Why Kids Must Code

By SA SchoolNetwork (NPC)

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My name is Mauritz Kotzé and I’m the IT specialist and teacher at Parow North Primary school. For the last 3 years, I’ve been teaching computer application technology from Grade R-7.

  1. I was nominated in 2015 by Parow North Primary School, for the National teachers Award.
  2. I was the runner-up in the Western Cape for 2015.
  3. I’ve also been nominated this year for the excellence in technology enhance teaching and learning category (2016).

MY INITIATIVE

To make a difference in South Africa’s education through SA SchoolNetwork (NPC).

Students throughout South Africa can engage via internet, pc’s or smart devices to view resource material. Material from Skills Pro, My Cyberwall, the Departmental Rainbow books are some of the resources available to all students. I collaborate with Sandton Psychology centre of Wellness and Parenting Hub to post articles to my blog on a regular basis. Topics include, teen pregnancy, drug awareness and rehabilitation, guidance for parents, study tips, healthy living etc.

SA SchoolNetwork consists of an online directory for Parents, Schools, Teachers and Learners. It also serves as a substitute platform. The substitute platform provides an opportunity for newly graduate teachers to gain teaching experience and to support schools when they experience a shortage of staff. Thus killing two birds with one stone, a qualified teacher in a classroom (learning and teaching can continue) and the substitute teacher, gaining valuable teaching experience that enhance his/her CV.

  • My latest addition to SchoolNetwork is “Why Kids Must Code?” A platform for Schools and students who wish to acquire the skill of coding.

Why Kids Must Code is my initiative to provide kids with the experience, skills and knowledge of basic computing. A subject not offered at primary school level. Thus at the end of grade 7 a child may explore further the world of technology.  I’ve also developed my own lessons for coding and programming now also offered at Eversdal Primary and Welgemoed Primary.

Since 2012, I’ve grown a strong online community and presence by means of www.schoolnetwork.co.za (average 1000 views per month), LinkedIn (5148 connections), Facebook (2733 likes) and Twitter (6968 followers) Combined total of 14850 connections nationwide.

The most important rule in my class is: "We don’t PLAY Games, We MAKE Games". The students can engage and collaborate with one another, brain storm, making use of problem solving and critical thinking skills, to create their own games. I teach Computer application from Grade R – 7 at Parow North Primary School.

From Grade 2 to 7 children learn coding, making use of Scratch (By MIT). From Grade 4 -7, HTML, CSS are introduced and in Grade 6 – 7 Python and Java Script are introduced. The only disadvantage is that the children are so engaged in their projects (without knowing that learning takes place) that they want to stay in for break to test and make changes to their projects!

MY OBSERVATION

In general, kids use the IT centre as a resource centre or a place to play games, watch videos or participate in a literacy or numeracy programme. However, at Parow North I strive to teach computer skills. Not merely mouse skills but programming skills. If you want to play a game in my class, you have to make it. Based on the skills and knowledge gained by the learners, they are able to apply problem solving and critical thinking skills in their classes. They gain confidence and are able to ask questions. Coding requires comprehension and this is one of the skills, allowing our learners to excel beyond the classroom.

Key to my strategy is to remain a few steps ahead of the learners. This is no easy task in today’s age of technology and the skill level of learners. Thus I aim to make the lesson interesting and fulfilling for both experienced learners and the ones with little to no exposure.

I can see a tremendous growth in the skills of our learners. It is especially measurable when new learners arrive from other schools where they were not exposed to ICT. To assist learners from other schools (new learners). I place them with a stronger student and after 3 to 4 lessons, they are able to work at their own computer, with support

IMPACT ON LEARNERS (Based on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains)

