Lorien are delighted to continue working with the award-winning coding school MAMA.codes, as they roll out their new app, Looparoo.
Looparoo will enable children aged three to seven around the world to learn to code, even before they can read. The innovative app can be accessed on any laptop or tablet and guides young children to develop digital literacy at their own pace, offering career-enhancing skills and educational screen time.
As Looparoo gears up to be launched, we sat down with co-founder and CEO Liane Katz to discuss all things coding, their new app and how important it is to bring coding to children around the world, particularly those marginalised by the “digital divide”.
Tell us about Looparoo and what it’s designed for?
Looparoo is our brand-new app that we hope will help re-define coding education for Early Years children. The app is an important step in providing quality coding education on a global scale in a child-centred way and gives children the creative freedom to express their ideas, experiment and imagine coding adventures. It will be available to children as young as three, including pre-readers, and will be launching in Spring 2022 to children in the UK.
What inspired you to create Looparoo?
The idea for the app came about from customer feedback initially. Parents of children who attended our live taught classes were really keen for something for something to continue their learning and coding education journey outside the classroom.
Obviously, COVID-19 then came along, and it changed the landscape because, suddenly, 800 million school children across the world were being home-schooled and there was a huge uptick in appetite for educational technology products. Previous resistance to online learning disappeared overnight.
We realised there was a huge opportunity for us to build something that would work as a standalone coding course in children’s homes – giving families the flexibility to fit in education around their schedules. We were able to transition all of our classes to be delivered online in ten days without the loss of a single customer, then set about bringing the app to market.
What made you take the jump from your previous role to co-founding MAMA.codes?
I have had quite a varied career, though always working in the digital sector. Initially, I was a journalist at The Guardian newspaper for 12 years and did all sorts of things; online travel editor, multimedia production and news and politics – but I always worked on the digital side, publishing content into the app and website.
I was then asked to work on a very technical project of re-designing and re-building the website. It was a totally different role for me as I sat between a technical team of 65 developers, the business, the content team and the design team. I had to be the diplomat that translated messages between stakeholders and weigh up their priorities and requirements.
On this project, I learned that coding makes the world go round and I realised how creative the developers were. There was a misconception of what coders looked like and who could become a coder; I was very struck by the fact that, out of the 65 developers, 64 of them were men. The Guardian did hire inclusively, it’s just female coders were not out there at the time.
I then realised that I had been excluded from coding and these kinds of careers through various pressures and social factors, so the developers started to teach me how to code during our lunch breaks. I was steered away from STEM subjects at school and university, and studied languages and humanities, then went into journalism as a graduate.
I absolutely loved learning how to code, and I realised I was applying my skills as a linguist to the language of coding. I also realised that there was no reason why many people I knew couldn’t pick it up. I had two young children at the time, and I started looking into how I could get them into coding.
I left my journalism career and started my own independent digital consultancy firm. All of these contracts further drove home for me how crucial it was to be able to code or at least be literate in it. At the same time, coding was being added to the school curriculum and I was thinking, as a parent, “how can I help with this?”. I began looking at the market for children’s coding products and discovered a gap in the market; I couldn’t find anything that I thought would engage my very creative daughter.
This gave me the idea to figure out a new way to present coding as something fun and creative that enables children to make things they want to make. I co-founded MAMA.codes with two other London mothers working in digital industries and started out trying to de-mystify coding to parents who were terrified of it, then launched live taught classes across London and online.
What do you hope the impact of the app Looparoo will be once it’s released to children around the world?
We believe that every child deserves a quality coding education, but the problem is that, although it is on the English national curriculum from age five (and several others around the world such as Ireland and Australia) it’s still quite a lottery as to whether your child will be given consistent coding lessons throughout an entire academic year.
We all know about the budget pressures schools are facing and being an ICT coordinator is often just one more role forced upon a busy teacher without any budget or guidance. This leaves a gap in the market for products such as Looparoo which are super engaging and develop intrinsic motivations within children to continue their coding journey without draining resources from a parent or teacher.
We always wanted to go international in order to bring a quality coding education to as many children around the world as we could, not only to those who can afford it but to those children who attend our outreach programmes. My business partner Rumbi Pfende is from Zimbabwe and, when she joined me in running MAMA.codes, one of her core motivations was to bring this life-changing skill of learning to code to children outside of the UK who simply wouldn’t have that opportunity otherwise.
The app is designed so that the instructions are delivered in a child narrated voice via audio, so the child doesn’t have to read to take part, learn and have fun. We have also seen that, as we intended, girls absolutely love the app and can identify with the main mascot character who is deliberately not male or female.
We hope that the impact will be that coding becomes a fun activity that children around the world ask to do on a regular basis, and that this benefits them in their future career – whatever that may look like.