Finalist category: BT Young Pioneer
BT Young Pioneer, Finalist, 2019
It’s an incredible achievement to say that something that started out as a Saturday afternoon project is now being used in schools in more than 120 countries around the world, but that’s exactly how Edublocks started out. What’s even more incredible is that the creator of Edublocks, 15 year old student Joshua Lowe, was just 12 years old when he started developing it. Now 3 years on Joshua travels around the globe delivering teacher training, running workshops and giving talks about his software. It’s obvious to see why Edublocks is in the final for the Tech4Good Award Young Pioneer of the Year.
So, what exactly is Edublocks, it’s a drag and drop version of the computer coding language Python 3, which allows students to learn the Python syntax with minimal errors, allowing younger children to access Python. This is something that proves a problem around the world, especially in the UK since the introduction of the new computing curriculum back in 2014. The aim of Edublocks is to remove the barriers faced when making the transition from block based programs like Scratch, to the text-based language Python, easier for students and teachers, as presently there is no drop-in solution that bridges this gap.
Edublocks is being used globally by students and teachers alike and includes support for teaching Python using the micro:bit, CircuitPython and Raspberry Pi to people of all ages. Joshua came up with the idea after seeing fellow students easily getting bored and confused by the difficulty of text-based programming. “It was frustrating seeing students struggling with the transition to text-based programming, they were so used to getting results quickly and making their code work by dragging and dropping blocks, that when they then had to move on to having to write lines and lines of code, that then resulted in numerous syntax errors and the code not working, that they would lose interest. I thought there must be an easier way of transitioning the knowledge and rules already learnt from block based programming, to that of the text based language of Python.” Not only has Edublocks achieved this, it has also enabled younger children to start accessing Python and allowed teachers to become more confident in the delivery of this area of the computing curriculum.
Edublocks maintains a learning portal with tutorials, resources and lesson plans. It is an Open Source project which means it’s completely free to use and teachers and developers are welcome to contribute to the ongoing developments. “It’s really important to me that Edublocks is free for people to use, I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing tech community around me with so many people who have given up their time to help me learn new skills, this is just my way of giving something back.”