A sneak peek into the CEL Kids Hackathon 2019

Team of 2 students making project on UN’s Sustainable Development Goals during CEL Kids Hackathon 2019

Five years back, I started teaching coding in low income resource schools seeing the amount of thinking and creativity it builds in kids besides learn a language relevant to this century which can help them create technology based solutions. 10 of my students got a chance to present in front of a team from Apple which came to our school. While they were presenting, the team asked them couple of questions and to my surprise they were confidently able to answer. Students were so overjoyed with the presentation and were smiling ears to ears and became excited to learn more (similar to the picture in line below after one of the coding sessions we had in our partner school). That day, I learnt that to be life-long learners it’s important for kids to showcase their learning.

In the last five years, as I have grown as educator, I have failed-learned-reinvented a number of initiatives where I have created lesson plans and shared with teachers, published a book, facilitated free coding workshops for children and teachers, created videos lessons, worked with organizations/schools to create curriculum and implement coding and even registered a non-profit.

An article, 10 Ways Competition Enhance Learning, by Josh Neubert on the website of Competition of Institute Science Josh breaks the common misunderstanding about competition and describes benefits of it with research back impact. I understood that competition conducted in safe and collaborative environment could lead to so many benefits and learning which are very essential in our current world.

With CEL Kids Hackathon, the idea is simple to bring back my learning of giving kids in India a chance to showcase their coding talent to a larger audience, appreciate their work, make them feel overjoyed and inspire them to be life-long learners.

CEL kids Hackathon, a collaborative coding event to help kids showcase their coding talent. This year 1000+ children participated in CEL Kids Hackathon 2019 from 50+ schools (government, low income and international) across 8+ cities in India. Students were give a problem statement where they had to code animations, games and applications to spread awareness about the UN Sustainable Development Goals in context with their surroundings.

Few important things that we have focused in the CEL Hackathon consciously are as follows,

  1. Relevance in projects!
  2. Collaboration among students and teacher
  3. Showcase opportunities for all
  4. Celebrating everyone’s participating and creation
  5. Feedback on each and every criteria highlighting the strengths and areas of development
  6. Diversity in registrations
  7. Flexibility to suit needs of as many as possible
  8. Support to help children and schools showcase their best
CEL Kids Hackathon certificates having feedback on each evaluation criteria for every kid

These are from experience and conversations I have had with multiple educators who are passionate and have worked in sector for a decade. Recently, I read a case study EFFECTS OF COMPETITION IN EDUCATION: A CASE STUDY IN AN E-LEARNING ENVIRONMENT by Iván Cantador, José M. Conde Departamento de Ingeniería Informática Universidad Autónoma de Madrid Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain which analyses the effects of competition in education and identifies the benefits and drawbacks of forcing students to compete themselves during their learning process, and investigate a number of features a competitive learning activity should have in order to motivate students, and improve their academic performance. I was happy to see that the features of CEL Kids Hackthon 2019 were alignment with the features mentioned in the case study to motivate students to perform better.

Kids showcasing their project in their schools during CEL Kids Hackathon

Kids of age 10 have made amazing things to not only spread awareness about UN goals like No Poverty, Gender Equity, Climate Action, etc. but also have made games in fun way to make people learn about the steps they can take to progress towards the goal. For example, one of the teams has made a game like Sim City (a popular mobile game) to spread awareness about climate action. In the game, the user’s happiness and hunger level keeps decreasing. The users have to buy things on day to day basis to keep themselves happy so as to avoid depression and stress and keep themselves healthy. In doing so, there is waste generated so the game lets users decide what they should do with the wastes that are generated on day to day basis. In the process of playing game, the users learn about the types of wastes which they are supposed to recycle, compost or throw. There are many applications like this which the kids have coded in the CEL KIds Hackathon 2019.

