Coding kids: Windsor school uses universal computer language to break down barriers

It's like a classroom from the future — rather than the typical notebooks and pencils, students at Prince Edward Public School are using tools like robots and coding techniques to learn.

Kids at Prince Edward Public School are using robots and coding techniques to learn

Students engaging in self directed technology based learning. (Melissa Nakhavoly/CBC)

It's like a classroom from the future — rather than the typical notebooks and pencils, students at Prince Edward Public School are using robots and coding techniques to learn.

"We learn how to code robotics and we move them by technology like an iPad and certain apps," explained 10-year-old Gavin Langlois, while programming a "Bee Bot" machine.

"We're playing and we're learning about how to play with robots," said Jahida Alhalla, a 12-year-old Grade 6 student.

The elementary school students are encouraged to think outside of the box, in a creative area called the 'Maker Space.' The room features a green screen, multiple iPads, robots, building blocks and tools.

There, kids are given the freedom to program and explore using the technology to create.

"They are much more engaged," said Kylie Myers, teacher and librarian at the school. "It really gives a chance for all students to access the learning."

Grade 5 student at Prince Edward school coding electronic piano with play doh and a laptop. (Melissa Nakhavoly/CBC)

Myers oversees the Maker Space in its common room location at the school, which is home to a large number of new Canadian students.

While many face language barriers, those difficulties disappear in the Maker Space where hands-on learning is the focus.

"The barriers are taken down because the language is universal. When students are making, it doesn't matter what language they're making in," said Myers. "You're designing, you're planning. It doesn't matter if you're speaking English, French or Arabic. It's all the same".

The Maker Space program was introduced in September as part of a research project facilitated by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Prince Edward School is the only Windsor school involved.

"We're researching to see if allowing children to engage in the Maker Space will  evolve them in the design, the development and the discovery of their own learning. So we're hoping they become proficient in the 21st century competencies like innovation and collaboration," explained Myers.

Students in Maker Space program learning robotics and coding. (Melissa Nakhavoly/CBC)

The research project is in its first month and will last approximately one year.

"We're looking to find how do Maker Spaces help students achieve better results as well as confidence," said Fouada Hamzeh, teacher consultant with the Greater Essex County District School Board, who helped bring the program to Prince Edward.

Both Hamzeh and Myers said so far they've already seen a vast improvement in student's confidence, team building and comprehension.

"The students are excited. They feel like they can do it. They want to persevere. They want to work through their problems and any challenges that come up. They don't give up. They want to make it work".

Langlois admits working with coding and robotics can be a challenge, but said Maker Space class is still the best time of the day.

"My favourite part is the coding," he said. "It's really fun to move your robot. It's really unique."