useful to plan their code out on paper before they start typing. Rather than writing out all of the commands, this could be a series of notes or drawings showing the logic needed and order the commands need to go in.

Final Thoughts

Everyone is different, and what works for one person with dyslexia might not necessarily help another! The key to success will be communicating with your students, giving them choices, and getting to know where they might need extra help. If you are struggling, try talking to the student’s class teacher or their parents. They will likely know what support the child is getting at school, and how best to help them. Most importantly, don’t forget that Code Club is supposed to be fun! What is most fun for a student is when they can learn at their own pace and with their own style.

Additional Resources

13 March 2019

We love the women of Digital Future Aotearoa

Last Friday was International Women's Day, and that made us want to celebrate the women we work with. We asked four women from Digital Future Aotearoa (the parent charity of Code Club Aotearoa, Electric Garden and She Can Code) to tell us about their work. We also asked them about something that scares them, and how they overcame it. To paraphrase Nelson Mandela, courage isn't the absence of fear but a triumph over it, and we think our staff are a smart, gusty and committed bunch.


What job do you do at Digital Future Aotearoa?

I am the South Island Volunteer Coordinator, which means that I look after and support all of the Code Clubs and volunteers in the South Island. I am also an Educational Content Creator, creating lesson plans, teacher training materials, and classroom resources about all kinds of technology and coding.

What is your favourite thing about working for Digital Future Aotearoa?

I love that I can be creative with my work and use my imagination. I get to play with a lot of different tech, from micro-processors to robots, to come up with ways they can be used in a classroom. I also think that Digital Future Aotearoa is a supportive and welcoming place to work. I feel comfortable being myself at work and that my colleagues accept me for who I am.

"I love that I can be creative with my work
and use my imagination"

What is the scariest thing you've ever done, and how did you get through it?

I'm pretty scared of heights, but for some reason I go rock climbing as a hobby! I once visited a climbing wall that was 28m tall, with no place to stop for a break. I had my harness on and was tied in to the rope, but that didn't stop me feeling like my heart was going to explode! I managed to get all the way to the top by remembering to breathe and by taking it one step at a time.


What job do you do at Digital Future Aotearoa?

I’m the North Island Volunteer Coordinator. That means I look after volunteers, connect them with clubs in their community, and help them during the onboarding process! Part of my work is to support club leaders by linking them with volunteers in their area. The most important aspect of my role is supporting schools in priority areas and introducing them to our other amazing programmes!

What is your favourite thing about working for Digital Future Aotearoa?

There are so many wonderful things about working for DFA, but I think what I love the most is the collaborative environment. Our team is small but we share the same vision and values, and are all equally dedicated to our mission. Holistic environments and approaches regarding education are important to me and it’s incredible to be given the opportunity to help expose teachers and children to the wonders of digital technology education in Aotearoa.

"I almost spewed waiting in line, but something
was telling me I had to go through with the ride"

What is the scariest thing you've ever done, and how did you get through it?

I am TERRIFIED of roller coasters and I’ve always been embarrassed by this fact; it doesn’t align with my personality – to be scared of something that tiny children don’t think twice about. I’ll happily bomb a huge hill on a skateboard or travel to a foreign country, but I can’t do theme park rides.

There have been times when I’ve gone on a rollercoaster only to scream at the controller to let me off at the last minute (while my friends laughed). In 2014 I went to Disneyland and I spent the entire day working myself up to go on Space Mountain. I almost spewed waiting in line, but something was telling me I had to go through with the ride.

Once I was strapped in, all I could do was close my eyes and tell myself it would be over in less than two minutes. I could hear the roller coaster slowly climbing up the and I almost had a panic attack; I wanted to die! Sirens sounded, the car jolted forward, I opened my eyes and felt like I was flying through space. It was incredible! I will never forget the high I felt afterwards.


What job do you do at Digital Future Aotearoa?

I’m the Digital and Social Media Lead, which means I look after our websites and social media channels. I’m a writer by trade, so I also help with funding applications, learning resources and general comms!

What is your favourite thing about working for Digital Future Aotearoa?

DFA is definitely one of the most supportive, fun and egalitarian workplaces I’ve worked. There are no airs – everyone's able to be themselves, and we’re encouraged to work to our strengths and support each other using those strengths. We’re a small team, but incredibly dedicated to organisation's mission. Part of my role is sharing stories from Code Clubs around Aotearoa and from organisations in digital tech education. Every day I’m blown away by the work that’s being done around Aotearoa. It’s inspiring.

"Every day I’m blown away by the work
that’s being done around Aotearoa. It’s inspiring"

What is the scariest thing you've ever done, and how did you get through it?

A few years ago I launched my second collection of poetry, which was the culmination of four years of work and a PhD. It was so much work and sacrifice – while doing my PhD I also had my son, and juggling the two was difficult.

Launching my book, and reading from it in front of my friends, family and doctoral supervisors was incredibly scary. I’m not a calm public speaker at the best of times, and I was worried the emotion of the event would overwhelm me. I spent the weeks beforehand practising my reading, and on the night I grounded myself in the knowledge that everyone was there to support me; that I should be proud of what had been a hard-won achievement. So – preparation and self belief. It went off without a hitch.