Winners of CEL Kids Hackathon at Felicitation Event in Chennai

In my experience, the usual education process is about scoring marks, rote learning things, getting jobs, earning unimaginable amount of money and having a luxurious life. However, with CEL Kids Hackathon 2019, one shift I saw was that children researched about the problems in their surroundings, found creative solutions, coded projects and the whole education process was focused towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable development Goals to make our world a better place.

As per research of Aspiring minds, less 5 percentage of engineers passing out of college are able to write basic logical codes which is a basic requirement of a job in India. One of the major reasons for this is that kids don’t get to code in schools and explore the beauty of it. There is challenge of curriculum, expertise, infrastructure, etc, which stops kids from coding.

Coding in 21st century is a great skill to have because of the digital revolution. It is more valuable in India as we have diversified huge market which required scalable and customizable solutions like Oyo, Uber, Facebook. This is possible using technology and in order to leverage technology we need people who can talk with computers in a language computer can understand. Coding is art of telling computer things it is supposed to do.

I believe that kids learning coding from young age (Bill Gates started at 10, I guess) can be leaders bring out huge technology based revolutions in India finding solutions to problems and making our life easy.

In 2020, our vision is reaching out 3000 children from 10+ cities from government school, low income and high income and would love if we are able to inspire more girls and give them equitable opportunities so that they are able to secure a place in top 6 winners.

Irfan Lalani

Things I shared at TECH 2018 at UNSECO MGIEP


It was wonderful sharing with audience at TECH (Transforming Education Conference for Humanity) 2018 at UNSECO MGIEP on 17 November 2018. This blog is just to share a gist of what I presented at the conference. I hope you enjoy reading it.

I think creation is an important aspect of transformation. However, in our education system as Sir Ken Robinson said that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.

Besides creativity, ASER data is telling a lot about the huge academic gap kids have in India. One of the many reason is the current pedagogy we have in class which is more about “the teachers” prepare and transmit information to learners and “the learners” role is to receive, store, and put down the information in examination paper. This helps students in classroom to clear the examination but doesn’t empower them to critique and create to be conscious and responsible towards self and society.

I am sure we all have seen classrooms lagging behind the grade level. Generally what you would see in the classroom is read aloud of texts, assignments, discussions, assessments, activities to understand content and may be teacher showing videos/presentation about a content to help kids understand.

I think that are three main challenges with current pedagogy,

1) Teacher Led

Firstly, the classrooms are mostly teacher led where students would mostly be doing things what teacher have instructed which never let them take initiatives to learn and come with ideas.

2) Passive Engagement

Second was passive engagement where kids are receiving information and storing it without engaging, thinking, interacting and reflecting about the information.

3) Lack of Opportunities to Create and Showcase

Thirdly, there are rarely opportunities for them to create something out of the information received and showcase to people around and have feedback which is a good transformative experience.

It’s good that we have realized that we need pedagogy to provide transformational experience by letting kids to think, critique and create their knowledge, belief and vision.

Digital Technologies seems a good tool to have transformational pedagogies in classroom as it allows, scale, personalization, speed, increase engagement visualization, imagination and ability to create things. However, we are still looking forward to know,

  • What does it look like?
  • How does it will increase the learning outcome of the main stream subjects?
  • How does it help to building creativity, critical and systematic thinking skills?

19th century was more about electricity which changed the way we lived. Now, it’s the computers that are significantly revolutionizing the things around. We can see it is transforming agriculture, energy, shopping medicine and many more things by allowing us to create technologies increasing our effectiveness and efficiency. One of the fundamental things in creating these technologies is making computer understand that what it is supposed to do to complete a task. And this is called computer coding. Using the ability of computers to do task at very high speeds and with their decision making abilities we are able to do things easily which were earlier not possible or difficult for humans.

For me, coding is a tool which lets you think and create magic. Thus, I believe that coding has a lot in transformative pedagogy.

