School computer coding should start in kindergarten, says P.E.I. tech advocate

Kids need to learn computer coding starting in kindergarten, says a P.E.I. technology advocate.

P.E.I. should add computer coding to curriculum, says IT chair

Grade 7 students at Stonepark Intermediate School take some time at lunch to demonstrate their skills at computer coding. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
  Kids need to learn computer coding starting in kindergarten, says P.E.I. technology advocate Maureen Kerr.

Nova Scotia has just announced that it is making computer coding a part of the curriculum. Teachers will cover the basics of computers with students in Grades Primary to 3, while older students will learn how to write computer programs — or code — starting next year.

Eventually maybe we could lead to every student on P.E.I. learning how to code.— Maureen Kerr, tech advocate
  "I'd love to see P.E.I. follow Nova Scotia and have coding integrated into the curriculum for grades K to 12," Kerr told CBC News.

  "It's part of a bigger plan with Nova Scotia, like a strategic plan, to try to retain youth and talent in the province ... We should be doing the same thing here."
Maureen Kerr would like to see every student on P.E.I. learning computer coding. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Kerr, a director of the P.E.I. Home and School Federation and chair of the federation's information technology committee, is also a member of the advisory council to the minister of education on technology in schools.

For the last five years, Kerr has been offering an after-school technology club she created after she realized her two sons were getting limited access to computer programming in school. Last spring, 15 students at Stratford Elementary took part in her sessions, which included coding.

 'Sooner or later kids are going to have to find out how to work technology'

"It helps with our understanding of the Internet because technology's a big part of our lives now," said Gabe Redmond, who was part of the technology club, and now attends Grade 7 at Stonepark Intermediate.

These students learned coding at an after-school techn club led by Maureen Kerr. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
  "The way technology's evolving so quickly today, sooner or later kids are going to have to find out how to work technology and how to use it," agreed Grade 7 student Ben Bassett as he worked on coding a game.

Kerr points to other jurisdictions that already include computer coding in the curriculum, such as the U.K. and different parts of the U.S.

Kerr said the government's investment of $5 million in mobile computer labs should make it easier for teachers to start to teach computer coding.

Hour of Code could be starting point

  ​Kerr is also lobbying for more Island students to be involved in the Hour of Code, a global initiative that introduces youth of all ages to computer science, with the goal of demystifying coding. In 2014, tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries participated in the Hour of Code.​

"If all the schools could try it, and get on board with the Hour of Code then eventually maybe we could lead to every student on P.E.I. learning how to code."


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