The Current

Kids learn computer code in class to help with problem solving

There's a push to teach children as young as five how to code, teaching them concepts to go beyond consuming digital products, and perhaps eventually prepping them for jobs major corporations can't now fill.
10-year-old Kate Morrison is a student at Dalhousie school in Winnipeg. Every week she learns computer programming. There are calls to make all Canadian students study computer coding, to provide opportunities in the future. (Photo taken by Acey Rowe.)

"Knowledge workers are the ones getting the raises, getting the jobs and so forth. There are shortages worldwide in all of these fields. So the education system needs to change, to produce them." - Eric Schmidt, Executive Chair & Former CEO

At Dalhousie elementary school in Winnipeg, a group of students in "Coding Club" get together every week to learn computer programming . As part of our series By Design, we're looking at a push in many schools to redesign programs to make that kind of student activity more common, and maybe even mandatory. Because alongside reading, writing and arithmetic... there are many who would like to add "coding" to the essential skills taught in our schools.

Computer coding is showing up on more and more elementary schools curricula worldwide, every year — and that includes schools here in Canada. In fact a new nation-wide initiative starts its rollout today, in Iqaluit, with the goal of exposing 100,000 kids to coding over the next three years. It's a joint program, backed by Google and the Canadian organization Actua —- a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics outreach program for youth.

Jennifer Flanagan is Actua's president and CEO. She was in Ottawa. 

At present, Canada has a patchwork of different coding programs in schools, with kids in Manitoba, New Brunwick and Quebec, exposed to various programs. All schools in Prince Edward Island teach it, while it's up to individual teachers in British Columbia and Yukon. 

As for a national approach, the Canadian Teachers Federation has its concerns.

Students need a broad curriculum in order for them to be able to develop the types of skills that we want to see our students leaving school with, so music, physical education, art. When there are cuts being made in a school, those are areas where we tend to see those cuts happening- Dianne Woloschuk, President of the Canadian Teachers Federation

This is the first school year with the new coding curriculum in place in the U.K.  And it's thanks in part to Rachel Swidenbank. The former high school science teacher is now the International Lead for the organization Code Academy, which helped bring the new program to English schools.Rachel Swidenbank joined us from London, England. 

Getting coding into the classroom may be one way to beef up the next generation's digital literacy skills... but it's hardly the only way. And you won't be surprised that there's an app for that - developed to help kids learning to code. The app is called Scratch, and to tell us more about it we reached Mitch Resnick. He is a professor of learning research at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Would you welcome a redesign of school curriculum so that all children learn to code, or is it better left to kids with an interest to experiment with an app?

 Tweet us @thecurrentcbc, use #bydesigncbc. Find us on Facebook. Or email us through our website. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Sonya Buyting and Sarah Grant. 


♦ Coding in British schools: A review of the first term - Rachel Swidenbank, Computerworld UK

♦ Finally, a Way to Teach Coding to the Touchscreen Generation - Wired

♦ Kids Code Jeunesse - Introducing kids to computational thinking 

♦ Code Kid Movement: Resources & Video - For Your Action

♦ Brilliant Labs -  Support for teachers and organizations working with children to teach computer science