I was introduced to Scratch in second year of my teaching career. Scratch is a programming language which is block based which means that you can just drag, drop and snip the blocks to write your program to create things. I prefer Scratch to bring coding in classroom because,

  • It’s easy to use, no need to remember syntax
  • It allows you to brig relevance and context as you can include your surroundings in your creation.
  • And it allows you to see things as you are building which brings immediate gratification which is wanted a lot by today’s generation.

I have seen that coding games and animations on Scratch can be a good resource to introduce objectives or let student practice certain learning outcomes. I have seen that it helps kids visualize, build curiosity, engage different types of learners and help them remember things. This leads to better understanding and sustainable learning with excitement increasing the learning outcome.

Few of the benefits of coding games and animation to introduce learning objective in class for teachers are,

1) It saves time as you don’t have to research on Google to find games or animations to engage students.

2) Moreover, you are able to create things specific to the need of classroom in a way that it supports  teaching style of teacher.

3) Also, its free, perpetual and a great resource for school.

Kids also code and start creating things they want to make which could be about self, things learnt in classroom or something they would have seen in their community and sat after school in computer labs thinking, discussing and coding projects. And when their project is finished they would present in front of all class. Here, the role of teacher is redefined as they now have to engage in discussions asking questions to help them simplify things and connect them with resources

The shifts which I have seen in classroom with coding are,

1) Kids are taking Ownership

From a teacher led classroom where they followed instructions, kids are taking ownership as they come with ideas to create, have discussions, code, fail, try again and keep on doing it.

2) Consumer to Creator

Kids were now not only consuming the technology but they are thinking and using information to create things which are not only restricted to class but also about the things from the community.

3) Kids realize their growth

Kids showcase things created with peers, let them use it, have feedback on it. This allows them to see and feel joy that how their skills are being used. This builds confidence and allows them to do more.

I have seen that teachers spent a lot of energy in mastering the content and transmitting it to kids, which they record, play during exam and erase. I have done this too. But I think now is the time when  we need a systemic change which empowers teacher to facilitate experience for kids to explore, think, question, critique, learn and create their knowledge belief and values and I think coding can be a good tool for it!

Irfan Lalani

What a post graduate in computer science has to talk about the coding session?

I have done my masters in Computer Science and I personally love to develop new things in computer through coding. When I read about Code to Enhance Learning, I instantly got connected by the idea and can’t resist myself from contacting them.

I went to one of the center near Lal Darwaja, Ahmedabad last Saturday.  Although kids’ Navratri vacation was already started they came for this session with so much enthusiasm. They learnt about how to make a Book which was first modeled to them and then they made their own book on their favorite topic with their own ideas.  I was so glad to see the curiosity of each and every student for making something new and different.

Best thing I noticed was whenever any kid had any doubt they didn’t ask directly to their teacher but they first tried to solve it by their own intellectual skill and ask their doubt only if they can’t solve it by their own trial and error method.  I guess this is how coding is learnt where they learn through trial and error methods instead of immediately getting solution which improves their thought process and makes them better performer.

Moreover, whenever they got to know something new they instantly shared it with their friends and constantly trying to help each other. I felt that they were enjoying coding like playing their favorite games with their friends. Ten minutes before the session get over they all sat in a circle sharing their experiences and even presented whatever they have made to whole class.

It was actually a great opportunity for me to be present in the class and observing spark of coding in the eyes of many talented kids. Thanks a lot to Code to Enhance Learning for introducing this new and a much needed hobby to this generation. According to me, Code to Enhance Learning is working hard for finding and nourishing talent of coding in the students of elementary grade through their very precise and easy to understand curriculum.


Nidhi Dori

We invite people in class to observe and be part of the class to learn coding. We urge people to share their experience of being a part of the class so that we can capture the experience, publish it on the blog and give hundreds of people a chance to be part of the experience. Here, is one such blog written by Nidhi Doria, apost graduate in computer science who currently works in banking sector, sharing her experience of being in the coding class of Code to Enhance Learning on 13 October 2018.

