A new initiative to bring digital literacy to kids in grade school has launched, and all their material is available for free online to any school wanting to test it out for themselves.
Code.mtl launched in 135 classrooms in the Commission scolaire de Montreal recently, the largest school district in Quebec. A platform targeted at students 8-12, Code.mtl offers workshops so kids can learn the fundamentals of programming, variables, iteration, and branching. The idea is that they learn the fundamentals of programming in school early on which might spark an interest to pursue technology and computer science later on.
“We think programming is important in schools,”Mathieu Perreault, senior software developer at Google Montreal told MTLinTECH. ”
We know full well not all these kids will end up in computer science or working at big tech companies. How we see it is a little like math. We teach math to everyone and we’re not hoping they all become mathematicians. But we hope that they bring this knowledge into whatever job they’re going to have in the future.
The initiative was spearheaded by the Commission scolaire de Montreal, who first approached the team at Google about developing the platform. The program is meant to be taught by the school’s existing teachers.
“The teachers volunteered to do this. They’ll follow a one time one day workshop so they can learn to teach it. And Kids Code Jeunesse is helping with that. So the teachers will be helped by Kids Code Jeunesse, but at the end of the day, they are going to be the ones teaching the kids. Hopefully in the future they can pass that knowledge on to other teachers and teach other kids as well.”
Over 3,000 students in the Montreal school district will participate in the program this year, which is currently comprised of 8 hours worth of instruction that will be taught in one hour increments. The hope is that other school districts will want to implement the platform in their classrooms as well.
“The future is a little bit hard to predict, but one of the things we insisted on at Google is that our content be available for free, publicly on the website. We hope that other school boards are going to pick this up and bring coding into their schools. The Ministry of Education is also watching very closely what we’re doing, and we hope that they’re interested in bringing this nationally. The goal eventually is to bring it into all schools. Not just Montreal, but everywhere in Quebec. Everywhere in Canada.”
The decision to teach the curriculum during regular school hours and not as part of an after-school program was a deliberate one. After-school programs tend to pre-select for kids that are passionate about computer science and programming already. But every kid should be taught a little bit of technology.
“Whether you’re going to be working in finance or retail or research or art, you can have an understanding of technology from a young age and you can bring that to your job. That’s why we wanted to roll this out across everyone, because we think it’s going to be a pretty fundamental skill to have in the future.”