In the words of Alanis Morissette “isn’t it ironic” that someone like me has become an advocate for CoderDojo – a coding club for kids. At the CESI conference last week the question was asked – ‘What was your first computer?’ Many tweets were sent in response but none from me. In reality my first personal computer was only bought 12 years ago. I was never the kind of person who tinkered with computers for pleasure. My introduction to computing came as I studied for my undergraduate Applied Maths degree in University of Limerick and it’s fair to say that it wasn’t exactly love at first sight!! I can still picture my 18 year old self sitting in the lecture theater completely bewildered as John Kinsella introduced us to the joys of Pascal programming 🙂 For me it was never about programming – it was always about the Maths.
This view changed when I began my first work placement as part of my college course. My job involved writing computer programs for real. I worked for the Local Government Computer Services Board, an organisation that develops ICT services for local authorities. The first system I worked on involved the system for car registration numbers. The system we currently use for car registration numbers was introduced in 1987 and my task involved validating the different components of the registration number – 2 digit year, 1 or 2 character county/city identifier and a 6 digit number. Finally I got what it was all about. Having my code ‘go live’ gave me a real sense of achievement – my code was being used across the country.
I have to say that my view of programming and computing in general changed as a result but I still didn’t really embrace it. I see many people waiting patiently for the next update of an Operating System, or for new a tool to be launched, like children at Christmas. That will never be me but I’m ok with that. So while I’m not what could be considered a techie my approach to technology has definitely changed in the last few years. For me, it’s about seeing interesting things, that I can use in what I do, or that I can pass on to others. A few years ago I discovered Scratch – a programming environment that allows you to create games and animations. What I love about Scratch is that it introduces students to the basics of computer programming and lets them create their own games. That’s also what has drawn me in to Coderdojo – the club where kids can come to learn how to code and create their own content.