Shalini shares her experience about first visit to the coding class!

We invite people in class to observe and be part of the class to learn coding. We urge people to share their experience of being a part of the class so that we can capture the experience, publish it on the blog and give hundreds of people a chance to be part of the experience. Here, is one such blog written by Shalini Kumari sharing her experience of being in the coding class of Code to Enhance Learning on 26 September 2018.

“With the enhancement of technology, I always feel I am missing something because I am not very
updated. I was a fellow at Teach For India, for two years, in one of the schools in Ahmedabad. I
always wanted the kids to get the best and the most updated and how I felt about technology,
they shouldn’t feel about it. This introduced me to coding by Irfan Lalani, fellow at Teach For India, Ahmedabad leading a non profit initiative called Code to Enhance Learning. This was 2 years back.

Currently, I work as a Program Manager in Teach For India. I visited a school where Teach for India and Code to Enhance Learning both has intervention. I learned that Code to Enhance Learning has intervention in different low income schools where the support is given on curriculum and resources around coding. Teachers are also coached so that they are able to execute lessons in class during schools effectively and efficiently.

While observing, I happened to stop by in a coding class in grade 4 in Shama School, Shahpur, Ahmedabad having intervention of Code to Enhance Learning. The kids were engaged in unplugged activity to learn coding. The activity started with 30-35 4th graders, who were asked to make lemonade. The entire session was planned to bring the concept of “Experimentation”in the kids.








Kids chose their partners and started working in pairs. The creativity, enthusiasm, fun in the room amazed me. I wish I were the student of that class. To enhanced the rigor of the class and to bring the essence of experiment, kids were given turmeric powder to add in lemonade. They did add turmeric and hence understood what ‘experimentation’ looks like.

It made the kids visualize how experimentation looks like and it became so easy to make them understand the concept, meaning of experimentation, ingredients, the real life application of the same.

It was a pleasure to watch the kids so engaged, one of them connected the session back to “loop” which was taught in previous classes, one of them shared how she was asked to make lemonade with sugar, salt and water but never added turmeric.

Overall it was one of the great experiences by just observing the session as an audience.”

Shalini Kumari

Program Manager

Teach for India, Ahmedabad


First Closing Ceremony at our Computing Centre

On 17 May 2018, we had our first Closing Ceremony of the very first workshop to give kids an opportunity to showcase their learning to others, spread awareness about coding and start building a community to support coding for all kids. I am writing this mail to share the joy and happiness from the ceremony and I am sure that you will enjoy reading it.
This summer, with the thought of reaching out to more kids to give them an opportunity to get introduced to coding, I decided to start up a center where any kid from any background can come and learn to code. I randomly reached out to few school to share space and, luckily, Edunova Higher Secondary School in Maninagar, Ahmedabad opened the space for us to start up weekend coding workshop.
On 6 May 2018, I started the first batch with just 3 kids. The 5 weekend summer workshop focused on introducing coding to kids with Scratch and help them learn concept of sequence and skill of abstraction by making an interactive application to make a Penguin move and talk, to create a fortune teller to understand abstraction and create a rhyme player in their voice. Also, we had volunteers come in helping kids in their project and share their experience about computer science. The priority was to create a space were kids get exposure to coding through different ways and are able to enjoy the process of creation by working with peers, volunteers and facilitator.

In the ceremony, kids presented their Rhyme Player having their favorite rhyme recorded in their voice. They were felicitated for all the hard work and received certificates from Mr. Porko Mudaliar, Director, Edunova Science Higher Secondary School. Also, we had Ms. Divya Mehta and Ms. Shreya Chaudhury who work in Knovos and Oracle respectively to share their journey with Computer Science. Both of them gave an insightful talk in their style helping audience to understand the benefit of computer science and coding personally and for the society as well. I for the first time realized that having IRCTC is such a blessing of computer science as I can remember that how long I had to wait in queue to book the train tickets when I was young.  The ceremony ended with a Q and A session and feedback where the audience asked question about what could be done to motivate kids to learn coding and what are the resources available to help kids learn to code.

