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Adding computer coding to K-7 without teacher support

The news that BC government decided to add computer coding to BC elementary curriculum was a welcome development to many of us who are¬†worried about Canada’s over reliance on natural resources. The last thing I want my country to do is to sell our natural resources and to neglect the development of the industries that depend on our human capital. Unlike many other oil-rich countries, Canada has a tremendous human capital. We have a highly educated populations and more people than ever are getting post-secondary degrees. As an educator and as a mother, I want bright and young Canadians to stay in Canada and to be involved in many ¬†Canadian innovation industries, rather than moving to the US to invest their talents there. For example, I was very happy about the opening of the Canadian Innovation Centre in Toronto. I hope a number of other centres will open in Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Saskatoon, Atlantic Canada, as well. We have gifted Canadians all over the country and we do not want our country to benefit from them. My concerns about the Canadian state of economy was very much echoed the concern expressed by many Canadian technology entrepreneurs in this Globe and Mail article.

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The screen shot of the Globe and Mail article by Sean Silcoff published on January 17, 2016.

However, here I would like to comment on BC Premier’s Christy Clark’s promise of tech training in schools. I am in full support of her focus on improving technology education, but what I do not understand is how you can improve it without investing in teachers. As far as I know most of BC elementary teachers are under-prepared and under-supported in teaching mathematics, science, and technical subjects. In order to become an elementary teacher in BC you do not need to have any mathematical and science knowledge beyond the bare basics. Working with many future elementary teachers I know that they mostly come from the humanities fields. So by constituting them to teach coding in elementary schools, how will we ensure that they are ready to do that? To me it sounds similar to constituting that all secondary science teachers will be required to teach art classes in order to increase the number of artists in Canada. While we have many amazing artists who are also scientists, this is not a common thing and being an artist doesn’t mean you are ready to be an art educator. So in summary, I am very concerned about this plan, unless BC government allocates money not only for two days of professional development to prepare K-7 teachers to teach coding, but to have an ongoing professional development, including coding as one of the subjects in teacher education programs. Is our government ready for it? I am not so sure. I am looking forward to seeing how these great ideas are implemented into practice.

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