Getting your head around coding

You have probably heard the buzz around coding, a language that has been described by both Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Business Council of Australia’s chief Catherine Livingston as a fundamental skill today’s students needs to learn.

Coding is soon to be introduced to the school curriculum, and a number of measures are being developed to provide primary students and their teachers with more opportunities to discover this elementary component of computer science. It’s not just enough for children today to know how to use technology, they need to know how it works.

Learning to code doesn’t mean you will become a developer. Experts say that coding helps nurture students’ problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. It strengthens logical thinking and supports key academic subjects such as science, maths and technology. By introducing coding, you can help students learn to create as well as consume the digital games they love to play.

It is anticipated that as more Australian students apply digital literacy skills to real world problems, they will become critical thinkers, innovators and problem solvers. And this can only be a good thing. By learning coding at a young age, primary students will hopefully grow up to be global citizens equipped with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

While the national push to make programming part of the school curriculum may take time to implement, there are lots of things you can do right now to encourage youngsters to learn to code. Be warned: like all online games, coding platforms can become addictive so be careful about how much time children spend using them.

Hour of Code
Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries with the aim of providing students from the earliest years with the foundation for success in any 21st-century career path. You can host an Hour of Code event anytime, but the grassroots campaign goal is for tens of millions of students to try an Hour of Code from 7-13 December. One-hour tutorials are available in over 40 languages. No experience needed and the project targets people of all ages from 4 to 104.

Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create interactive art, stories, simulations, and games – and share those creations online. Anyone can download Scratch and start using it to build very simple and very complex online creations with great results. Visit the online community of educators run by Havard for ideas and resources that will help you get started including lesson plans for children as young as preschool age.

This popular online game is a great way to introduce kids to code and direct them to interact with the platform in more complex ways as they mine, build and create virtual cities and landscapes. The MinecraftEdu platform hosts a version of Minecraft specifically for classroom use. It contains many additions to the original game that make it more useful and appropriate in a school setting.

Code Clubs
Some schools run a weekly lunch time or after-school Code Club or Coder Dojo. These are volunteer run programs that provide project materials and a volunteering framework that supports the running of coding clubs supported by mentors.

Digital Careers
With a focus on primary and secondary school students, parents, teachers and school based career advisors, Digital Careers is a national initiative that brings together industry, research, primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions (universities and TAFE), and government to reduce the shortage of Australian ICT professionals. Contact Digital Careers for information about how to promote ICT pathways to students.

Jackie Randles is the Manager Inspiring Australia (NSW).