#SuperCoders: children, digital stakeholders
#SuperCoders and its introductory coding workshops for children are back! Launched by Orange, this program just keeps on growing. It features a challenge that encourages children to develop a program, a game or an animation to reflect one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the UN. Decoding the program with Yves Boillot, Head of Strategic marketing at Orange’s CSR Group.
Please could you remind us what #SuperCoders is all about?
Yves Boillot: #SuperCoders is a program that was created in 2013 within the CSR Group, more specifically as part of the “Better Internet for Kids” project*. It invites children aged 9 to 13 to introductory coding workshops. To be specific, #SuperCoders uses the purpose-made Scratch development platform. The workshops are led by volunteers from Orange: 1,200 have already been trained for the task and another 1,000 are currently undergoing training. Today, 20 countries are involved in these introductory workshops and 10,000 young people have attended since 2014.
Is the purpose behind #SuperCoders to train tomorrow’s coders?
Y.B.: Of course. Going “behind the scenes” of digital technology in a playful way could entice people into the profession. But above all, we want to show children that digital technology is a source of creativity and that this universe is open to them. Nowadays, children venturing out and building cabins in the woods is a thing of the past, so we offer them both a new space to explore and a way of expressing themselves in the digital world. We are inviting them to be stakeholders. Lastly, #SuperCoders is also a way of spreading our values of cooperation, collaboration, and commitment. In some countries where gender equality is far from established, #SuperCoders is also an opportunity to show girls that they can go on to have technical professions.
This initiative has grown over the years. What is the situation now?
Y.B.: The CSR Group launches projects that each country must adapt and interpret in its own way. #SuperCoders is among the initiatives that have been a real success. Some countries hold recurring workshops: for example, in Tunisia, they are held weekly. Orange wanted to continue one-off introductory workshops in all countries. As a result, at the COP21, the Group developed an open challenge – children can take part in the workshops, but also in their own homes or even at school – on the theme of the Sustainable Development Goals established by the UN, focusing on the most concrete goals. This challenge will take place over a number of years during the different Climate Conferences.
What does this responsible dimension add to #SuperCoders?
Y.B.: We wanted #SuperCoders to help children have their opinions heard in society on issues that concern us all. As part of the challenge, children use digital technology to speak out on the fight against poverty, responsible consumption or even gender equality, by creating a small-scale digital project on a theme they choose themselves. Children have used Scratch, a very simple yet powerful language, to create presentations, games and (sometimes very impressive!) mini apps. For example, a young duo created an on-screen wind turbine that turns when you blow hard enough into the microphone. Other children used movements recorded by the integrated camera or even created high-quality graphics.
In your view, what does the future hold for #SuperCoders?
Y.B.: #SuperCoders has earned true credibility and a bright future awaits it. This is primarily because the program creates links with education in some countries. In France, 50 junior high schools have signed up to the initiative this year. Children who have already used Scratch will be able to use the Orange workshops to focus their attention on the content rather than the technique! In Poland, Orange has provided schools with Scratch modules to assist teaching in different subjects. 600 schools are already involved in the program. And the future? Young apprentice programmers could enter the world of the internet of things by using small, programmable robots or even sensors and APIs. But first, #SuperCoders will be integrated into the tablets provided for use in the “Digital School” program, as the imminent arrival of Scratch for Android has been announced!
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* Better Internet for Kids is a program launched by Orange to support children and their parents in using the internet more safely