The Magic of Coding
Code is everywhere! We find it in our mobile devices and computers, our home appliances, toys, automobiles, industries, financial institutions, and the internet. Code is the glue which holds our software and hardware together and binds us to our digital worlds. With more computational power available in the palm of our hand than there was 50 years ago to the Apollo Missions which first brought our astronauts to the moon,our culture often overlooks the Computer Scientists and Engineers which have brought us to where we are.
Global events like the Hour of Code and national events like Canada Learning Code have done a wonderful job at raising awareness about Coding and Computer Science. Encouragingly, allCanadian Atlantic Provinces are working to develop strategies and implement supports to help teachers and students take coding beyond awareness and an hour or two throughout the school year. Our region is well underway into transforming how coding, computational thinking, and innovation is perceived, taught, and used by teachers and students. Coding truly is magical and is proving to be a real world Super Power for the 21st Century. From Drones and 3D printing, medicine and bioengineering, rocket science, energy, Virtual and Augmented Realities to robotics and computational devices, the web, mobile applications, gaming,entertainment, data, big data, open data, and the Internet of Things (IoT), wearable technologies, cyber security, autonomous vehicles, machine learning, artificial intelligence, Blockchain, Smart Contracts, cryptocurrencies, the decentralizing web 3.0, and thecomplete transformation and paradigm shift of computation which has arrived through superposition andentanglementavailable to Quantum Computing. Who wants to wait for strings of Ones and Zeros to get lucky and try to find the exit to the maze one path at a time when Qubits can explore it almost instantaneously? A globally competitive and rapidly shrinking world blazing forward 24 hours a day, 365.25 days per year, will not wait for Atlantic Canada to keep upor catch up. We must do what we’ve always done best. Work together, pick ourselves up by the bootstraps,and work very, very hard to develop a comprehensive solution which assures our young people will not just follow and consume but create and lead us into the 22nd Century.Code allows us to develop anything our imaginations create and will allow us to explore and betterunderstand the universe in ways thatwere once only possible in sciencefiction.
With this Super Power comes tremendous responsibility. In the very near future, automation will create ethical socio-economic dilemmas as many current fields of employment will no longer be necessary or relevant. Code and innovation will help redefine traditional industries, and we will create technologies which can either heal or hurt our planet and environment. Culture is being transformed through social media and access to information and withnet neutrality, security and privacy are very real concerns for every new application and technology developed. Artificial Intelligence needs to be developed very cautiously if we are to heed the warnings of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking as programs and robots don’t make mistakes, it’s the human programmers and developers behind them who do. Those who can’t adapt, keep up, or better yet, thrive in this digital world may be viewed as obsolete and a societal burden. We must be vigilant and proactive as every action now influences the future of our youth and their wellbeing in the decades to come.
Governments, the education systems, and the educators within have a much greater responsibility in making certain our future generations will have an active role in defining their own futures than most would eve imagine. They aren’t the only ones responsible however as success hinges on a concerted and intentional approach comprising of community members, governments, private sector industry, and post-secondary working hand in hand. Human psychology, physiology, and wellness are directly linked to technological innovation and code. We need to empower our youth to take the lead. Atlantic Canada’s
population is aging at an alarming rate and this issue will be compounded by the fact that we are already facing the disappearance of traditional jobs to automation but also the prospect of a future comprised of hundreds of thousands of unfilled STEAM and Coding related jobs. This will have devastating consequences for Atlantic Canada if we can’t generate our own Computer Scientists, software and
hardware engineers, researchers, and other key responsibilities required to support the socio-economic growth of our region.
