Tuesday, 24 March 2015

From Consumers to Innovators

This evening I listened to CBC’s The Current Kids Learn Computer Coding in Class to Help with Problem Solving Here is what I learned and reflected on Part 1:

The Codemakers program is an initiative that aims to change the way that youth view and interact with computer science. They plan to roll out transformational computer science content across Canada (workshops in schools, summer based programs, coding clubs, after school professional learning) all delivered through Actua’s network of University Partners. The program teaches students how computer science and coding are impacting their lives and how it is connected to things that matter to them. For example, we know that kids love video games and the program is designed to take them from being consumers of this technology to being able to code those games and build their own. To know what it feels like to be in the driver’s seat of that technology. Codemakers is all about having students make the transformation from being consumers of technology to being innovators of technology. Jennifer Flanigan gives the example of the saying “There is an app for that” and how they want to talk to kids about what this actually means.  There is an app for that because someone has created it. They saw a problem, identified that there was a user that had a need, thought creatively, applied analytic skills and actually coded a solution. They then shared this with millions of people. And the coolest part - this is something kids can learn to do NOW. They can learn to code and bring the stories in their head to life! 

Jennifer Flanigan reminds us that when we engage students with high quality computer science content it’s teaching them about computational thinking. It’s teaching them to take a big problem and break it down into small manageable chunks. Students have the opportunity to analyse data and make decisions based on that data. It gets them to think creatively, work in teams and trying things out. It is about building computer science skills that can can be applied now and in the future. Jennifer also talks about 21 century skills as complementary skills that are going to be critical in any field students pursue in the future. 

Google Executive Eric Schmidt describes the need to bring coding to kids to fill the shortages in the Canadian and worldwide job markets. He states that the education system needs to change to produce them. 

Computer science is going to be involved in every sphere of our lives and workforce. Knowledge and skills in computer science are going to be critical for students to understand so they are empowered to take on those jobs. 21 century skills such as collaboration, creativity and critical thinking are essential for pushing innovation forward. 

Another benefit of coding that Jennifer discusses at length is the ability it has to allow students to fail in a productive way. She describes this as a component that is vital to innovation. For example, when a code doesn’t work you get immediate feedback, then you need to go back and look at your code, revise it, collaborate to find a solution, fix it and move forward.