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Get with the programming: Coding and creativity in schools

Gone are the days of computer classes in schools. Digital creativity is now integral to everyday learning – and it’s unlocking talents that extend well beyond the screen.

Sir Ken Robinson, internationally renowned thinker on the role of creativity in education, believes schools the world over misunderstand the value – and nature – of creativity. And it’s not for want of spreading the word. As the most watched speaker in TED history, his 2006 talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity”, has been viewed online 44 million times. 

Image shows hands of children and teacher learning from tablet

By creativity Sir Ken is not necessarily referring to the creative arts. One of his abiding concerns is that schools do not nurture individuality, passions and dreams but instead find it easier to adopt a conformist approach to academic attainment. Such an assembly-line attitude to education is a sure-fire way of curbing creativity and innovation, Sir Ken says, both of which are universally recognised as the foundations of the digital economy.

Sir Ken believes education should serve a dual role: the first is to “help people understand the world around them”, which schools are generally very good at; the second is to enable each student to understand “their own feelings, aspirations, talents, abilities, anxieties and ambitions”. On this front, most schools earn themselves a “must try harder”.

“A lot of the problems in education arise from the fact that we don’t do a very good job of helping people understand the world within them,” he says. “It’s why so many people are stressed, anxious and without a sense of purpose in their lives, because they haven’t yet fathomed what they’re capable of or what their purpose might be.” 

“We’ve neglected a vast trove of other talents that people have within them and have paid very little attention to their inner world and we pay a big price for it.”   

Coding joins the curriculum

While Australian curriculums and teaching methods have recognised the place of creativity for some time, creativity and innovation are not exactly hallmarks of the Australian education system.

This could soon change, however. Along with the appearance of tablets and laptops in the classroom, Digital Technologies is now a subject on the Australian Curriculum from foundation to Year 10. This includes computational thinking, coding and design.

The official rationale for including Digital Technologies is that digital systems support “new ways of collaborating and communicating and require new skills such as computational and systems thinking”. These skills are “an essential problem-solving toolset in our knowledge-based society”. 

 

 

“A lot of the problems in education arise from the fact that we don't do a very good job of helping people understand the world within them.”

-Sir Ken Robinson, Professor Emeritus, University of Warwick, UK, global thought leader in education

According to the Australian Curriculum: “A deep knowledge and understanding of information systems enables students to be creative and discerning decision-makers when they select, use and manage data, information, processes and digital systems to meet needs and shape preferred futures.”

Annie Parker, director of Code Club and chief executive of Barangaroo-based start-up precinct Lighthouse Sydney, couldn’t agree more. With 50,000 children learning to code through Code Club, Parker says the program has exceeded all expectations.   “I didn’t expect it to have such a deep social purpose, but it really does, and when you see a kid who goes ‘thank you for starting Code Club because I don’t run very fast, I don’t catch balls and I don’t stand on stage and sing and dance [and] Code Club is the first time where I feel like I’m included in my school’, that’s why I do this,” she says.

Primed for problem solvingSydney psychologist Jocelyn Brewer is also a qualified social sciences teacher. She has studied the impact of technology in the classroom and welcomes the addition of coding to the curriculum. She believes some parents misinterpret the intent of the initiative.“This is about equipping kids with the skills they will need in the future,” she says.  “Just because a child learns 

Primed for problem solving

Sydney psychologist Jocelyn Brewer is also a qualified social sciences teacher. She has studied the impact of technology in the classroom and welcomes the addition of coding to the curriculum. She believes some parents misinterpret the intent of the initiative.

“This is about equipping kids with the skills they will need in the future,” she says.  

“Just because a child learns coding in Year 3 doesn’t mean they’re going to become a programmer. Computational thinking is a skill that stays with you. It provides the skills to think your way through problems. 

“These are skills that will translate into whatever job they’ll be doing when they leave school. The way students are taught to think about a problem is the key learning.”

New collaborations, mobility and data solutions are revolutionising the way educational institutions deliver tuition, train and support staff, manage budgets and prepare for the future.

Find out more about Telstra’s holistic approach to education.

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