by Heidi Riley
In May, students from West Kent, Elliot River, and Stratford Elementary schools showcased video games they developed in their classrooms. Classmates, educators and the public were welcomed to explore the students’ interactive exhibits and speak with them about their innovative video games.
The students learned coding skills through a program funded by the PEI Department of Economic Development and Tourism. Coding Quest is Canada’s largest classroom-based coding program. This year, more than 38,000 students in grades 4, 5, and 6 from across this country participated.
Developed by The Learning Partnership, the program is available for free to public school students, challenging them to apply critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, as well as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills to design and build their own computer games.
“On PEI, 18 schools participated,” says Guy Albert, Program Manager of The Learning Partnership. “In September 2016, we trained 34 PEI teachers to help students learn computing and programming skills. This program is integrated into the curriculum though subjects such as science, language arts, social studies, and other areas.
“Most students play video games, but they don’t know what is behind the games. Coding Quest gives them an introduction to how to create characters and objects and make them move and talk. They use a simplified code called Scratch. It focuses on analytics, structure, and sequencing, and is very tied to math. For example, once they know what a 90-degree angle does on the screen, it helps them better understand geometry and the theory behind it.”
“This time last year, we were just starting the process of integrating coding into our school system,” says Doug Currie, Minister of Education, Early Learning and Culture. “The teachers who were trained to teach this skill were hugely successful. We will continue to build on this success in other schools. We will continue to teach coding skills, which improve students’ ability to solve problems and think critically and analytically.
“Coding skills are one of the most in-demand skills in today’s workforce. Employers look for people who understand programming, and who can apply technological solutions to specific needs. These jobs are growing, not only in the technology industry, but across all sectors. And there are not enough people to fill those jobs.”
“Introducing coding skills is one of the biggest curriculum changes I have seen in my lifetime,” says Heath MacDonald, Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. “Coding skills are extremely important for the next generations moving forward into the future. There are many positions available right now for computer program developers with IT companies. It is one of the hardest positions to fill. These are well-paying jobs, and the demand is only going to increase.
“Other jurisdictions like British Columbia and England have taught coding skills in primary schools for years, and PEI needs to catch up in order for students to fulfill their dreams of good jobs in the future. Whether it is a Smartphone or a calculator or a car, coding plays a part in the development of technology.”
Students showcase their video game creations
The students combined their interest in a certain subject with the fun of building a video game. One student made a math concept more understandable by using an x/y axis to aim a soccer ball into a net. Another student explored the best treatment for a concussion, including sunglasses for light sensitivity and healthy food as a way to recover.
A grade 5 student from West Kent Elementary school made a game which teaches users about the respiratory system. After information is presented, the player answers a list of questions. When the correct answer is chosen, the character’s costume changes.
He says he chose the respiratory system because it was a game he could upgrade, and it was fun to do. From information he found on Wikipedia, he put together information on the respiratory system, and also wrote the questions and answers for the quiz.
This school project is not the first game this student has developed. He started by experimenting with different code to see what would work, and sometimes asked people if he got stuck. He has 50 published projects so far.
From The Learning Partnership website:
Why is it important for young children to learn coding skills?
As Canada’s workforce evolves and becomes increasingly digitalized, the skillsets needed to compete in a global economy are evolving as well. Close to 90 percent of jobs now require basic information, communications and technology (ICT) skills, yet there’s a chronic shortage of skills in the Canadian tech sector. One study predicts that Canada will be short 180,000 ICT workers by 2019.
Coding is increasingly viewed as the next language for the next generation of workers. As schools begin integrating coding into their curriculum, here are three ways to spark your child’s interest in programming.
- Encourage exploration. Give your child enough room to play and explore on their own. The process of discovery is a core component of a coder’s world. Encourage your child to experiment with different tools to find one that ties into their interests. It’s as much about the journey as the outcome.
- Foster creativity. Programming is as much about being creative as using STEM skills. Programmers like to solve common problems or address previously unfulfilled gaps. Encourage students to be curious. Push them to learn how things work and find creative solutions to problems.
- Connect them with made-for-kids tutorials and programming languages. There are many resources to help students navigate the world of programming, including:
ABOUT THE LEARNING PARTNERSHIP
The Learning Partnership is a national charity dedicated to building partnerships to support, promote and advance publicly funded education in Canada. Since 1993, more than 6.5 million students have participated in The Learning Partnership programs.
For more information, visit www.thelearningpartnership.ca.