The next two years will be crucial in Atlantic Canada and will serve to build onto the cornerstone placed almost 4 years ago by the CodeKids documentary and the great work being done across the region by many
teachers and students with support from community, business, and educational leaders. Where the call to
action is urgent, and the tone alarmist, there is a very positive outlook for the region but only if we continue to push forward. We still have an incredibly arduous path to climb up this digital mountain and, where there are great things happening, we are nowhere near where we need to be. Students and teachers throughout many
schools and communities are pushing the boundaries of how students are coding to learn rather than simply
learning code in isolation or for the sake of just learning code. Project Based Learning, through more than
800 projects supported by Brilliant Labs since its inception, is proving to be a perfect delivery mechanism as it allows students to problem solve collaboratively and persevere with code as they work on projects that
have meaning for them. They construct their own understanding and curricular outcomes are infused
throughout their coding projects by the professional educators facilitating their learning. Close to 100 school and community makerspaces are currently supported by Brilliant Labs and where they are wonderful environments helping youth think creatively, foster innovation, and develop an entrepreneurial spirit, and also
providing students with opportunities to code in meaningful ways, it is in stark contrast to what is happening in the large majority of our schools and communities.
A synergy between provincial, postsecondary,
private sector, and federal programs are essential to sustaining these efforts, and allowing students to code while solving real-world Atlantic Canadian problems. CanCode, a
recently developed federal program with a goal to help more than 500,000 students to learn to code will kick off in the new year and allow local, regional, and national partners to work
collectively to support the many
current awesome Atlantic Canadian
Here’s the best part and where the magic of coding develops! We will let you in on a bit of a secret… Where many adults fear the unknown, and are reticent to learn code or expose
kids to coding, youth are absolutely loving it! Where adults see it as intimidating, youth see it as fun puzzle solving. Where adults often have no clue where to start, many students turn to their peers or technological tools like the internet and YouTube to find answers. Is coding easy? It can be! There are endless amounts of entry points for children across the K- 12 spectrum to be exposed to coding and the educational tools at their disposal have grown exponentially in the past few years. There are an infinite number of projects students can undertake and work to apply dozens of different computer languages. We share these this blog, on Facebook & Twitter Feeds, or previous edition of this magazine to catch a glimpse of the type of projects students are working on with their teachers. In short, there is something for everyone!
For example, great teachers like Manon Richardson of l’école Camille Vautour in Saint- Antoine, have even found ways to empower grade 6 students to help all other students in their school to learn to code. Her students have been working in their school’s makerspace and developing coding and technological projects through a weekly Genius Hour to better prepare themselves for today and tomorrow’s opportunities. Students tackle design challenges, work with robotics, coding, and multimedia. Since September 2016 grade 6 and 7 students have been offering specialized 6 week coding and robotics workshops to students from Kindergarten to grade 8.
Think Virtual Reality is too complex for Middle School students? Mikhael, a grade 8 student from le Centre d’apprentissage du Haut Madawaska has entered the world of VR development using Microsoft’s Mixed Reality platform. He’s been hard at work developing both a Unity3D powered game and a VR website for his school. We recently asked him how he got started and why he was interested in coding and technology. He shared with us that he began working with Arduino micro controllers and Minecraft in grade 5 because he enjoyed creating his own things. He was very interested in VR so decided to learn how to use Unity3D and C# to develop his own game.
This game will be on display at Clair 2018, the largest Francophone educators conference east of Montreal which takes place in Clair, NB from January 25th-27th. His game, which is currently in development, includes driving a vehicle around a small city, entering a store, and purchasing materials for use in his school’s green house to help students learn how to plant seeds. He’s overcome many challenges with research on the internet, including the need to pay attention to syntax and capitalization. In the future, he plans to continue to develop his own games, help fix computers (he also helps run his schools HACCÈS program where students manage and operate a Linux laptop lending program for other students), and he has a goal to develop his own company technology company.
Educators need to look no further than Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development and scaffold student learning to assure their students experience success and a continued thirst for not just learning code but for lifelong learning. Is there a better tool than coding to support future proof creative problem solving and critical thinking skills? Computational thinking in a makerspace or team project setting seemingly exemplifies all 4Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Creative Problem Solving, and Critical Thinking) of 21st Century education and turns dialogue into action! We may not have control over the weather here in comparison to California’s Silicon Valley, but we can certainly work together to create a situation where our young people want to reside and can thrive. We just need to make sure it happens and happens fast.