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Students and Coding (Part 1): CTO Warren Barkley’s Thoughts

Submitted by Sam at SMART on January 10, 2014 – 7:02 am7 Comments

Warren Barkley is SMART’s Chief Technology Officer. Get better acquainted with the man leading our technology vision. This is part one of a series Warren is inspired to do on the topic of learning to code.

I have been thinking about the whole everybody should code conversation in education. I can argue both points of view on this so in the next couple of blogs let’s talk about it.

Passion for code where you least expect it

A little over a year ago my wife and I went to Morocco and did some looking around with our good friend Wajih. We were high in the Atlas mountains hiking up this hill under the only 5 trees in these mountains to a tea house. Let’s set the scene a little. For those who don’t know the Atlas mountains are big lumps of rocks that border one of the biggest deserts in the world. Many people live in huts, there is little running water, power or many of the conveniences of the modern world. You are close to the end of the road, if you know what I mean.

As I puffed up this hill, a bunch of school kids ran past on their way home for lunch. Always interested in what kids are doing and learning, we stopped a few minutes and talked to them. I always like to ask kids what they want to be when they grow up.

One little girl who was about 10 popped up with light shining in her eyes to say, “I want to write computer software.” In the middle of this very remote location, this girl wants to be a coder. I have asked this question to lots of kids in North America and I could not remember a single 10-year-old-ish girl ever saying that to me. Amazing.

When I got home I researched how this had come to be. Her school had a NGO provide them with solar for power, computers, satellite for internet and personal support from the universities in Morocco to teach these kids on the side of a mountain to code. How many kids have this goal and why don’t they?

Coding at home

My kids play with coding, but with the exception of one stating, “I want to be a video game tester,” none of them have really gone after it with any serious interest. I can’t tell yet with the four-year-old but I can’t get her to think about anything other than pink ponies right now so let’s see.

I’ll tell you this about coding. If you can write ‘OK’ code and your social skills are good enough that your parents will acknowledge you in public, you have a job for life! Kidding aside, those kids on the side of a mountain in Morocco know that but also they know with software it’s possible to build anything you can imagine and make an impact on the world.

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7 comments on “Students and Coding (Part 1): CTO Warren Barkley’s Thoughts

  1. Jeff Peterson on said:

    This is an incredible story and experience. The drive and desire to learn of children who have little is something to cherish. Here are children who do not get all the opportunities of students from North America, but have a drive to learn something as technical as coding. I love sharing stories like this with students I work with in hopes of making them realize all they can achieve in life because of what is available to them. In a weird way, I wish all students would have to experience life, at least for a while, in a similar fashion to the students in this story. I would hope this kind of lifestyle would make them grateful for the educational opportunities they receive every day.

  2. Sam at SMART on said:

    Thanks for stopping by to share, Jeff!

  3. Giovanna on said:

    Great story to share. If I don”t make a mistake, in UK government is working on introducing coding in schools.

  4. Sam at SMART on said:

    Thanks for sharing, Giovanna. We”d love to hear more about coding in UK schools.

  5. I introduced my son to “Scratch” (http://scratch.mit.edu/) but, aside from him making a don”t let the monster touch your cursor game…that was then end of that:( He really did have fun making the game but, it just couldn”t compete with the games he buys :)

  6. As a teacher, I wish I””d received more instruction in these sorts of things. I wish now that I could code, but as a young adult, I don””t think I really even saw this as an option. Now I don””t know enough to encourage kids in this direction. Is there a resource somewhere to help teachers get started?

  7. Sam at SMART on said:

    Code HS is a great resource we”ve shared before on our blog. Check it out: http://edcompassblog.smarttech.com/archives/11227

    -Sam

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