Montreal Teachers Pioneer Coding in Classrooms!

Bry LeBlanc
13 March 2018

Last weekend, 30 teachers indulged their curiosity and overcame their doubts in a free day-long workshop organized by Kids Code Jeunesse (KCJ) and Lighthouse Labs. They learned to program… and had fun doing it.

Code Create Teach MTL

As they entered the fabulous reception room at historic Notman House early one Saturday morning, the participants had firm plans to learn more about the educational power of new technologies and digital skills. Despite the smiles exchanged around cups of coffee, however, there was a slight apprehension in the air.

"I do not feel very competent around computers,” one participant admitted. Another said, ”I would like to bring technology into the classroom without it being too complicated.”

Students learn very quickly in this age of technology, and can sometimes surpass teachers. This is true for learning anything but especially true when it comes to learning technology. This experience can be confusing for teachers, who are accustomed to mastering the subject they teach.

"Do not be afraid not to know all the answers to your students’ questions," insisted Bernat, a KCJ instructor. He’s referring to a quote from the pioneering mathematician, computer scientist and educator, Seymour Papert, "the role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made answers."

With the right mindset, the teachers were ready for a day was packed with with exciting projects. Teachers learned to code by using Scratch, a language developed at MIT, to help kids learn through exploration and play, assembling blocks of code and animating characters. The magic really started when Bernat wrote some loops, within other loops of code, creating, within second, a mandala of circles and squares.

Code Create Teach MTL Code Create Teach MTL

As one teacher noticed, "I could do this in class to teach my students about curves and angles!" The day continued with teachers coding a classic game of Rock, Paper, Scissors on the micro:bit, a small, interactive, codeable micro-processor. Primed with enough practice in programming loops, they were ready to take on the challenge of taking their first steps programming the text language, JavaScript.

At the end of the afternoon, despite fatigue setting in, the teachers left the workshop with smiles on their faces, proud to have met the challenges of coding. Here’s some of the feedback we received:

"I feel supported. I feel it's friendly, it's really nice."
"I really liked the playful approach. Learning by playing opens up many opportunities."
"I will use the micro:bits for my Grade 9 students”
Code Create Teach MTL

Juliet Waters, Director of Education at KCJ, summarized the experience perfectly:

"Bringing code into the classroom takes courage and a willingness on the part of the teacher. They will often find themselves in a position where they won't immediately know the solution to the challenges students encounter. Our role is to build confidence with classroom-tested materials and objectives that are easy to understand and achieve, and to support them in ways that allow them to relax and enjoy themselves.”

And thus concluded a beautiful day led by the Kids Code Jeunesse and Lighthouse Labs team.

Are you a K-12 educator? Find a Code, Create, Teach workshop near you.

Kids Code Jeunesse, in partnership with Lighthouse Labs, is embarking on a national campaign to inspire teachers to incorporate the basics of coding and computational thinking into the classroom. From April to December 2018 we will be hosting free, full-day workshops which will provide K - 12 educators with the tools to encourage students to tinker, play and experiment with technology. We hope this campaign gives more Canadians the confidence to build and create their own technology rather than simply consume it.