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Creative Code is a prize-winning World Design Capital 2014 recognised project. Winner of a WDC2014 “Best Pitch” award (27 May 2014), Creative Code introduces school kids to computer coding, making coding and visual design more accessible through youth media, gaming and mobile phones. You can see some of our lessons here.
Winning pitch: The Creative Code team at a World Design Capital 2014 pitching session
Who are we?
I’m Marion Walton from the Centre for Film and Media Studies at the University of Cape Town. At UCT I teach courses in Digital Media, Interaction Design and Mobile Media and Communication and I convene a stream in Interactive Media production.
Creative Code is run in partnership between the Centre for Film and Media Studies from the University of Cape Town, and Ikamva Youth, a multi award-winning youth development non-profit organization. Ikamva Youth relies on volunteer tutors and equips learners from disadvantaged communities with the knowledge, skills, networks and resources to access tertiary education and/or employment opportunities once they matriculate.
Ikamva Youth branch coordinator Zukile Keswa at the Makhaza Branch
We often work collaboratively with staff and postgraduate students from Computer Science and UCT’s Centre in ICT for Development.
Bhavana Harrilal from the Centre in ICT4D with Paul Mesarcik from Thingking
The Ikamva Coders are twenty eight members of Ikamva Youth, ages fifteen to eighteen. They participate in a volunteer-run after-school programme, attending extra-mural homework and tutoring sessions and holiday workshops.
Why creative code?
I’ve been teaching BA students to code for almost a decade now, and it’s my favourite thing in the whole world. It’s particularly exciting to think that by giving young creatives and particularly young women the power to create and command digital media I can contribute to a more inclusive and diverse web. At UCT our admission programme is highly selective, and it’s even tougher for students to be accepted to our Film and Media Production Programme. It really helps if students have a prior school background in Visual Art, Graphic Design. For the stream in Digital Media and Informatics it’s useful if they have a foundation in Information Technology and Computer Science.
It’s always troubled me that in South Africa so few students from township schools have the kind of background I look for, or even have any experience of coding, web development or digital media as a hobby. My research also keeps reminding me how incredibly ironic this is – although computers aren’t a big part of the scene, young South Africans are engaged and highly skilful users of digital media – mostly on their mobile phones of course.
In 2012, with the encouragement of my wonderful colleague and mentor Gary Marsden I finally decided to do something about this situation. My goal was to find out what it would take to get kids coding on their phones. Of course step one was to get them coding in the first place. I knew that multi award-winning youth development non-profit organization Ikamva Youth would be the perfect place to start the project.
With the help of Ikamva Youth Makhaza branch coordinator Zukile Keswa we started Creative Code as a project to teach coding skills and computational thinking from a media literacy perspective. In 2014 our project was selected as a recognised project for the World Design Capital 2014 initiative and we haven’t looked back since!
What do we do?
A low-cost media literacy coding curriculum is presented through weekly lessons and longer workshops during summer and winter vacations.
Khazatown Blues: A localised version of Super Mario
Projects emphasize youth culture (mobile photography, pixelart games) and local visual languages and media (beading, patterns and fabric design) to engage students with the logical and procedural dimension of visual design.
In contrast to the ‘black box’ approach of most digital literacy curricula, Creative Code emphasises tangible programming, embodied learning, web-making, visual design, FOSS development processes, and game design and development.
A central goal is to engage young people in meaningful creative digital design projects. Over the past eighteen months, the Ikamva Coders have produced several original games and many visual designs. These experiences and learning processes have been documented with the aim of producing curricula, learning materials, and research into the representational and conceptual processes at work as young people learn about coding and digital design.
Logo for Khazatown Blues – a game developed by Grade 12 students from Creative Code.
Careers and further study
We also encourage and assist the coders in applying to courses of study involving digital media and Computer Science. The Coders learn about various opportunities that are open to them – not only Computer Science (where Maths can be a big barrier) but also the many creative career paths which today require digital skills or coding.
We mobilise code
Our key long-term aim, is to make our coding lessons accessible to young people via low-cost mobile phones and tablets, and to use our research to improve the accessibility of such introductory materials. Right now we’re experimenting with our own tablet apps, and with the great resources available for mobile coding from TouchDevelop.
Tablet app and Arduino display on show for WDC pitch.
Why coding lessons?
Only the most privileged young South Africans have opportunities to study Visual Art or Information Technology at school level. According to the Department of Basic Education, in 2013, only 4 874 of SA’s 562 112 Grade 12s studied Information Technology and only 6 755 studied Visual Art for the National Senior Certificate. This means that only around 1% of matriculants are getting a foundation in the subjects which would help lead them to careers in Digital Media or Computer Science.
Our Facebook page
You can make a donation via our crowdfunding campaign on Thundafund
We publish our artwork and games on our website
More about Ikamva Youth
Ikamva Youth http://ikamvayouth.org/