Tech Talk column with Keith Macintyre

Tech Talk: The coding curriculum

It’s an exciting time in education in our province

Recently I had the opportunity to be a mentor with Lighthouse Labs at their ‘Train the Trainer’ session in Kelowna.

Lighthouse provides an eight-week intense, accelerated bootcamp for people interested in becoming a web or mobile developer. I recently hired one of their graduates and I’m impressed with the skills they have taught in a short period. It would be great if there was enough interest to have another Kelowna session.

Lighthouse, in partnership with Kids Code Jeunesse was contracted by the Ministry of Education to provide training to teachers for the new K-9 Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies Curriculum. Generally, in the media it’s presented as the ‘coding’ curriculum, but this is not entirely true. There is already coding in the schools, and it’s not expected that coding will be taught in every grade. Instead, it is introducing Computational Thinking into the classroom. My youngest son asked me if I could teach him to make a computer game when he was only eight years old. I found an online course for him (http://www.youthdigital.com/) and within months he had created his own computer game that he still talks about proudly. My older son was given access to Code Combat in Grade 7 and I was impressed with the real programming skills he learned while having a great deal of fun.

In the previous few months I had heard from several teacher’s that they were unsure, and in some cases terrified, about teaching the new curriculum. The most common feedback I heard was, “There are so many resources out there, how do we choose,” and “I don’t know how to code, will I have to learn?”

When I heard that Lighthouse Labs was contracted to provide this training, I contacted them immediately. I wanted to review their material and offer advice if necessary. I was pleasantly surprised when I reviewed the comprehensive material and approach to ‘training the trainers,’ and even more pleased when I was asked to be a mentor. Over the course of two days I was in a room at UBCO with over 30 teachers, including seven from Okanagan Skaha School District 67. When I ran into the Minister of Education, Mike Bernier I let him know that I thought this approach was great, and to make sure the spread the word to teacher’s across the province about the resources they have set up for them. In particular the Code BC site is comprehensive, explains the new curriculum and offers resources that have been evaluated by the Ministry. Whether it’s Scratch or Code.org there is something for students of every age, and I encourage parents to take a look and encourage your children to try out an hour of code. At the end of the session there was a better understanding of what the new curriculum is and how to implement it in the classroom

I also learned about being terrified myself! I agreed to teach the course to the staff at Holy Cross School on a Pro-D day. The material and training that Lighthouse gave me was great, and the staff at the school were fun to teach, but it was far outside my comfort zone to present for an entire day. I’m glad I did it and had a lot of fun. I’ve had the opportunity recently to teach entrepreneurship classes to a Grade 6 and Grade 8 class as well. I’ve always had a lot of respect for teacher’s and I have even more now that I understand the challenges of preparing and presenting to students. It’s an exciting time in education in our province and I’m looking forward to seeing our children be prepared for the competitive global tech industry in the future!

Our next #TechBrew is May 19 at the Barking Parrot from 6 to 9 p.m.

Keith MacIntyre is a tech columnist for the Penticton Western News and the owner of Big Bear Software Inc.

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