Mehackit is a social enterprise founded in 2014. The organization’s mission is to offer equal chances for youth to get ahold of technology, so that they can learn the kind of skills required in today’s world. “Many people graduate from secondary and high schools without having any sort of programming experience. Mehackit counters this by offering creative technology courses to the schools so that youth can have an inspirational first touch to technology at a critical age”, explains Tommi Toivonen, course designer for Mehackit.
Blended and phenomenon-based learning form the foundation of Mehackit’s pedagogical approach. The education initiative primarily offers two high school level courses, an Arduino robotics course and a Processing visual programming courses, but also caters to secondary schools, where they teach basics of programming. Mehackit has developed CodeBus Africa’s original workshop curriculum and trained our Aalto University team of instructors.
Toivonen describes the CodeBus Africa workshop as fun, exciting and playful. In it, a special coding environment called Sonic Pi is used to live code music. Each line of code produces audible sounds, and with just a few lines of simple code kids can already create real music. “In each workshop, there’s a creative end goal the kids are working toward. It’s not just coding for coding’s sake, but a project with a result that they can look back at and be proud of”, he says. The musical aspect brings in an enthusiastic energy into learning that is often missing in traditional teaching. At the same time, children learn technological thinking and become familiar with key concepts of programming.
A musical approach to teaching coding works particularly well, because music is a universal language. “We all listen to and live our lives through music in one way or another”, Toivonen says. By forming a clear link between code and our physical world, Sonic Pi makes programming more accessible. Sonic Pi also enables quick progress, vital for an intensive 1-day workshop. “In just one hour, children can already create the sounds they want and have an ’aha’ moment, where they realize that ‘Hey, this computer is made to follow my commands’”, Toivonen describes.
CodeBus Africa fuses Finnish and African know-how to impact people’s lives positively by providing especially girls and marginalized youth with the kind of tools they can use to advance in life. Moreover, the Sonic Pi curriculum is adapted in a co-creative manner in each target country to serve varying needs and ensure local ownership for future. Toivonen believes that the CodeBus initiative will have a great impact. “Mehackit is working together with CodeBus, because we feel that the mission of bringing equality into programming teaching is a global thing”, he says. “Now that we have the spark, it is interesting to see what kind of teaching ecosystems and workshops will follow in the 10 countries part of the project.”