Surrey Centre Elementary students explain how their Sphero robot works to Surrey School Board Chairperson Laurie Larsen and Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag. (Sam Anderson)

Thousands of B.C. students, teachers to receive coding classes, digital skill training

More than 130,000 B.C. students will receive access to programs, including Surrey Centre Elementary

Thousands of students and teachers in British Columbia will soon have access to training in coding and digital skills through a federally funded CanCode initiative.

Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag and Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai visited Surrey Centre Elementary in Cloverdale on Wednesday morning to announce that the federal government promises to invest $50 million over a two year period to support opportunities for students to develop coding and digital skills.

“Our children are growing up through a time of great change. Technology is disrupting all facets of our lives and has become a part of our everyday lives,” said Aldag. “Making sure our kids, our future leaders, have the digital skills they need to work with these technologies is critical to setting them up for success.”

The CanCode program aims to teach digital skills to more than one million students across the country. The funds are also meant to support initiatives that will provide around 63,000 teachers with resources and training they need in order to teach those digital skills.

In British Columbia, as many as 133,569 students and 9,685 teachers will be given access to training and programming that supports the development of coding and other digital skills for youth.

Rather than being awarded through school districts, the funding will be allocated to organizations such as Science World or the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), which will then provide programming to B.C. teachers and students.

“This type of program is going to help people like [ICTC] implement programs that teach teachers, so that they can teach [students] and the leaders of the future,” said Sarai.

“With our rapid growth, technological advancement and support for innovation projects in Surrey, the need for homegrown talent is more vital [than ever before],” he said.

Alexandra Cutean, Director of Policy and Research at ICTC, addressed the students, stating that digital skills are now needed in a wide array of industries.

“Digital is not confined to the tech sector anymore. It’s everywhere. It’s in the food we eat, it’s in the cars we drive … and it’s even in the clothes and shoes we wear. Simply put, it’s everywhere,” she said.

The CanCode initiative will help fund ICTC’s Digital Development and Acceleration of Skills Hub, which will provide training to teachers across the country.

At Surrey Centre Elementary school, students begin to learn how to code in kindergarten.

As demonstrated by Ms. Booth’s class on Wednesday morning, by the time students are in grade 5, they have a significant knowledge of coding and robotics.

Students primarily use block-structured programming to drag and drop sections of pre-made code into unique sequences. For instance, a student might drop a command to “go forward” and follow it with a command to “accelerate.” In that way, they learn how to build code line by line and they also get to topple a series of dominoes with their Sphero bot.

Or, in the case of Ozobot robots, students will colour lines of code onto a sheet of paper, which the small robot then reads and responds to as it runs over the lines.

Students can also use the “Bloxels” program to create video game platforms, before playing through them, and build their own robots.

Every program is virtually and physically interactive, and the students are given time every week during digital studies to experiment with new codes and new situations.

The $50 million in federal funding will allow students across the country to access similar interactive learning opportunities and build the same digital skills that the Surrey Centre Elementary students demonstrated on Wednesday morning.

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Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai speaks to Ms. Booth’s grade 5 class at Surrey Centre Elementary. (Sam Anderson)

Jasmine, Ava, Joline and Jaya were working with Ozobots when the Cloverdale Reporter visited on Wednesday morning. Ozobots respond to code sequences that students make with coloured markers on paper. (Sam Anderson)

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