Don Burks is the Head Instructor at Lighthouse Labs Vancouver. Since mid-2016 Don has worked in partnership with Lighthouse Labs and Kids Code Jeunesse to develop a strategy for bringing computational thinking and coding into classrooms across BC. In 2018, this project expanded in scope as Code, Create, Teach and is being taught Canada-wide.
I have always believed that coding is a literacy that more people should acquire, and that having an understanding of fundamental technical concepts democratizes access to the digital world. As a teacher, I have always felt a strong mandate of reaching out into the community and acquainting people and organizations with technology. That is why working with teachers and educators all over the country is an investment from which tremendous dividends will be paid.
One of the primary reasons that working with teachers is so striking is simple numbers. If one instructor speaks to a classroom of students, then they have reached twenty-five students. If one instructors speaks to a classroom of teachers, then they have potentially reached over seven hundred students, as each of these teachers has their own classroom to return to and to carry on the message of digital literacy.
However, a more fundamental reason for digital literacy beyond mere numbers is impact. Teachers from kindergarten up to grade 12 are advocates and evangelists for learning. If they are able to share a passion for technology with their students, and they then pass this on to the thousands of students they interact with in their career, we are building a community culture of lifelong learning, technological fluency, and problem-solving using computational thinking principles.
At the heart of great education are great teachers and investing in teachers is the most sustainable route to democratize coding. We need to invest in our educators, inspire them to bring innovation into the classroom, and support them in sustaining the development of digital literacy. Teachers need the necessary tools to do this, but also the confidence to inspire their students in their own unique ways. Not everyone who graduates is going to become a programmer, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have the opportunity to be.
My experience in travelling throughout various regions of Canada is that teachers are hungry to use technology in a way that is cross-curricular and multi-disciplinary. There isn't as much fear about using tech in the classroom as the media has portrayed. Districts and administrators are willing to invest the money and resources necessary for training and putting technology in the hands of teachers and students alike, as there is unassailable evidence of how it benefits learning in the classroom and beyond. Students are born digital natives, and we have a responsibility as a national community to empower them to be good digital citizens.
Starting now, we have the opportunity to shape a generation of learning, building towards a future where digital literacy is not considered optional or secondary, and society as a whole is able to benefit from years spent embracing computational thinking from an early age. Those students who choose to go on and become technologists will be far more capable, and have the potential to change the world. That kind of return on investment makes our choice of investing our efforts and knowledge in teachers the only valid choice.
In July Lighthouse Labs and Kids Code Jeunesse will go to Newfoundland to give two Code, Create, Teach workshops to teachers in St. John's and Gander. Both workshops are in partnership with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District and provide coding instruction to over 110 teachers, which could have a direct impact on over 1,980 students!
In August Lighthouse Labs and Kids Code Jeunesse will go to New Brunswick to give two Code, Create, Teach workshops to teachers in Fredericton and Miramichi. Both workshops are in partnership with the New Brunswick Anglophone School District and provide coding instruction to over 110 teachers, which could have a direct impact on over 1,980 students!