Archair coding – John’s Story

Last January (2015) I joined the Armchair Coding Club that Lucy Knight had organised – an informal club for members to help each other start learning or improve their existing computer and coding skills. In the club we have looked at a few different programming languages (such as Python and Scratch) using a Raspberry Pi computer and completed some practical projects such as programming LED lights and buzzers, and a simple Space Invaders style arcade game.  We have also had staff members from other DCC sites visit the coding club to demonstrate new and interesting tech items (such as a 3D printer).

The logic required in coding has helped me be able to automate some of the Excel reports that we produce in the Children’s Management Information team – so rather than manually manipulating data then inputting formulae and graphs into a spreadsheet, all these items are now pre-populated so that when the data is copied over the reports are produced with a few button clicks.  This makes the process a lot quicker, as well as reducing errors.

The experience I have gained from the coding club also helped me when attending an SQL (Structured Query Language) course as part of my job role training.  SQL is a programming language that is used to extract information (in Table form) from a database such as the CareFirst system that is used by DCC’s Social Work departments.  Although the language used was different to those I had used in the coding club, there were similarities in how the language was structured.  I have also started practicing SQL in the club which is useful because it is protected learning time away from the office.

What difference has it made?

Now that we can produce some of the reports quicker, we now have more time to analyse the figures produced and look at what the numbers mean.  We are also now able to respond to ad-hoc requests more timely, produce more in-depth analysis and provide child level lists to aid social work teams in carrying out their roles and statutory obligations (such as when the child’s next visit or assessment is due).

I have also gained more knowledge and experience of Excel formulae and SQL, as well as using the experience gained in automating the earlier reports to improve the later ones (e.g. by making them more efficient, comprehensive and user friendly).

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