February 13, 2014

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Computing For Kids - Three Of The Best Non-Profits

I'm a firm believer in the potential power of non-profits in spaces where the profit motive can be self-defeating. This is why I want to champion non-profits in our efforts to nurture a new generation of software innovators.

In particular, I want to draw your attention - either as a teacher or a parent looking for help learning about computing, or as a potential volunteer or supporter - to what I think are three of the best non-profits working in this space, targeted at three aspects of the problem.

Computer Science & Formal Computing Education

The most active and established organisation working on getting computing into the classroom is Computing At School. Founded in 2008, CAS have done amazing work on defining a curriculum for computing that goes much deeper than the "mucking about with PowerPoint" that much of ICT seemed to have devolved into.

Their curriculum includes not just some computer programming, but useful theory for computing and computational thinking. It's well-supported by their large network of teachers, computer scientists and professional software developers, and backed by the British Computer Society, as well as Google and Microsoft.

The CAS community has developed a strong set of resources for teachers and schools, and is well worth the £0 entry fee.

Computer Programming & Extracurricular Learning

Many children have been learning the practical elements of computing by joining a local programming club. Code Club are a network of such clubs run by volunteer across the UK. Founded in 2012, Code Club is still quite new, but has already grown to be by far the largest and most successful computing club network.

In Code Club, kids will learn basic programming using tools like MIT's Scratch, and can progress on to more "grown-up" programming in languages like Python.

With their emphasis on the practical, and on having fun and being creative with code, Code Club complements and adds a lot of value to the academic route.

Software Development

The discipline of software development is to programming what movie making is to working a camera.

Software development brings together a wide range of complex disciplines, of which programming is just a part (albeit a vital one). Creating valuable, usable, reliable, scalable, secure software that meets the needs of real users, under commercial and other real-world constraints, is a world away from the computing kids get to do in classrooms or in clubs.

At the time of writing, Apps for Good are the only non-profit organisation helps kids get to grips with the very wide and challenging set of disciplines, covering everything from defining a winning vision for your software to how to automate the release process to end users.

Backed up by 400 experts in every field of software development, from product strategy to system testing, Apps for Good raises the game for teenagers and young adults and helps bridge that gap between academic computing and the real world, where making working software is orders of magnitude more complicated.

The relationship between these three fine non-profit organisations can probably best be explained by a musical metaphor: Code Club teach kids to play guitar, Computing At School helps kids with useful music theory and can help them gain a recognised qualification, and Apps for Good help these kids transition from practicing guitar in their bedrooms to becoming a professional recording and touring band.

So there it is: three great non-profit organisations who can help get children coding, be it for fun, for qualifications, or for the real world.

Computing At School - http://www.computingatschool.org.uk/

Code Club - https://www.codeclub.org.uk

Apps for Good - http://www.appsforgood.org/

Posted 3 years, 11 months ago on February 13, 2014