Yesterday I was in deep in the heart of Kangemi at the Kangemi Resource Center. I found children in class learning but it wasn’t holiday tuition, the kids were learning to code. As I listened to their teacher talk to them about computer language I was taken back to my high school days when we used to learn about the ones and zeros that made up computer language. These kids were learning about how to create a simple game called minecraft.
I am in Kangemi because Microsoft East Africa is investing in the young people and is having coding lessons for kids this week all over Kenya. This week is the Computer Science Education Week. Code.org has a “Hour Of Code” campaign which is a global movement to inspire young people to try an hour of code and learn basic computer science skills.
Watching the kids, some of whom have never used a computer before follow instructions on how to make simple codes and make their animations move, talk etc was fun. They were so excited to be able to create something and watch it come to life. I wondered how many of these kids who having had this opportunity could become interested in code and become some of the best coders in Kenya.
Microsoft wants to give young people the opportunity to learn computer science, because in our technology obsessed world it could give them an edge in terms of problem solving and critical thinking skills. That is why Microsoft has made the Hour of Code to be part of their CSR efforts.
The kids in Kangemi were learning to code for about two and a half hours. Then they were getting some mentoring. I was surprised to see my friend Mike Waiyaki in Kangemi. Apparently yesterday was the international day of the volunteer and Mike had volunteered to mentor the kids. So the kids got not just basic coding skills but also got to be motivated as well.
The Minecraft game tutorial got an upgrade this year, last year the first minecraft tutorial broke records with 30 million trials. This year the aim to beat that target and inspire young people to get interested in the computer science field. The minecraft game is fun because it allows students to be able to write their own rules on how the game works and how the creatures in the game behave. This allowed the children to be creative and have fun as they decided what the creatures would say or do.
In Kangemi I was happy to see that there were many girls who came to the coding class. The Minecraft game is designed for kids over 6 and it aims to demystify the basics of computer science. In some places students are guided by video tutorials but in Kangemi they had teachers showing them how to do it by writing instructions on a flipchart and giving the kids time to try the different codes. The minecraft game includes a set of 12 challenges, after which the kids were allowed free play time to create a game using the coding concepts they learnt.