After organizing this workshop, where the place got gifted to us, parents and teachers promoted about the program, volunteers came on Sundays to support kids to learn, guest speakers enthusiastically accepted the invite to talk with kids, I strongly realized that there are so many people to help and support who strongly believe in making excellent education accessible to kids.

So, on one hand when I see the ambitious vision that every kid codes to express and problem which seems quite daunting but then on other hand there so many people extending unwavering support and working in tandem to make the vision come alive.

This blog is gratitude to all such people who directly or indirectly give their best to help kids learnt to code, a much needed skill in current digital era!

25 June 2018                                                                                                                                      Irfan Lalani

Teacher's Experience with coding on Scratch

On 04 April 2018, I was very excited to meet few of the teachers to discuss about the year in the end of year conversation from a low income all girls school where the Code to Enhance Learning program had an intervention.

I was ready with all my questions that I had to ask to gain as many insights as I can and soon two teachers entered the room for the conversation. After exchanging few pleasantries we got started.

As we progressed, my excitement grew ten times seeing the enthusiasm of the teachers with which they were expressing their thoughts, realizing the importance of coding and how simple Scratch is. I felt elated when they started making connections that how Scratch can be used to teach Arabic letters.

Usually, I am not very fond of taking videos and selfies however over the period of 3-4 years in education especially in low income communities I have realized how important is it to share and that too share with honesty so that it helps people understand the work and needs of the kids. Its like sowing seeds and you never which seed will grow how and benefit others. So, I paused the conversation and shared that we should take a video of this.

I can still vaguely remember the initial days of training when one out of the group of 5-6 teachers asked what is coding? I tried my best to explain about it and the benefits of coding still could sense reluctance. However, I feel grateful for them that they showed courage and decided that lets move ahead with the program and we will understand more about it as we progress.

Since then its been like a roller coaster ride with downfalls like behavior management of kids, timing and pacing of the lessons, assessments not working, etc. However, it came up with regular leaps as when teachers used to share that how kids are using concepts like sequence in their writing lessons, parents asking for Scratch software, kids making certain projects which would touch hearts.

This video reminds me of a poem called Ithaca which talks about importance of journey when you set out for a destiny and the true treasure lies in the journey itself. I feel that its the journey that the kids, teachers, school leader and other stakeholders have been through for the year which has helped us reach here, the place where a teacher, with negligible knowledge of coding, from a low income school is confident about her ideas with coding to teach kids in the best possible about the current digital world.

Irfan Lalani

08 May 2018


Women's Day Celebration + Exposure Visit

On 7 March 2018, the kids from Shama School enrolled in Code to Enhance Learning program visited Ahmedabad University’s School of Applied Science and Engineering to explore the space, meet faculty and students and see the relentless work they do each day in field of computer science and other engineering stream so that it helps them get exposed to the field, make connections with themselves and the work they do currently in the coding program in school, envision and dream about their future and make informed choices about it.  The whole program from the University was coordinated by the Women Empowerment Cell of the University and that’s how we got to celebrate the Women’s Day also. 🙂
During the visit, the kids got to visit labs of computer science, mechanical and chemical engineering where they got to see different chemical experiments, robots and algorithms of logic games presented by students of the University and later they got a chance to interact with the faculty of the university as well.

