My coding story: St Joseph's | Encouraging digital literacy

Allison: Something we have coded ourselves is going to space. That's huge! That's something every kid has dreamed of: to go to space. And to get that chance in real life, at such a young age, it was like, "Oh my God, this is something that's going to change everything."

Darren: We're very rural. We're north County Dublin, like, so you have to come a long way out of the city to get here. But coding itself is a huge uptake here in our school. So, every single student does it for at least ten weeks in first year as part of our taster programme.

Kamaya: Coding has massively impacted what I'd like to do in the future. I remember the first time I was like, "OK, space is cool" is when I watched a movie. It was called 'Interstellar'. And I was like, "Oh, OK, I might want to do something like that in my future." So, when I came to secondary school, I saw coding as a subject and I was like, "Mum, I've got to do coding."

Danny: I think we started on Astro Pi three years ago. There's a bunch of students, I suppose, who were always kind of vaguely into space, but they don't really know how to get into something real, and the prospect of actually running an experiment on the International Space Station was pretty mind-blowing. 

Allison: This is your opportunity to get photos from space. And we were like... (mimics explosion)

Kamaya: I take coding as a subject in school and I have coding twice a week.

Allison: And we would come in and wait for her and we'd say, "Kamaya, are you ready to go?"

And Mr Murray just said, "Guys, do you guys want to enter into this?" And we were like, "Yeah!" (laughs)

Eabha: When I heard it in the taster, I was sitting next to my best friend, and when she said, "You can join this and take satellite images from the International Space Station", I have this, like, memory. I like— we both look at each other and we go like...Like, in the middle of the taster! And then we just turned around being like, "We're doing coding."

Danny: Because the real prize is the photos, you know? When we get the photos back, like, as teachers, I try not to open the zip file, because it's a really special moment where you, you get to see photos of Earth that nobody has ever seen, you know? So I let them open it by themselves. But imagine just like, talking to somebody and saying, "Oh, there's a picture of the Amazon.I took that picture when I was 14. From space."

Kamaya: And we watched the rocket launch as well in class.

VOICE-OVER: Four... three... two... one...

Allison: We didn't realise it was going to happen. They didn't tell us, "You're going to get to watch a rocket launch."

Danny: Yeah, so, I bought the hoodie. This is the Alpha mission, where the Raspberry Pis launched into space. 

Allison: I think Astro Pi was kind of the first real step in my coding experience.I'd done Scratch before, and it was lots of fun, but it was just as, like, a side thing.

When I'm older, I think it would be really cool if I could use my coding skills in whatever I plan to do, so like, making websites and such. So if I could learn to do that now, that would be awesome.

Darren: Well, Mr Murray is– he's a force of nature. Like, I mean, he's the reason we have coding here. He's the reason we have computer science here. He models the kind of the behaviour that you need in the students, like just infinitely enthusiastic about what he's doing. He invented our tech team. So, our own students actually go class to class, repairing tech issues. The whole school now, and it's invested in the whole school, like, the idea that students can look after this kind of technology themselves.

Danny: Even when, like, our Wi-Fi was kind of really patchy in the school, my computer science kids got the Raspberry Pis and they went around and made like— they wrote a program to test the Wi-Fi every 40 minutes and then delivered a report on a website, do you know what I mean? So they went, like, five rooms at a time and then came back with a report. Because, like, the Wi-Fi annoyed them, you know? But this was, like, a real-life problem that they were going to solve.

Allison: I know nothing about coding — well, next to nothing — and once I started doing it, I learnt more and I became more interested in coding as a subject, which I didn't even realise I had much of an interest in. So definitely just go for it. If it's something that has snagged your attention, do it.