How and Why Kids Code Jeunesse is working to Teach the Teachers

Bry LeBlanc
01 May 2017

Are you a teacher in Canada? Do you wish to improve your digital literacy, and pass on that knowledge to your students? Well, Kid Code Jeunesse’s (KCJ) various programming teacher training workshops might be perfect for you.

“Our main focus is teaching programming languages that are going to help teachers and kids develop their digital literacy,” explains Juliet Waters, Kids Code Jeunesse’s co-director. “So our focus [is] mostly right now on languages [like, for example,] Scratch, which is a visual programming language that was created as a collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a Montreal group called Playful Invention Company. It’s massively successful now. The idea behind it is that kids learn best through playing and so by creating animations and programming they can learn not just programming but learn how to learn and learn how to persevere at things and learn all kinds of competencies.”

In the past, KCJ has led several in-class workshops to help train teachers on how to code and program.

“One of our biggest success stories [includes] École Paul Jarry, a school we went into and trained all the teachers, not just the one teacher that was interested, but the teachers in all of the subjects,” Waters says. “We’ve got this opportunity coming up in September [to do that again], we have about 24 schools signed up and they will probably be more.”

Of course, as Waters points out, none of these trainings would be possible without collaboration with various tech companies, sponsors and programs, like Google and the CIRA grant, for example. With the Community Investment Program (the CIRA grant), it has allowed KCJ to research how teachers are being trained to code across the globe, and how they can bring that training into workshops here.

“[The CIRA grant helped us for] what we call computational thinking, which is training teachers and kids to think in ways that are computational, and that makes it easier for them to code and to see the ways they are already thinking computationally,” Waters says. “We compute things in our environment in ways we’re often not aware of, so it helps us to see that computing is really a transferable skill and what we’re helping them to see is how they can transfer some of the stuff they do already to the computing scenario. So what CIRA did was first of all give us the time to really look at how this was being taught around the world, take that all in and create something that was really suited for elementary school teachers.”

Google has also been an important sponsor for KCJ’s teacher training workshops.

“Google has helped us receive a number of grants, to help us to develop workshops outside of the classroom but we learn a lot from those workshops and we’re able to bring in those learnings into the classrooms and into our teacher trainings,” Waters explains.

So, what kind of feedback has KCJ received from teachers about these workshops? Well, many of them were pleasantly surprised.

“Teachers are always surprised at how much fun it actually is. One of the things that is really interesting too and is really important to mention, is it’s often the kids that they don’t expect to do well that do well with coding,” Waters says. “Coding is very visual, so a lot of kids who have learning disabilities, whether it’s dyslexia, or whatever they have other challenges like Asperger’s or something like that, often learn at a very fast rate, often faster than average kids because they are so visually oriented and they persevere at that.”
“One [other] thing we do hear from teachers is that they find it a little bit intimidating sometimes that kids often can learn a lot faster than they do, a little bit like with language,” Waters adds. “The way that kids will pick up a language a little bit faster than an adult learner will. So, that’s why it’s a big focus of Kids Code Jeunesse, that we also do teacher training to help build teacher’s confidence in their own ability to learn what they need to learn to be able to bring it into the classroom.”

KCJ teacher training and kids workshops take place all over Canada. Teachers are encouraged to visit KCJ’s website to find out more about and request teacher training workshops!