Comment: Why coding is essential for today's studentsSeptember 8, 2017, 9:25 am GMT
With five million jobs set to be lost to automation by 2020 and 80 percent of the jobs in 2025 not yet existing, how do we set up today's students for success tomorrow?
ICT education as part of a school curriculum is nothing new. For the past couple of decades students have been learning how to word-process or work a spreadsheet. But in 2017, that's no longer enough. It's evident that learning new and more relevant digital skills is vital if we are to survive and thrive in a world increasingly dominated by technology.
The curriculum that must guide our students successfully into the jobs of the future must focus on computer science, information technology and digital literacy. Integral to this is teaching them how to code; learning not just how to work a computer, but how a computer works and how to make it work for them.
Building skills for any career
There's so much more to coding than finding a job as a developer one day. Learning coding skills benefits students whatever their ultimate career – similar to the argument of teaching a child to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language. We're not only trying to encourage students to become developers, but also encouraging them to be creative and think differently.
Coding teaches both critical and computational thinking, which help develop students' problem-solving skills. It also gives them a sense of independence, which encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. To encourage coding amongst students and promote it as a career of choice, Microsoft introduced Minecraft coding tutorial with Code.org called the Minecraft Hour of Code Designer during the Computer Science Education Week. The company also hosted hundreds of free hands on training workshops in retail stores around the world enabling students to solve programming challenges with the coding concepts acquired.
Mining the right digital tools for the classroom
Minecraft: Education Edition makes the idea a reality. In simple terms, it's a computer game about placing blocks to create the simplest shelter or grandest castle, and going on adventures in randomly generated worlds. Minecraft has already been used in classrooms for years to help students learn more about maths, humanities, history and physics, and has helped build their digital literacy skills.
The game gives students in classrooms in more than 100 countries the freedom to be creative, while inspiring problem solving and critical thinking, and encouraging collaboration as students work together in their virtual worlds. It also offers teachers the tools they need to understand the game and monitor their students' usage and progress – because technology is meaningless without the right teacher to use it effectively.
To add to this, the new Code Builder for Minecraft: Education Edition makes it easy for teachers and students to dive into coding within the world of Minecraft. Code Builder introduces the Agent – a virtual sidekick who executes coding instructions the player gives via learn-to-code programs like Tynker, MakeCode and ScratchX. This makes it easy for students to understand the principles of coding, by learning how to use it to get the Agent to build things and solve problems that have an immediate impact on the game.
Coding is the new literacy
The findings of a recent Microsoft survey, released at BETT Middle East earlier this year, show that the majority of teachers see virtual collaboration as a key skill required by students, followed by problem solving and knowledge construction. A further 39 percent believe students will be limited in terms of career options due to a lack of digital literacy. With the world experiencing seismic shifts in the way we live and work, there is no doubt that coding is the new literacy.
The great thing about learning to code is that it embodies the idea that sometimes learning can effective when you're not aware you're learning – you you're just having fun. Ultimately, that fun translates into a set of skills and a way of thinking that will help today's students make a success of tomorrow.
Author: Ahmed Ameen Ashour, education director, Microsoft Gulf
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