Saskatoon

Students at Westmount School learning to code with help from tech giant Google

Google runs CS First, a free curriculum for students aimed at making coding simple to teach and engaging for the students, using open source software developed by MIT.

A teacher knew about Google's CS First program and contacted the company to arrange the opportunity

Google's CS First program teaches students to code in a way that is engaging for them and simple to teach. (Supplied by Veronica Baker)

Students at Saskatoon's Westmount School are learning to code at ages 10 and 11 with the help of American technology giant Google.

Google runs CS First, a free curriculum for students aimed at making coding simple to teach and engaging for the students, using open source software developed by MIT.

Aaron Genest, head of SaskTech, a provincial advocate for digital technology and advancement, said learning digital skills will be essential for a developing labour force in the long-term.

"Google's a big company. They have long timelines. They're thinking far ahead," Genest said on Wednesday.

Genest said a projected 250,000 jobs in Canada will require skills like coding and arithmetic. Not all of those jobs will be in the tech sector either, he added. They could be jobs in mining, energy or agriculture for example.

Katrina German, a digital marketing strategist, said people should be aware Google has an agenda, with aims like maintaining market share.

"The question is, do we want that in our schools?" German said.

Google trades and gets its money from data, German said.

"They've assured people that they're not going to be gathering data from the kids," she said. 

She said that transparency is important but still something to be conscious of. Kids should know they can opt out if they want to, she said.

From left to right, Aaron Genest, Katrina German and Jason Dunk. (Rosalie Woloski/CBC)

Google employees will teach students best practices and strategies for coding, according to Jason Dunk, chief technology officer with Saskatoon Public Schools.

It's not uncommon for companies like Google or Microsoft to promote professional development opportunities, so a teacher at the school reached out to Google, Dunk said.

Dunk said he will be watching Thursday's session closely.

"Each opportunity, we would scrutinize individually and this would fall into the more of a professional development opportunity that isn't necessarily touting Google or their their products per se," Dunk said.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning

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