School board says coding a part of learning culture for three years
The mounting interest and need for students to learn code has been recognized in Kawartha Lakes for three years now — and school board officials expect that interest to grow.
“Very quickly we realized the powerful and deep connections to thinking, creativity and curriculum,” says Laura Blaker, communications officer for Trillium Lakelands District School Board.
In moving forward, Blaker says the board is “trying to increase the number of students and teachers within our board who can code.”
“We have a number of consultants to help connect coding to thinking, creativity, and curriculum,” she says, while there are also Google groups and communities where educators can connect and share information.
Lindsay Advocate columnist, Ryan Oliver, who is also a tech expert and Lindsay-based entrepreneur, recently wrote that the United Kingdom implemented a coding curriculum in 2014 that affects all students from as young as Kindergarten and makes computer science a mandatory part of school curriculum for the entire length of a student’s public school education.
While British Columbia followed suit, Oliver says Ontario has not done anything this ambitious and he says it’s to the detriment of students.
Tina Franzen is the technology services coordinator for Trillium Lakelands. Her assessment of where Trillium Lakelands is at is very different than Oliver’s.
“We’re on the road to making that happen. We embrace coding in many platforms, and we were the first board in Ontario to order micro bits.
Micro bits are mini computers with sensors. They can be used to code music, determine temperatures, design animations, and much more.
“You are controlling this mini computer — you’re going to tell it what to do, using block coding,” she explains, noting there are “so many great ways for students to see the output,” such as with robotics.
As the board’s coding page on their website states, their introduction to coding a few years ago led to some immediate conclusions.
“Very quickly, we realized the powerful and deep connections to thinking, creativity and curriculum. As we continue to move forward, we are trying to increase the number of students and teachers within our board who can code.”
While coding is not a specific course, says Franzen, that’s because they don’t see it as a “siloed curriculum.”
“It’s more like everything is integrated.”
An increasing number of Kindergarten to Grade 8 teachers are recognized as coding teachers. Technology coordinators like Franzen work with teachers “to gather strengths in their coding experience.”
She says many teachers, beyond the designated coding instructors, are embracing coding on their own through self-study.
“We support them too,” she says.
While coding is not a specific expectation at the curriculum level, she says it’s all part of the “global competencies” that the Ministry expects boards to teach.
“We don’t see it as an isolated thing.”
Franzen says they try to emphasize to students that computers and technologies are not smart.
“A human designed this – we’re creating the technology ourselves.”
Franzen says they are hoping that by building confidence in students at the elementary level, there will be increasing pressure to augment learning at the secondary school levels, too.
“When you have students come in wanting this, then high schools can offer it. It’s all about demand.”