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Insight | Huili kickstarts coding and programming

10 Dec 2018

One of the most difficult challenges that teachers face today is that we are trying to prepare our pupils for a world where science and technology, lifestyles and careers are all changing at an incredible fast rate. When I went to school, mobile phones were the size of bricks, I didn’t know what the internet was, and the term ‘social media’ had not yet been invented. Things have changed so much in such a short space of time and the pace of change is only likely to increase as our children make their way through school and into their future careers.

The one thing that we can predict is that computers and various forms of communication technology will almost certainly assume a central role in our children’s lives and their chosen professions. Whether your child becomes a doctor, an architect, a scientist or a computer programmer, they will use computers in some form or other. At Huili, we are equipping pupils to thrive in this unpredictable  world and I believe our ICT course is one of the most exciting and challenging available in schooling today.

“In fifteen years we’ll be teaching programming just like reading and writing and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner.” - Mark Zuckerberg
Pupils at Huili don’t have to wait fifteen years for their school to start teaching programming, it is already an integral part of their ICT lessons. The benefits of this approach have been proven by many studies, as research suggests that learning to program can increase problem solving skills, logical thinking, creativity and collaboration capabilities. ICT is an essential component of a well-rounded education and preparation for a career in tomorrow’s world.

So what can you do at home?
“Don’t just buy a new video game — make one. Don’t just download the latest app — help design it. Don’t just play on your phone — program it.” - Barack Obama
In the last few years, there has been an explosion of new apps and software on the market to help pupils learn to program, these range from basic ‘shape’ programming tools for primary school children, to learning whole programming languages for junior high and senior school pupils. I have outlined some of the best resources and how you can access them below.
Scratch Jr

Age: 6+ Cost: free Devices: iPad and android Description: Scratch JR is a drag-and-drop programming environment based on the popular, powerful Scratch system. Users choose characters and backgrounds and then drag and drop pieces of a programming script. Each piece causes the chosen character to perform certain actions -- jumping, moving forward and backward, disappearing and reappearing.

https://scratch.mit.edu/ Age: 8+ Cost: free Devices: Windows and Mac computers Description: Scratch is a free, downloadable application that lets users combine graphics, photos, music, and sound to create simple interactive animations, games, and slide shows. Users create scripts by dragging and dropping graphical blocks that snap together like puzzle pieces.

Age: 8+ Cost: free (or paid subscription) Devices: iPad and android Description: Kids create games and animations with Hopscotch by dragging and dropping commands and instructions into a script. Kids choose characters, colourful monsters, animals or their own images. A subscription is required for some of the personalisation.
Move the Turtle

Age: 9+ Cost: free Devices: iPad and android Description: The user chooses instructions for moving the turtle around the screen. This can include using graphics, colour, sound and more. It is possible for the user to create their own programmes from scratch and view examples of pre-written programmes.

Age: 10+ Cost: free Devices: Windows store (PC only) Description: This powerful drag-and-drop user interface allows pupils to design their own game environment and then programme their characters to move and interact with each other. Games can be made increasingly sophisticated by adding variables and different levels.

Age: 11+ Cost: free Devices: iPad and android and website http://www.codecademy.com/ Description: Designed to introduce new users to the world of written programming, Code academy provides interactive lessons on JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

Probably the best resource for pupils and parents is the excellent https://code.org/. This website is a platform and portal for an array of coding games, programs and activities. They organise their annual “Hour of Code” where millions of pupils try coding for the first time and they have lots of themed activities for all ages.