by Kelly Tagalan
Facing a future where technology evolution is increasingly going to impact nearly every single job role in the next decade, it is so important that the future workforce is ready and accepting of this. There are figures that indicate more than 70 percent of future jobs are likely to require involvement with technology, coding and programming. A basic understanding of computer coding can be invaluable to young children; not just the output, but also the process in lateral thinking and problem solving.
Prior to the launch of Code Club Australia in 2013, there were no scaled programs offering support to families, libraries and schools who wanted to get kids coding. Based on the Code Club model founded in the UK, we have determined that the democratisation of digital technologies education is the most pressing issue facing education and industry – without digital literacy, kids are just consuming technology rather than creating and learning with it.
Code Club Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that provides tools and support for teachers and volunteers to provide free coding lessons. Currently, there are more than 65,000 Australian kids across nearly 2,000 Code Clubs in Australia, which is now the biggest network of clubs outside the UK.
Using the newly formed coding skills, kids can make animations, games and websites, all the while solidifying their computational understanding. The abilities kids develop at Code Club can lay the foundations for careers in engineering, medicine, technology development and job roles that do not yet exist. We want children to aim high and achieve their potential, and using the technology available to them in a way that is creative and stimulates their problem-solving ability is key to a prosperous and innovative future workforce.
Our mission is to give every child in Australia the skills, confidence and opportunity to shape their world through digital technology education. Last year, we held our inaugural Moonhack event, which aimed to get as many kids as possible to code in a period of 24 hours. We held it on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and managed to mobilise huge numbers of students around Australia, and got them working on cool and creative projects paying homage to Uluru, Australian flora and fauna, and, of course, the Apollo 11 moon landing. The inaugural Moonhack saw 10,207 Australian kids involved, which set a new world record! It was a huge success and led to many conversations around the importance of kids learning to code. It also started many more kids around Australia on their own coding journey.
Moonhack 2016 was a fantastic event and it provided a great stepping stone and foundation for this year’s event, which was held in August. As part of the 20th anniversary of National Science Week, Australia’s annual celebration of science, we aimed to support teachers and families to engage in science education with technology.
The Moonhack 2017 event officially started in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand. These are the major cities closest to the International Date Line and, from there, the event spread across the globe, taking place on August 15th all around the world. Participants in developed nations were contributing to the same end goal as those from developing countries, united together by the universal language of code.
Every single continent (apart from Antarctica – but maybe next year!) was represented in this year’s Moonhack, with some of the 56 participating countries including Argentina, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, Estonia, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States.
Participants were encouraged to work on open source projects that Code Club established in programming apps Scratch, Scratch Jr and Python. Some especially creative young minds created and submitted their own custom projects with a moon theme.
We do not simply just want to engage kids with coding; rather, we want to strengthen both local and international communities. By encouraging kids to work with each other, we hope to create relationships that will serve these children well recreationally, professionally and socially. Technology and code are a powerful unifying force in the modern age and, in my humble opinion, Moonhack has really succeeded in bringing kids together from an early age, which has been one of its key objectives.
Among the hundreds of clubs around Australia that hosted the participating coders, Telstra’s Customer Insight Centre and Gurrowa Innovation Lab in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively, were Mission Control for Moonhack. Nearly 50 kids (assisted by teachers, parents and Telstra volunteers) completed their exercises inside Telstra’s high-tech rooms.
We received over 150,000 mentions during this year’s Moonhack. Combine this with our strong stakeholder and media relations campaigns and digital marketing activities, and we hope that we reached nearly every single student, parent and teacher in Australia.
The event succeeded in a number of ways. Not only did it set a new world record (28,575 kids!), but the gender participation split was 50 percent. This is fantastic, as it clearly shows that coding is for everyone, and since girls hold up half the sky, they are going to be part of the digital future as well. If kids can learn, create and share side-by-side in Code Clubs, I am sure that this indicates industry has a promising opportunity to embrace the diversity and interest from the next generation.
Most (92 percent) of our participants are still age eligible to participate in 2018, and this year’s results and activity will provide us with an outstanding benchmark from which we can grow our participation numbers even more and aim to break the world record yet again.
Parents and students who are interested in Code Club and Moonhack are always welcome. We aim to establish a Code Club in every school and every community in Australia. Until we can achieve that goal, parents and students can join Code Clubs at their local schools, community centres and libraries – or better yet, help us establish a new one!
Teachers and volunteers are at the heart of our mission. They are the drivers, the superheroes of the cause, and we would love for you to get involved. We have special training and support designed for Code Club in schools and a great national community of volunteers. Visit our website www.codeclubau.org to find out more.
Moonhack 2017 has been a great success and the future looks bright for Code Club kids. With two world records under our belt, Code Club is poised to have the impact that we have dreamed of back in 2013 when we piloted our first club in Australia.
Code Club is not just about technical skill building, it is also about empowering a community of young learners, raising the aspirations of the future workforce, and creating enthusiasm around peer collaboration and achieving the impossible, together.
A huge congratulations to those who helped make Moonhack 2017 the success that it was!
Kelly Tagalan is the general manager for Code Club Australia. She is an advocate for equity in education, diversifying STEM, and a catalyst for the #getkidscoding movement.
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