Early computer literacy movement grows in New Brunswick
Proponents say coding should be integrated into school curriculum as much as reading, writing, math
A movement is growing in New Brunswick to teach children how to program computers.
Proponents say introducing computer coding technology early in the school curriculum could be the key to energizing the provincial economy.
Micah Peterson, an information technology specialist in Saint John, says the public education system isn't doing enough to integrate computer skills with other subjects.
Peterson has decided to home-school his children so they can learn computer literacy along with reading and writing.
"If they're not going to be computer literate by graduation, and I don't just mean computer literate, but knowing how to manipulate and produce things with the computers that they're given, I don't think they're going to do very well or make it very far," he said.
A group of New Brunswick entrepreneurs is pushing in the same direction.
David Alston, chief innovation officer with the IT company Introhive, travelled with filmmaker Greg Hemmings to Finland and Estonia, where computer programming language is taught in school to students as young as eight years old.
He calls their work a "grassroots movement" that teaches children to think critically and creatively.
"It was really neat to see Grade 2 kids working on robotics, Grade 3 kids programming Xbox games for part of their lessons … They were using technology as a way of showing their creativity," said Alston.
'Over the next 20 years it's going to be the make or break for this province, and we need the best minds on it.- David Alston, Introhive chief innovation officer
"So the idea of getting to kids when they're younger, encouraging that creativity, celebrating it means we're going to have a generation that goes out very confident in terms of trying to solve problems.
"And over the next 20 years it's going to be the make or break for this province, and we need the best minds on it," he said.
On Monday, Alston and Hemmings released most of the raw footage from their trip on the website codekids.ca, including scenes from the early adopter schools in New Brunswick.
"We want to see buy-in from the community, students, teachers, policy-makers so that by next September we can start seeing kids getting engaged in this at a very young age," Hemmings said.
Last month the Alward government announced it's launching an initiative at schools in the province called Brilliant Labs as part of its ongoing efforts to encourage innovation.
Brilliant Labs, an umbrella for new investments from government and the private sector, will award grants to the most passionate and innovative schools, teachers and their students for projects such as coding, robotics and arts, Alward said.
Last year, during the state of the province address, Alward also made an $80 million commitment to fund innovation.
That funding has resulted in a pilot project called Kids Coding at schools, introducing technology to children. It is also helping to encourage entrepreneurship among students in the francophone system through a program called Place aux compétences.
Alston says schools in New Brunswick are already starting to present coding under the pilot project that encourages experts from the private sector to teach in the classroom.