  • Knowledge: New skills are taught on a weekly basis. I interact with a class for one hour, once a week. Learners have the opportunity to practice their newly-acquired skills at home. Students, who do not have access to a computer at home, are able to recall the previous week’s lesson and continue at the same pace as those with computers at home.
  • Comprehension: More advanced skills are taught and dealt with from Grade 4. Each child has a workbook, new concepts are explained. Learners are able to recall and to apply newly-acquired skills. This motivates and builds their self-esteem.
  • Application:They are able to apply their newly-gained knowledge, skills and experience at home when they demonstrate these to their parents. They are also able to apply the critical-thinking skills in a class context. Improvement is noticed in Mathematics and Literacy.
  • Analysis: The skills learned in the computer lab assist the students to think more critically and to ask questions. They understand concepts, such as sequence, input and output. It is rewarding to see how a child can apply a new skill in a different situation. It builds self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Synthesis: Children have enquiring minds. They want to learn. Programs, such as Scratch, provide the opportunity for a learner to understand how algorithms operate. They are able to code and understand how computer programs are created and developed. With this understanding, they are able to understand how desktop icons, tabs and links operate. They are able to duplicate certain functionalities or aspects of one program into another program. Linking commands, strings and codes in a specific pattern, allows them to create a structured algorithm. These building blocks enable the learners to apply their skills in other subjects; especially mathematics.
  • Evaluation: It is most important that learning takes place. It gives an opportunity for students to develop new skills. It also gives an opportunity for students to develop a “love” for certain aspects of ICT. This, in turn, can lead to entrepreneurial skills, job development and development of skills that can grow our country economically.

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WHAT WE OFFER

I’m thrilled to announce that since June 2016, two schools joined my afterschool programme. Almost 90 kids.

It is amazing to see how learning takes place, they learn maths, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. They can solve difficult problems, pose problems and set scenarios. They are able to take an abstract part of a lesson and apply it to a real-world situation.

During the September school holiday (2016), I’ve held a robotics workshop at my house for 6 kids. Please see this Facebook link.

They were able to assemble, program and solve problems with their Mbots.  This is something I would like to offer at schools, but due to the unit price (R1800), it is just out of reach for 20 kids in a classroom.

Since I teach at Parow North, I’m not able to offer the coding at other schools. I appointed two IT coaches to teach at Welgemoed and Eversdal Primary. Managing this initiative and teaching at the same time is not easy. These coaches must have basic computer skills (training provided by SA SchoolNetwork) and qualified teachers, or students perusing a fulltime career in education.

THE PROBLEM

The demand from other schools and home schoolers to run a similar programme at their schools, appointing coaches etc, are not possible for one person to manage. For this I require funding, donations or sponsorships, to run this initiative full time. I have three additional schools interested for January 2017, but without funding, I cannot run this initiative full time.

I’ve compiled an excel spreadsheet with three options.

  1. One, an online option (downloading lessons),
  2. Two, in school programme offered during the computer hour
  3. and Three, the after school programme.

WOMEN POWER

To have another robotics workshop, but to focus on girls. We have to equip women for this career. I mean, the first programmer ever to live was in fact a woman! This will entail proper marketing and promotion (Ada Lovelace. 10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852, was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.)

Funding will also enable me to offer these classes at a reduced rate at previously disadvantaged schools. Unfortunately, without funding, this will only stay a dream.

Based on White Paper 7 on e-Education: Transforming Learning and Teaching through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) – ICTs, when successfully integrated into teaching and learning,

  • can ensure the meaningful interaction of learners with information.
  • ICTs can advance high order thinking skills such as comprehension, reasoning, problemsolving and creative thinking and enhance employability.
  • It is further a motivational tool and enhance productivity.

Success in the infusion of ICTs into teaching and learning will ensure that all learners will be equipped for full participation in the knowledge society before they leave further education and training (FET) institutions.

These learners will invent new ways of using ICTs to realise the Department of Education’s vision of developing citizens who are critical and active lifelong learners. President Thabo Mbeki has underscored the importance of ICTs for social and economic development at numerous South African and international fora. “We must continue the fight for liberation against poverty, against under-development, against marginalisation” and “… information and communication technologyis a critically important tool in that struggle” (Imbizo for African Youth, 2001).

Digital literacy is seen as a “life skill” in the same category as literacy and numeracy.