What job do you do at Digital Future Aotearoa?

I am the Project Manager for Code Club 4 Teachers a nationwide programme supporting teachers in getting ready to deliver the new DT curriculum content from 2020.

What is your favourite thing about working for Digital Future Aotearoa?

I love that we are education focused and support teachers and children across the nation right down into the regions. Building relationships and connecting learners with digital technologies is super rewarding!

"Building relationships and connecting learners
with digital technologies is super rewarding!"

What is the scariest thing you've ever done, and how did you get through it?

Flying in a helicopter to the Grand Canyon. I don't do heights or flights and there was a thunderstorm rolling into Las Vegas. Deep breathing and repeatedly studying the pilots credentials on the walls prior to take off got me through.

11 February 2019

Code Club Aotearoa in Northland

Kate Allan, Code Club 4 Teachers Project Manager, recalls four amazing days in Northland.

In late January the Code Club Aotearoa team arrived in Kerikeri, Northland to join facilitators from Te Papa, University of Canterbury and Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko. Our aim was to support the recently formed Northland Digital Technology Regional Hub which is lead by Steve Clark, a local teacher who is passionate about digital technologies (DT). Steve has fostered a following of teachers keen to learn, so we set about four exciting days of learning and networking.

Sharing Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko – the National Digital Readiness Programme was our focus on Friday, the first day. We discussed and explored the new content within the DT curriculum and spent the afternoon rotating through fun, hands-on stations creating and solving using DT.

On Saturday we were warmly welcomed to the Treaty of Waitangi Learning Centre and ran an Electric Garden training day for the wider Northland community. We were joined by a variety of teachers and community garden leaders keen learn more about the Electric Garden. Together we explored how the Electric Garden works, and the student lessons and teacher resources that have been developed for the Electric Garden.

Sunday saw us back in Kerikeri with an ‘Introduction to Code.’ Teachers were supported in exploring Javascript, Python, Scratch, and then everyone was up and moving as we programmed using Sphero and Makey Makey. Our Sphero and Makey Makey kits will be staying with the teachers this term and they are excited about integrating their newly found skills into the classroom, and trying out activities with their tamariki.

On the final day we were treated to an amazing workshop lead by Rosalie Reiri from Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko exploring ways to deepen our learning and understanding of The Treaty of Waitangi using DT. We set about creating and then sharing our ideas and resources with one another. Everyone left with an amazing resource to use in classroom!

We truly were lucky to have been able to network, collaborate and celebrate all things DT in such a beautiful spot of Aotearoa. A huge thank you to the Northland Digital Technology Regional Hub, the facilitators and the local teaching community for such a positive and awesome week. We are excited to continue to support this journey of learning and discovery….watch this space!

20 November 2018

Congrats to the 123Tech Regional winners!

In this guest post, Paul from 123Tech celebrates the regional winners.

The 123Tech Challenge helps school students solve problems in their local school or community using digital technologies – and have fun along the way! The Regional Finals have just finished, and while students were supported by teachers and mentors, the inspiration and perspiration were all theirs.

We want to wish the regional winners the best for the National Champs, 2-4pm, Wednesday 5 December, Te Papa, Wellingon. All welcome.


The Te Tai Tokerau/Northland Regional winners from Bream Bay College created an interactive and dynamic website for the hospitality and food technology department at their school. We think that's cool!


In Auckland, Arahoe School's 'Arahoe Aces' designed an app for new entrants to see a 360-degree view of Te Kohanga (the new entrant classroom), so new children would feel more familiar with their new school environment. Another team from Arahoe, 'Arahoe Coders,' also won the Primary challenge. The team from Hobsonville Point Secondary School designed a safe secure app connecting parents and babysitters, and 'Lunar Eclipse' from Westlake Girls High designed a game to create awareness around pollution!


The regional winner from the Bay of Plenty region is a team from Tahatai Coast School. They created a super website that not only educates people on zero waste, but helps people purchase zero waste environmental products.


One of our favourite projects from the regional champs. The team from Sacred Heart Girls' College in New Plymouth created an app that helps dog owners in New Plymouth find new places to walk their dogs.


In Wellington, 'JasMaRui' from Clyde Quay School made a website for students in their school for whom English is a second language. Also, the team from St Mary's College created an app to address the issue of young people spending too much time on their phones, and Wellington East Girls' College created an innovative way for attendance marking in New Zealand schools.


The Waikato regional winners from Morrinsville Intermediate School created a real-time school notices app to avoid losing those paper versions students take home. What a great way to save paper waste and communicate info! The team from John Paul College also won their level, developing a role-playing survival game set on a 3D environment, to promote mental health awareness to students their age.


The students from Hillview Christian School's Code Club created an innovative digital solution to help an existing volunteer group called the MISH to streamline their processes. This made it easier for them to pick food up from restaurants and deliver it to the City Mission. Starting a Code Club is a great way to get involved in next year's challenge.


