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Code in the Community: Join us Online for our Next Chapter!

May 15, 2020

#Impact Code in the CommunityCOVID-19

What does it take to run free coding classes for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds in 2020?

Earlier this year, not without a lot of excitement, legwork, and a little bit of pomp and circumstance that involved Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, we announced the next ambitious phase of our social mission: to bring free coding classes to 6700 kids from disadvantaged backgrounds in Singapore over the next three years.

Like almost everyone, we had no idea what the rest of 2020 would have in store. But soon a little virus called COVID-19 would make us realise how challenging and how important it would be that we pursue that mission.

In late January, our team burned our weekends and spent too many long nights in our office prepping equipment (cutting Strawbees to size, calibrating Quirkbots, labelling laptops… you get the idea) and training hundreds of volunteers in our creative coding curriculum and classroom management skills.

No spoiler alert needed: you can guess what happened next.

As COVID-19 crept into our communities, the first, and then the second of what was meant to be four runs of Code in the Community got suspended, indefinitely. Laptops and hardware that had been distributed to libraries and community centres across Singapore slowly made their way back to our office, and we shared our disappointment with hundreds of students, their parents, and our tribe of volunteers.

So, 3 months on and with no foreseeable end to restrictions on our in-person classes in sight, what’s next?

Well, COVID-19 has made it clear that:

  1. More than ever, digital literacy is essential for kids to continue learning and connecting with the wider world
  2. As the inequality divide is even more acute during this time of crisis, tech is a double-edged sword with the potential to both widen, and plug the gaps in digital access and opportunity.

In sum: while it would be incredibly difficult to move CITC classes online, we owed it to the kids to make it work.

So, fast forward to May.

We’ve redesigned our curriculum to go online, run trial classes in Scratch and Python, and re-trained a small batch of our incredible volunteer instructors to deliver classes online.

This weekend, we’re piloting our first run of Code in the Community Online classes with a small batch of just 80 kids (4 to a class), and we can’t wait.

While no one knows what the immediate future will look like, we do know this: it will involve physical distancing, a lot of caution, and tech to pull it all together.

Our student waitlists are long, and more than ever, the need is clear. If you love kids, have an interest in tech, and want to help kids from disadvantaged backgrounds tap on their innate curiosity to realise their potential, we could definitely use your help.

The next run of Code in the Community will be from July 11 to Sept 6, and we’re looking for volunteers with/without programming experience to commit 2 hours a week to teach kids from disadvantaged backgrounds to code using Scratch or Python. Curriculum and training will be provided by the Rocket Launchers from Saturday Kids, and all classes will be held online. Find out more and sign up here!

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