EDUCATION POLICY GOAL

Every South African learner in the general and further education and training bands will be ICT capable (that is, use ICTs confidently and creatively to help develop the skills and knowledge they need to achieve personal goals and to be full participants in the global community)” This is also the vision which I share.

Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. The number of jobs that require coding is set to increase dramatically in the future, and there’s already a shortage of good coders.

MY VISION

Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. I believe that a quality computer science education should be available to every child, not just a lucky few. Learning the rudiments of computer programming can prepare us all to become more informed citizens and more confident members of a digitized culture.

Learning To Code Develops Problem Solving and Computational Thinking Skills. The skills that come with computer programming help kids develop new ways of thinking and foster problem-solving techniques that can have big repercussions in other areas.

Coding (also called programming or developing) is telling a computer, app, phone or website what you want it to do. Some educators and experts are calling it the ‘new literacy’—a subject so important that every child needs to know the basics to excel in our rapidly changing world.

CONCLUSION

Coding lessons in school will not turn every child into a programmer. But the new generations of children will not have to struggle in midlife, because those with an aptitude for coding will have discovered it at an early stage. And those who are less talented, it is thought, will at least gain an understanding of the digital world in which they now live.

Ian Livingstone “ ‘We’re teaching too many kids in schools how to use applications, not to build them,’”

THE FINANCIAL MODEL

Option 1 (Online lessons)

  • Home schoolers or students at a school who do not wish to follow our programme.
  • Lessons available online at R30 per lesson.
  • Students follow the tutorials at their own pace.
  • With 1000 students enrolled at R30 for 8 lessons = R240 000 per school term or R960, 000 per year.

Option 2 (In school programme)

  • A school purchase the curriculum for a year at R10 per child per term or R40 per year.
  • 35 schools with an average of 720 students = R252, 000 per term or R1, 008, 000 per year.

Option 3 (After School programme)

  • An IT Coach receives a school.
  • This serves as an extra mural code at the school. 50 students per school and 10 schools in total = 500 students.
  • R500 per student per term = R250 000 per term or R1, 000, 000 per year.

Funding required for:

  1. Marketing and promotion (Advertising)
  2. Visiting schools, offering demo lessons
  3. Lesson and content development
  4. Online material
  5. In school program
  6. Material for after school programme
  7. Appointing a bursar
  8. Invoicing and collecting funds
  9. Training IT Coaches
  10. Developing and overseeing the in school programme
  11. Training teachers to use in school programme
  12. Incorporate the departmental rainbow workbooks (Gr 1 – 9, Literacy and Numeracy)
  13. Attending workshops
  14. Providing workshops
  15. Purchasing m-bots, software and licences.

Funding is required to expand this initiative to make a measurable impact within South Africa’s education!

Thanking you for taking the time to review and suppor our exciting crowdfunding campaign!

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The Project FAQs

WHAT IS CODING?

Computer programming or coding is a 21 century skill every child should be learning!” (Steve Jobs). Code is everywhere, in every new gadget: robotics, drones, self-driving cars, watches, toys, 3D printers, your phone…

It is one thing to know how to use these technologies; it’s another, however, to understand the logic behind them. Some educators and experts are calling it the ‘new literacy’, a subject so important that every child needs to know the basics to excel in our rapidly changing world.

If learners are taught biology and mathematics in order to understand the world around them, then knowing the basics of how computers communicate—and how to engage with them—should be a given (Bryson Payne). Coding Is Fun! Beyond the practical reasons for learning how to code, there’s the fact that creating a game or animation can be really fun for kids.

When learning to program, kids understand and tinker with the digital world they inhabit. Coding draws back the seeming “magic” of technology so they can truly understand the logic and science that controls this technology. A discovery that is all the more magical. Four reasons why kids should learn programming.

There are many computer programming languages, but in general, they share a logic that can be learned at any age. Learning to code is not just about learning how to become a programmer or software engineer. Learning to code is about learning to communicate and create with the languages of the 21st century.

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