Touring With Code: New Initiative Spreads Tech Education Across Canada

A Code Mobile workshop in action (Image: Stefano Barbera)

Coding education is on the move as Code Mobile, the newest Ladies Learning Code initiative, brings game and web developing to young people across Canada.

With stops in over 50 cities across Canada between May and September, Code Mobile is aiming to teach 10,000 kids to code. The Code Mobile is stopping at schools, local parks, community centres, summer camps, street festivals and more to reach as many young people as possible.

Code Mobile curriculum creator and lead instructor Brittany Hemming says the aim isn’t necessarily to turn all the kids they reach into game designers or web developers, but to give them a better understanding of the technology they use every day.

“We don’t want them to just go on their phones or go on their video games and consume that,” she says. “With kids, especially with girls, if they create their own game, they can create their own role models. There’s been a lot of discussion around the lack of female characters and female protagonists so if you have girls creating video games, they can create heroes that look like them.”

“There’s going to be more and more jobs that are in the technology industry that are going to need to be filled, but our goal is to get kids to be literate enough in computer programming that they can explain what they want to happen or they understand at least the basis of how the technology they’re using actually works.”

The Code Mobile Squad (Image: Stefano Barbera)

The Code Mobile squad (Image: Stefano Barbera)

Code Mobile uses Scratch, free programming technology developed by MIT, to give kids an introduction into computer programming. Code Mobile leaders say they’re getting great responses from educators and students.

“So far it’s been really good feedback,” Code Mobile operations lead Tess Kuramoto said. “Just the way we teach the program with Scratch, it’s block-based coding so it takes out a lot of the annoying syntax … it’s very straightforward, which we find works really well for kids and keeps them engaged.”

“Instead of doing these very abstract concepts, it becomes a lot more concrete when we can see them. We have many more requests than we can fill so far.”

Code Mobile tour manager Vanessa Doucet-Roche says the process of getting coding education in school curriculum is a slow but steady one. She says many teachers they come across want coding in the curriculum and that the tour is leaving educators tools they can use to continue the initiative on their own.

“Obviously we’re moving into a technological world and in the same way we teach math in school, it’s not necessarily so that all students are mathematicians, it’s so that they have a better understanding of the technological landscape that’s coming up so that Canada doesn’t get left behind,” Doucet-Roche said.

Code Mobile participants explore VR with Google Cardboard (Image: Stefano Barbera)

Code Mobile participants explore VR with Google Cardboard (Image: Stefano Barbera)

Hemming says Code Mobile is helping fill a gap in technology education in Canada since it will take time to build coding education into the curriculum.

“I think we’re making steps that will move us forward. We might not be catching up as quickly as some other countries but it’s important that now that we’ve recognized there is a little bit of a gap in our technology education and we’re now moving in to fill those gaps,” Hemming said.

“The teachers have to be trained. The teachers need to understand the curriculum first before they can teach it to kids. It’s not going to be something that we do in a year and we complete it and that’s it. This is going to be something that we need to work on and it needs to progress as time goes on.”

Coding education could also be seen as a tool to help close the socioeconomic gap. Doucet-Roche sees possibilities in the future for remote work in rural regions where there might not be physical job opportunities.

With tools and resources to learn coding so accessible, the Code Mobile team wants to spread the message that learning code isn’t just for those who have wealth and opportunity, it’s available for anyone willing to learn.