Check out the great team from Queens High School who won the Otago/Southland Regional Finals by creating a website that helps their fellow students easily find out what classes they have on their rotating Friday timetable. We've had quite a few all-girl teams in the regionals and they all smashed it!

6 November 2018

The Electric Garden is ready to get growing!

Two former Papakaio School students plant the seed of an idea that will change the lives of thousands of Aotearoa children

In 2017, Papakaio School in rural North Otago celebrated its 150th anniversary. On that day, two former students, Gloria Hurst and Michael Trengrove, met and planted the seed of an idea that will change the lives of thousands of Aotearoa children: the Electric Garden.

Fifteen years earlier, Gloria had set about understanding the disenfranchised youth who hung around the Oamaru Courthouse. After listening to their stories, she opened her home garden to local children. Their positive reaction to being in nature inspired the Waitaki Community Gardens Trust.

Michael Trengrove, a former disenfranchised kid, was now the General Manager of Code Club Aotearoa. During the speeches at Papakaio’s anniversary, Gloria and Michael reconnected and brought their areas of expertise together: nature-based wellbeing and digital technology education.

The result is the Electric Garden – a hands-on, Internet of Things (IoT) solution to help schools deliver the new Digital Technologies curriculum to children. Using the Electric Garden, children install wireless sensors in their school garden, and then gather and monitor data through a secure online portal. This results in more than giant pumpkins! The Electric Garden supports digital learning, develops gardening knowledge, and promotes wellbeing through the children spending time in nature.

"The Electric Garden supports digital learning,
develops gardening knowledge, and promotes wellbeing through the children spending time in nature"

Since that first conversation at Papakaio School, the project has received close to quarter of a million dollars of funding from Microsoft Philanthropies, The Spark Foundation and Verizon Connect. From late October, 200 teachers from 75 South Island schools received their own Electric Garden, training, learning resources and lesson plans, and ongoing technical support.

Once the 2018 pilot is complete, the Electric Garden will be rolled out to the rest of Aotearoa. The mission: to give every child the opportunity to learn to code and play in nature, no matter who or where they are.

The Electric Garden will be launched at Papakaio School on Tue 27 November, 1-3pm.
for the free event!

Join tech industry experts for a lively round table discussion: Preparing for a Digital Future: Discussing Resilience for the Regions, Tue 27 November, 10:30 – 11:30am, Oamaru.

5 November 2018

Nervous about teaching digital tech? Join Code Club 4 Teachers

Imagine this. You’re a teacher who doesn’t feel confident teaching digital tech. Your colleague Karen knows this, and one night after school she takes you to a workshop. You’re nervous when you join a group of teachers gathered around a table, laughing and talking. She’s assures you that the course is for everyone, from absolute beginners to experts. You’ll be fine.

Over the next few hours the group works together on programming projects, and hands-on activities called ‘CS Unplugged’ that teach computational thinking without computers. It’s a lot easier than you thought it would be, especially when working in a group. The group talks about how to bring Digital Tech into different areas across the curriculum. One teacher talks about a school that uses tech in English class to analyse rap lyrics. Another talks about how teaching maths alongside technology brings it into the real world for students.

You end up having a lot of fun, and as you leave you tell Karen you’re feeling a lot better about digital tech. You’re even looking forward to it.

This group is part of Code Club 4 Teachers – a fantastic way for teachers new to digital tech to learn the basics alongside colleagues. Code Club Aotearoa have partnered with Kiatakatū ā-Mathiko, the National Digital Readiness Programme, which was launched to support the new Digital Tech curriculum that schools are expected to integrate by the start of the 2020 school year. Code Club 4 Teachers will be taken nationwide over the next three years.

What does CC4T involve? Four, 90 minute workshops over a term for primary and secondary teachers! The workshops cover how to integrate programming projects and computational thinking (CS unplugged) activities into fun hands-on sessions in their classroom.

The workshop also give teachers the opportunity to work together and explore ways to weave Digital Tech across all curriculum areas. The workshops are lead and supported by regional digital leaders who, as well as running the workshops, will help build connected communities of learners across Aotearoa.

Code Club Aotearoa have created all of the content for CC4T, and it’s a lot of fun. The projects, which include native flora and fauna, are being delivered during term four to early adopters in both Christchurch and Taupo (with Kuranui and the far north to follow shortly). The themed content allows teachers to weave the projects into the classroom in meaningful ways.

We encourage all teachers, no matter what level of expertise, to come along. You will be able to learn and extend your knowledge of both the new digital technologies content and ways to implement key learning across the curriculum.

To get involved in an up and coming Code Club 4 Teachers near you visit Kiatakatū, sign up, and then head along to a local meetups. Bring along a friend and have fun!

26 September 2018

Handing over your Code Club

How to smoothly transition from one Code Club club leader to another

You’re a Code Club Aotearoa club leader and you’ve had a great time running your Code Club. Now you’re moving overseas, and although you’ve found a new leader for your club, you're n


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