Sunday, 3 May 2015

Growing techno kids from a young age
(excerpt from an article I wrote recently)

Computer Science jobs are among the fastest growing and highest paid and yet across the world women are significantly under-represented in this area. Recent New Zealand research reveals that the contemporary computing industry is predominately a male domain and the proportion of women employed in many computing occupations is decreasing, despite recent efforts to attract more women into the industry (Hunter, 2012). The proportion of women studying towards computing careers is also declining and evidence of pay discrimination within the industry is one factor affecting the choices women make regarding careers and education in computing (Hunter, 2012).

On the global level IT is one of the fastest growing sectors in the US economy with an estimated 1.4 million new job openings projected by 2020 (Caffell, 2014). Over two-thirds of these jobs could go unfilled due to an insufficient number of computing graduates – a shortage that could be eased by encouraging more women into the sector (Caffell, 2014).

Promotions like “girls can do anything” have failed but the education sector is still committed to ensuring that girls will have every opportunity to participate in this field, have the skills required to undertake study and eventually the positions and the opportunities they offer in their future careers.

So, what does this look like in practice from a committed school perspective? From their very first day at school, five year olds are introduced to programming and coding within the class curriculum. Students are engaged in construction and programming through a range of tools including WeDo, Scratch and Beebots. These experiences enable them to learn and apply mathematics and problem solving concepts in a fun and creative way.      

In Years 3 and 4, as part of the Maker Programme, students are introduced to Design Thinking and this enables them to solve problems using a range of technologies including the 3D printer. They are learning prototyping and the importance of grit and resilience in learning.

Further up the school, students progress from Beebots to more complex Robotics tools. They program robots to complete rescue missions or play soccer with an illuminated ball with infrared sensors. What an exciting way to apply real life problem solving and higher order thinking skills! The Year 7 and 8 students create websites where they share their learning using HTML and CSS. The experience of writing computer code is extremely challenging but the students display a growth mindset showing determination and perseverance to complete tasks.

The school’s latest computer science venture is an after school Code Club. The students are deeply engaged in learning complex applications of Scratch as well as HTML/CSS and Python.

We all know that today’s students barely remember a time before the Internet, email or digital media. Using technology such as Robotics is a great way to ensure our learners are creating, not just consuming information technology. We should feel confident that our students are learning the computer science skills and knowledge that will help them thrive in this fast-changing world.

Selwyn House School is offering a professional learning day for teachers in Canterbury on 26 June focused on “growing techno kids”. Flyers will be sent via email to all primary schools this coming week. The day consists of inspirational speakers and a choice of workshops. We would love to share the day with you.

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