Local students participate in Hour of Code workshops

Teenage Sport

Local students participate in Hour of Code workshops

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 15, 2019

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Jamaican students have joined over 180 countries for the Hour of Code workshops through the Seprod and CB Facey Foundations and Halls of Learning.

The Hour of Code is a global learning event that takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week celebrated from December 9 to 15.

Hour of Code started as a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify “code”, to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science.

It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with one hour coding activities but expanding to all sorts of community efforts. The grass roots campaign is supported by over 400 partners and 200,000 educators worldwide. This year, over 115,000 events were registered.

The Seprod Foundation has been promoting and celebrating the Hour of Code in Jamaica for the past five years, by encouraging schools to host their own events, and conducting coding workshops in primary schools.

This year is no different. In partnership with Halls of Learning and the C B Facey Foundation, the Seprod Foundation has been executing 12 coding workshops, across six primary schools over the course of the week, impacting approximately 500 students and 12 teachers.

The participating schools are Maxfield Park Primary, Clan Carthy Primary, Kingdom Kids Prep, Boys' Town Primary, North Street Primary and St Aloysius Primary.

The students were introduced to the Swift Playground application, a free application that does not require Wi-Fi or an internet connection, making it readily accessible for schools to continue to use throughout the year. The students are guided through a fun and interactive activity using the swift programming language to give character instructions to carry out tasks.

The activity reinforces problem solving and critical thinking skills, while emphasising team work. The workshops are well received by the students and teachers alike, as it supports the new curriculum and the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) that was recently introduced in schools at the primary level across Jamaica.

The goal of the Hour of Code is not to teach anybody to become an expert computer scientist in one hour. One hour is only enough to learn that computer science is fun and creative, and it is accessible at all ages, for all students, regardless of background.

The measure of success of this campaign is not in how much the students learn – the success is reflected in broad participation across gender and ethnic and socio-economic groups, and the resulting increase in enrollment and participation in computer science courses at all grade levels.

Millions of participating teachers and students have decided to go beyond one hour – to learn for a whole day or a whole week or longer, and many students have decided to enroll in a whole course (or even a college major) as a result.

Executive director of the C B Facey Foundation, Anna Ward, was thrilled to have two coding workshops done at Boys' Town Primary, a school that the foundation has been working with for generations.

“Although many of the students are accustomed to consuming technology, the Hour of Code presented a unique opportunity for the children to interact with coding for the first time. Workshops such as these are crucial in generating excitement around creating digital content and improving critical thinking skills,” she said.

During the course of the workshops, Halls of Learning founder, Marvin Hall, commented that the increased focus on teaching the children coding skills, as they prepare for the jobs of the future, is equally important to address the gaps in their reading and comprehension abilities so that they may become properly prepared to take advantage of STEM careers.

Chairperson of the Seprod Foundation, Melanie Subratie, said that the Seprod Foundation continues to be committed to providing innovative and cutting edge learning experiences to Jamaican children.

“Computer science, and specifically coding, is changing every industry globally. Introducing children to coding at the primary school level is important in sparking their interest, and laying the foundation for building on their STEM skills. We encourage the schools to continue to promote these coding activities, ultimately preparing our students to compete in the modern world,” she said.

Highlights of the workshops include the presence of Members of Parliament Julian Robinson at Clan Carthy Primary and Mark Golding at Boys' Town Primary, and visits from representatives of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information at Maxfield Park Primary and St Aloysius Primary.

The Seprod Foundation's mandate is focused on strengthening families and communities, which it does through a focus on early childhood educational interventions, integrating technology into all learning opportunities, and empowering individuals through awarding scholarships and grants.

The Seprod Foundation also strengthens communities by investing in infrastructural developments that will uplift community members whether it is recreational areas, health centres, community centers or schools.


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