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Volunteer Nick Redshaw talks us through his recent Test Driven Development Workshop at HMP Humber

I recently visited the Code 4000 workshop at HMP Humber where I ran a Test Driven Development workshop. 

I knew that some of the men had been learning NodeJS (server-side JavaScript) so I wanted to introduce them the to concept of Coding Katas and Test Driven Development (TDD) as tools for improving their coding skills.

Coding Katas are (deliberately) simple coding exercises and like their martial art counterparts are intended to be repeated regularly. Doing so will increase the developer's skill with the programming language and tools that they are using.

I began by talking a little about software complexity and why we would want to test software. I covered the different types of test that are available and the benefits of automating any tests that we create. It was then onto describing the process of Test Driven Development or 'TDD' itself. The men asked questions throughout and were engaging well with the subject.

After a break for lunch we began tackling the Fizz Buzz Game coding kata which I had broken down into four separate exercises. I demonstrated the first exercise on screen whilst the men watched. They then went back to their workstations to try it for themselves, mostly in pairs which I encouraged as pair programming is a useful skill that is becoming more widespread in the software development industry.

After a few inevitable syntax errors and the odd bug most of the men successfully completed the first exercise and had created an automated test and the production code that made the test pass. A fantastic effort and achievement when you consider that they had only started learning to code in JavaScript recently and that they have no internet access to help them when they are stuck.

We continued developing the remaining three exercises and some of the men even managed to finish one of the extension exercises that I'd suggested.

Personally I found the day to be a hugely positive experience and look forward to returning in 2018 to run further coding workshops.

Nick Redshaw

 

Code 4000 is exactly the kind of pioneering partnership that we need to encourage. It brings together prisons, businesses and teachers to address the country's demand for digital skills and local regeneration, and giving prisoners relevant employment and a new future.

PAMELA DOW
Chief Reform Officer, Catch 22

To give ex-offenders the confidence and skills they will need to get a job - and critically keep it - we need to engage prisoners in work experience and training in custody which accurately reflects the employment market in the communities they will return to. For the first time Code 4000 gives those in our custody the opportunity to engage in a training programme to become the ‘coders’ of the future.

JASON SWETTENHAM
Head of Public Sector Prison Industries, HMPPS

Having been deeply impressed after visiting The Last Mile prison rehabilitation program at San Quentin Prison in San Francisco in 2013, I was delighted to be introduced to Michael Taylor, who had aspirations to create a similar programme in the UK. Since that time, Michael has shown vision, creativity and tenacity in launching Code4000 at HMP Humber. I hope that he will continue to receive the support from the prison estate to extend this vital initiative across the country.

ANDREW DIXON
CEO, Arc InterCapital

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