Coding to upskill learners

2019-10-22 06:00
Sibelius High School learners take on introductory coding classes. PHOTO: Racine Edwardes

Sibelius High School learners take on introductory coding classes. PHOTO: Racine Edwardes

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Learners in under-resourced communities are being introduced to basic coding in hopes of developing their technological abilities and encouraging them to embrace the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

Learners from schools in Pelican Park, Steenberg, Lavender Hill, Mitchell’s Plain, Maitland and many more have had the opportunity to interact with DXC Technology, an information technology (IT) solutions provider, who is hoping to ignite a passion for IT in young learners.

According to the IT company: “Industry 4.0, as it is called, connects more devices and machines, creating intelligent networks of ‘things’ that can communicate and cooperate.”

This allows for significant advancement in technology, especially in the fields of IT and robotics, providing jobs and propelling economic growth.

Riyaad Hess from DXC Technology explained what the company aims to achieve through their school-targeted project, during a lesson at Sibelius High School on Thursday 17 October.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is to show kids that there is more to life than becoming a cashier. We can already see the shortages in the (technology) industry. There are so many vacancies in the industry and they’re high-paying positions as well.

“We try to get kids to think about their careers and what they want to do. This will give them a bit of motivation and show them what they can do,” he said.

Adding to the introductory lessons at the high school was Francois Du Plessis, the owner of Flow Productions Multimedia, who wants children to know that they can escape the social-ills from their community.

“A lack of information is one of the big issues in our communities because there are no choices for our people and no education. What we are doing is opening the children’s minds to different avenues,” he said.

During the lesson, facilitators take learners through the free programme developed by the MIT Media Lab, Scratch.

Scratch teaches children the basic algorithms of coding and computational thinking. This is especially important for the upcoming year as the department of education will pilot a new coding curriculum in 1 000 schools across five provinces.

Keane Fernandes is a teacher at Sibelius High School who recently did a coding course through Edunova, as part of the Western Cape department of education’s efforts to equip teachers with knowledge of coding.

“The world is technology-driven today. What we’re going to do is establish a coding club with the Grade 8s and 9s. Hopefully, they can go into that line of work after high school or even come back to the school to help with the programme,” he said.

Making this move towards digital, especially in under-resourced communities, will be beneficial for the learners in more ways than one.

“We want to help them and keep them off the streets,” Fernandes said, adding that the club will keep the learners out of gangs, away from drugs, stimulate their brains and improve their school marks.

This will not be an easy feat, however.

“They’re seeing something brand new, some of them have never even worked on a computer before. So we’re trying to simplify everything. We introduce concepts of computational thinking by showing them how it’s done in class,” said Hess.

A learner at Sibelius who spent his interval time experimenting with the programme, Doufieq Abrahams (17), said he had never used a programme like Scratch before. “I’m finding it very interesting. It’s a little bit difficult at the start, but there are tutorials that show you exactly how to do it.”

He said the course has shown him what he may want to explore – a career in IT.

DXC Technology hopes to promote science, mathematics, engineering and technology in schools through more collaborative initiatives.

  • For more information on DXC Technology, visit: https://www.dxc.technology/. For more information on Flow Productions Multimedia, find them on Facebook.

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