In addition to exposure to the technical side, I found this visit a great way to face fear to talk to others, build social skills, see and meet different people from the society which I think really boosts confidence and helps kids challenge the status quo of their current thinking and dreams and helps them go big. Also, as they where received with so much love and care it builds security in mind and makes them feel loved and have a sense of belonging which I believe even further boosts confidence and helps them to initiate things and contribute to others.
In future, with Code to Enhance Learning program, I envision that how community of people from universities and organization could be developed who all could make concerted efforts as per their feasibility to help kids make connections, think, dream and envision things about their future which will help them make informed choices.
– Irfan Lalani

Hackathon for Kids

On 3 February 2018, we organized a Hackathon for Kids under the project Code to Enhance Learning at, a low income school, Shama School, Ahmedabad which was an hour sprint event where kids were supposed to make an application or animation about self or community which they like and or want to change to express or solve a problem on Scratch, block based programming environment developed by MIT Media Labs. The participants were then asked to present their project in front of a panel of 2 judges, who were from Teach For India staff, Fellow, Alums, story teller, guest professor and in house teacher, followed by Q & A. The purpose of the Hackathon was to give kids chance to showcase the skills relevant to current world which they have been learning as part of the coding course in this academic year of Code to Enhance Learning.

It was an all girls event where 40 girls participated from grade 4-9 in the Hackathon and made 40 different projects and all were about different things like Girl power, Children’s Life, child labor, transport systems, water pollution, etc.  The projects were either in form of animation or interactive virtual books. It was nice to see that all of them came planned with the layout of the project and content with some good deliberation and few even came up with steps written about what they will do. The project of kids were gauged on seven criteria i.e. project completion, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, perseverance, experimenting and abstraction in a simulating a real life situation as we asked them they could refer to any resource, ask questions even to judges, collaborate with peers, etc. The kids would now be given feedback on their performance on each criteria which they can discuss with their teachers and understand the steps which they can follow to grow on the skills.


There were many interesting things I saw in throughout the event and really felt overwhelmed. Firstly, the amount of support the school and the judges, who were even not related to the school or project, gave so that kids are able to perform best to their potential spending time with them, helping them, motivating them, etc. I saw that each one of us had the feeling of community working towards something big. Secondly, the kids are so hungry to create and things and they observe things around well. They never blinked while coding and at certain point when the room didn’t have judges or school staff still there was no noise and they were so focused.


One last amazing thing was the grit and never give up attitude I saw when few of the girls lost their project because of some technical issue they for a second didnt drop their shoulders and immediately tried making it again or started presenting the project without dropping their shoulders. I specifically remember one girl sharing that “(in Hindi) Sir kuch bhi ho bas karna hai!

I hope that you enjoyed it!

Scratch is good thing…

Scratch is a good thing and day by day we are getting to learn new things on it. We have done so many projects but my favorite project was things around us because after completing my project I included my voice in tin ad made it play by animals. The thing which I got in trouble was to take sprite to backdrop. The things which I liked very much in Scratch was that we were using different backdrops and different sprite in every project. By Scratch we got to know that may be people making cartoons or presentation uses Scratch. We got fresh and every time we learn new things.

First we were doing paint and were typing so we were just writing that things which were given. But in Scratch we are including our ideas and we are making it on our own so we stared thinking our project by us and doing it by our own.


7th Grade student.


Scratch?? We don’t know that what is Scratch because at first, we do Wordart and Paint, etc. And then bajji gave us this project called Scratch and the first project of Scratch is Penguin and Fish. At first, we fell hard to build this project then we feel easy because whenever, we don’t know how to do this so that time bajji helped had help teach us, help us to solve our problems and when we make this project we feel that we are doing something new and creative work.

When we are making the projects we collaborate with each other like we help each other, we were sharing new and more ideas, etc.

Next project was flying helicopter. In the helicopter project we want to move helicopter from four side and we want to choose two sprites. So, it was getting difficult for us but, whenever doing more and more practice and consentrating on the project. So, it gets easy for us and we get more creativity. While doing this project when something is difficult for me. So, my friends help me and bajji too. After that we had so many projects.

When we are making the projects we collaborate with each other like we help each other, we were sharing new and more ideas, etc.

From this projects and Scratch we know about how to do the creative things.

Grade 8 Student

30 January 2018

[This is a blog by our student who wanted to share about her experience of coding on Scratch with others.]