As our school Digital Literacy Coordinator, I have been lucky enough to oversee two exciting initiatives where I have been collaborating with FDM. First, 17 of our students have been attending an introduction to Python each Wednesday evening. This involved the students travelling to the FDM offices and working within this mature, adult environment, which they have found really exciting. Notably, the attendance has been very close to 100% each week, perhaps because the students respond well to the stimulating environment and adult approach taken by trainers Chris Spencer and Andy Brooks. This opportunity also gives the students a personal insight into a professional working environment from a young age.
It was encouraging to see that FDM adopts methodology which allows students to apply their learning in a fun manner. Hence, after 5 weeks of instructional introduction, the next step was to apply their understanding of concepts such as loops and functions to mini robotics tasks using Raspberry Pi*. Using the central ‘pond’ space of the FDM offices, students responded positively to the task using sensors to identify distance, LED lights and of course, plotting the movement of the robots.
On 28th April I was invited to bring a completely different group of students that were all female to celebrate Girls in ICT Day! Again, the pedagogy used provided an instructional base and fun, applied finish, using Sonic Pi, a compositional programme for music. The finale was a mini concert in which each student played their composed piece via Facebook Live.
The 30 South Island students involved across the two training programmes all provided positive feedback on their learning and felt that more opportunities of this nature should definitely be available through education. Our current challenge as a school is to make coding programmes available to all students, with the hope of showing these students that a career in tech can be exciting. This requires the school to continue building partnerships with organisations such as FDM and improve the current recruitment process to reflect the need for coding in both schools and the workplace.
*The Rasberry Pi is a tiny and affordable computer that you can use to learn programming through fun, practical projects.
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