TriValley CoderDojo is unique in a multitude of ways, not least of which is due to the cultivation of generally undervalued skills. These skills are commonly referred to as “soft skills” and they allow individuals to interact meaningfully with others, successfully navigate their environment, and effectively perform tasks.
Although underappreciated, these abilities are critical in both the tech industry and beyond. They often remain underdeveloped in coding organizations, so the work done at TriValley CoderDojo is not only exceptional, but revolutionary. It proves that the encouragement of these skills is necessary to develop the next generation of innovators. Here are four soft skills and how they are developed at TriValley CoderDojo sessions:
1. COMMUNICATION. Within the domain of communication is a seemingly endless list of skills such as public speaking, negotiation, verbal and visual communication, intercultural communication, and conflict resolution. These skills cannot be overemphasized because communication (in all its iterations) form the basis of every interaction we have. Whether you plan to start your own company, freelance, or work for a major conglomerate, it is necessary to cultivate these abilities. Opportunities to utilize it are also abundant: interviews, interacting with your coworkers, giving presentations, networking, or even vying for that promotion. You name it and communication is involved.
Examples of communication are abundant at TriValley CoderDojo. The kids practice their public speaking and delivery skills by presenting the rules at the beginning of each session and their projects at the end. If unsure of how to do something, they must talk to both their peers and mentors to figure it out. This communication fosters a sense of community in which the members are encouraged to use their voice to advocate for themselves and in the service of others.
2. TEAMWORK.In school, group projects are often reviled or revered, but the main idea—teamwork—never goes away. It permeates every facet of life including the workplace, volunteer work, friendships, and extracurricular activities. Furthermore, the skills derived from teamwork extend into collaboration, customer service, and interpersonal skills. They can teach the art of persuasion, of empathy, and how to deal with difficult or uncomfortable situations. Whether you like it or not, teamwork is here to stay.
In addition to its prevalence in life, teamwork is a hallmark of TriValley CoderDojo sessions. The participants collaborate to troubleshoot problems and ruminate together over possible solutions. They work in teams to present their projects and encourage one another to answer questions. It is not only a community of budding learners, but also a giant team. It is important to note that teamwork is not limited to the coders themselves, but it extends to the volunteers as well. As a completely volunteer-run organization, these sessions and the opportunities to learn would not be possible without the dedicated parents.
3. CRITICAL THINKING. Critical thinking is also necessary in every field. Problem solving, flexibility, and creativity all fall under this umbrella. The ability to encounter a problem and fix it yourself is a boon to any individual working any field, especially technology. Jobs in the tech field are oftentimes at the forefront of innovation and as such, answers cannot always be found online or in textbooks. This is where the importance of critical thinking becomes evident. Whether troubleshooting an old problem, brainstorming how to work around a new one, or inventing previously unseen technology, creativity and flexibility of thought are a must.
As the programmers at TriValley CoderDojo methodically work through their individual projects and interests, critical thinking is key. Anyone who has worked with Scratch, Python, Java, or any other program knows that the process it not always a smooth one. Uncertainties arise, but they present fantastic opportunities to learn and develop a self-initiated style of learning. As the participants attend more sessions, they become accustomed using their critical thinking abilities to not only solve problems, but triumph in the face of them.
4. LEADERSHIP. Leadership is in the daily tasks of work, the decision-making, and the managing of predictable and unpredictable situations. You can be a leader by example or someone to whom others go to for advice or guidance. You can be a leader both with an official title or without one. The importance lies in taking initiative and encouraging others.
At TriValley CoderDojo, leadership is often exemplified through the process of mentoring, taking initiative, and encouraging peers. Participants can read the rules at the beginning of each session and present their work at the end. It is in these moments and the moments between that many of the coders learn what it is to be a leader. Whether that manifests itself in encouraging a new member to be brave and read the rules or in a smaller moment of mentorship, those who attend these sessions have weekly lessons in leadership. As they grow more comfortable and fully realize their own potential and the power of peer mentoring, the leader in each child shines through.
TriValley CoderDojo sessions exemplify the importance of developing soft skills in any organization. They may be underappreciated in the technology industry, but they play a key role in cultivating young minds to be the beacons and leaders of the future, just as these sessions show us what learning can look like when done right.