The use of computers and coding will play bigger roles in the years to come, in education and in life in general, trustees for the Holy Family School Division heard in a presentation by curriculum co-ordinator Lynn Colquhoun.
Colquhoun pointed to everyday examples that people see and use at home and at work and noted that these devices and amenities are programmed with coding.
Everyday tasks such as taking a hot shower or driving through traffic lights, doing laundry or writing out a list are all impacted by coding, she outlined.
The shower uses hot water from a heater that is temperature-controlled by a preset microprocessor; traffic lights are controlled by internal microprocessors; modern washing machines are programmed to monitor load weight, adjust water levels and set the required speed; and the paper in notepads are made by machines using sensors run by computers.
Coding, like math, requires precision and clarity in order to cause a machine to follow the exact parameters of the task set for it, said Colquhoun.
Coding is offered from very basic computer programs and games at the youngest ages, up to very complex programs for older students.
“We are on a mission, going deep with deeper learning,” said Colquhoun. She added that there are courses out right now that use technology but don’t explain the science behind, and coding does the same as students learn the basic science that underlies computers and devices.
The advance of technology has led to the creation of various apps, even by Saskatchewan firms, and offers future career possibilities for students who begin learning how to code from an early age.
Colquhoun gave examples such as FarmLead, an online grain marketplace that enables producers to buy or sell grain; Skip the Dishes, founded in Saskatoon, an online food delivery service; GasBuddy, a website that tracks gas prices; and TinyEYE, which provides online speech and occupational therapy services.
“Career and social communication pathways have opened up. Deeper learning occurs when students are engaged and fulfilled,” said Colquhoun. “We can help our students to write their story of successful learning using these skills.”
In education, there is a new high school curriculum being written right now for Robotics and Automation 10, 20 and 30. It is being piloted and reviewed for implementation in the fall.
Post-secondary institutions like the University of Saskatchewan allow Computer Science 30 students to skip the first-year course if they were successful in the course in high school, noted Colquhoun. And through Saskcode, teachers develop activities and provide professional growth to educators.
For Holy Family, which is developing Deep Learning as a foundational education philosophy, coding activities (such as in robotics) are often an element in deep learning experiences.
Colquhoun and education director Gwen Keith will be attending the Saskatchewan Symposium at the end of February, where educators will brainstorm and forecast the future of coding in Saskatchewan’s school system. They will also study federal and provincial school activities.
“We just wanted to make sure what we’re doing with coding,” Keith told the trustees. “We’re giving a value-added edge to our students. It’s a skill. They’ve got to be able to apply the technology."