It shouldn’t come as any surprise to you when I tell you that here at the Microsoft Education Department we are head over heels, crazy passionate about the future of coding and the impact that it has and will have on young people. We are a technology company, so it’s almost obvious we would be an advocate for this once specialised skill to be taught throughout the curriculum and with intent of supporting a wide range of industries and job roles in the future. And of course there are those globally recognised tech innovators; Gates, Zuckerberg, Dorsey who also champion the cause of technology skills advancement. But what about people like Will.I.Am, Ashton Kutcher, Snoop Dog or Enrique Iglesias? Whether you know who these mainstream celebrities are or not, I guarantee your students will know who they are.
It seems the word on the relevance of coding across all spheres of life, is out. Here’s what musician and entrepreneur Will.I.Am had to say:
“Here we are, 2013, we ALL depend on technology to communicate, to bank, and none of us know how to read and write code. It's important for these kids, right now, starting at 8 years old, to read and write code” – (source code.org website)
He makes a good point, we all use the technology of which coding is the main component and yet the majority of us don’t really know ‘how things work’ just that they work. With this in mind, should we be completely re-evaluating what children are being taught across the entire curriculum, less theory and more practical skills? It seems there are plenty of skills based jobs but only a small proportion of today’s young adults in comparison who could actually fill them.
As you can see, Will.I.Am is not the only one. There is an ever increasing list of mainstream public figures that are standing up and speaking out to support the teaching and learning of coding in our schools. This particular U.S based campaign, Hour of code is run by not for profit organisation Code.Org, who are dedicated to increasing the awareness and interest in coding with both students and teachers by providing opportunities to learn computer programming. One of their key goals includes harnessing the collective power of the tech community to celebrate and grow computer science education worldwide as well as encouraging more women to take an interest in programming.
You may have also heard of Kodu, A visual programming tool to enhance computer science learning. Primarily designed for KS1 – KS3 school children, the engaging software encourages young learners to grasp the basics of software engineering through a hand-held, step by step pathway that is approachable, fun and unintimidating.
It also provides a charming and accessible introduction to older children, young adults and grown-ups who are taking their first steps in gaining the technical skills required for our digital society.
And then there’s the Kodu Kup which is open to anyone from UK schools aged between seven and fourteen. Children are encouraged to enter as part of a team to work together and advance their ideas. Teachers can enter pupils’ work through the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network where teachers can access resources and continuous support.
So it seems that coding is also making waves in the UK. In the first 3 months we saw Kodu downloaded 70,000 times and with this level of demand we held Kodathon training events up and down the country.
We are also pleased to announce that Kodu has been nominated as for the Free digital content/Open educational resources award at the BETT Awards 2014.
In addition to Kodu, you may be interested in TouchDevelop which allows anyone to create apps on any device. The touch friendly editor makes coding fun whether it's on your phone or tablet and our Hour of Code video tutorials which take under 20 minutes to complete make for a perfect introduction.