Teachers on Call Celebrates Canada Learning Code Week with Melissa Sariffodeen

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Teachers on Call Celebrates Canada Learning Code Week with Melissa Sariffodeen

Did you know that December 6 – 12 is Computer Science Education Week? There are many exciting initiatives taking place from Hour of Code to Canada Learning Code Week to demystify coding with a call to action to encourage students of all ages to take an interest. 

Our team had the opportunity to ask questions to Melissa Sariffodeen, Co-Founder & CEO of Canada Learning Code. In a phone interview with our president, Joanne Sallay, Melissa shared the importance of exposing kids to coding from a young age and the importance these skills will have on future careers.

For those in our community new to Canada Learning Code, it’s a national charity championing computer science education to ensure students from diverse backgrounds have the skills to succeed in a digital world. With volunteer run chapters in 30 cities, they bring the hardware to schools, libraries, community centres and festivals, as well as offering live online workshops. They also empower educators with skills and confidence to learn coding, even if for the very first time.

It's never too early to learn coding. Canadian students are learning as young as kindergarten with “unplugged” activities. Coding is taking place in classroom settings with direct connections to Canadian curriculum. In Ontario for instance, coding is now incorporated in math curriculum in grade 1 to 8, and has been a high-school elective for quite some time.

For those still feeling a bit uncertain about coding, CLC week is the perfect opportunity to get started, especially with the winter break around the corner. Parents looking for activities on a rainy day or winter break can access resources the same way a teacher can and run lessons with children, with either computer based or “unplugged” activities that don’t require a computer. Let’s get started!

An Interview with Melissa Sariffodeen

We’re very excited to have had Melissa Sariffodeen with us for an interview. Melissa was born and raised in London, Ontario and taught herself to code from a very young age. She is also an authority on coding as Co-Founder & CEO of Canada Learning Code. Check out her answers to our questions that parents and teachers want to know!

Why do you feel it is so important that we teach children about coding early?

Technology is ever-evolving, and today, youth are entering job markets infiltrated with digitization. Our society depends on technology and technical literacy so it’s crucial we help learners build the digital skills they need to thrive in our rapidly changing digital world. 

Does your course program teach children a programming language or programming logic?

Both! We teach programming languages like HTML/CSS or python but we also teach a lot of "unplugged" lessons which focus on foundational concepts like pattern recognition or debugging that are language agnostic.

What is the biggest benefit of children learning coding?

Coding has become a basic literacy skill in today’s digital age and will only become more pervasive in the future. By teaching coding at a young age, we are helping youth in Canada build the necessary skills they’ll need to succeed in our digital world to have the understanding, skills and agency. In the same way that we teach fundamental science skills to all youth - so they better understand how the world works - the same goes for computer science and coding. We want youth to understand how to build and not just consume the technology they use everyday. And, for some youth we hope they go on to build the technology we use everyday in their work. 

In Canada, we lack consistent and comprehensive computer science education across all provinces and territories, which leads to inaccessibility and inequality across communities. Recognizing this importance, Canada Learning Code is dedicated to bringing computer science to communities across Canada so everyone can create with technology.

Can learning to code help with other facets of education?

Yes, we believe that coding can extend into many different facets of education, pushing beyond math and science. For example, this year’s CLC Week will provide dynamic and downloadable lessons designed to awaken students’ imaginations, ambitions, and wonder by blending computer science and creativity

For those of us hearing about CLC Week for the first time, how can educators and students participate?

CLC offers various resources, such as workshops and conferences, that provide educators with the training and hundreds of lesson plans to introduce computer science to their students. CLC aims to provide easy-to-follow and easy-to-understand, free resources for teachers without any need for previous coding or computer science experience. Students and educators can find more information at www.canadalearningcodeweek.ca, including registration information for CLC Week and details on how to get involved. 

If kids love the program, where can parents go to help them learn more?

Canada Learning Code offers ongoing free workshops and resources for students. We offer unique programming for students of all ages and experiences with coding; including our Teens Ambassador Program, which is a completely virtual program that combines the passion for technology with an opportunity for teens to foster community – all while learning about the tech industry from leading subject matter experts currently in the workforce. For more information or to register for a workshop visit www.canadalearningcode.ca 

In your opinion, how does coding prepare students for careers of the future?

If the past two years have taught us anything, it's that possessing digital skills is a necessity and coding is not an exception. The role it plays in our day-to-day life is only increasing and is sure to become even more important for future careers. We believe that by teaching learners about coding sooner, we can prepare youth today for the jobs of tomorrow.

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