Monday August 8, 2016
12:22 PM GMT+8

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AUGUST 8 — Our world today is in the golden age of technological innovation and evolution — there is a continuous growth in new job roles and careers related to computer science. Information Technology (IT) has become so pervasive that employees with IT skills are needed in any industry, cutting across departments or functions.

Demand is increasing exponentially. As organisations across industries rely more and more on technology to do business, we are now seeing the need to increase digital talents in our country as the global competition heats up.

Knowledge in coding is a 21st-century requirement to participate in a digital world. Computer science drives innovation in the country’s economy and society, therefore knowing to code or programming gives a competitive edge to an individual, organisation and the nation. Computing is becoming vital to many disciplines ranging from Biology, Medicine, Psychology, Music and the Arts.

As it is, youths spend most of their time with technology which includes the Internet of Things on the latest gadgets. The Generation Y and Z students now want to learn to code — they are shifting from a passive to an active role, where they want to learn how to make tablets and computers do useful things. This is seen when they are curious about the behind-the-scenes approach in creating their own mobile applications (apps) on their smartphone or building their own web spaces and websites to express themselves.

While “cool” is nice, what really matters is the lasting benefits of building these skill sets, for example, logical and algorithmic thinking, creativity, problem solving, determination, collaboration, and communication. These skills are essential for computing and should be integrated in to the school curriculum.

Any country recognising the importance of computer science will experience long-term benefits.

To support this movement, Taylor’s University School of Computing and IT works closely with Microsoft Malaysia in the nationwide launch of the 2015 and 2016 YouthSpark campaign. This is an initiative to increase access for all youth to learn computer science, empowering them to achieve more for themselves, their families and their communities. The programme aimed for youths to hone their coding skills and inspired the largest number of students within the Klang Valley.

Gamification in learning coding can definitely enhance learning outcomes and increase motivation for the younger students. Code.org has suggested various resources for educators, and tutorials to help teach computer science to children of all ages, any time of the year with educational games, interactive tutorials and instructional videos. The “Hour of Code” is an opportunity for every student to try computer science for an hour. You can also teach the Hour of Code all year-round, and these tutorials will work on browsers, tablets, and smartphones with Internet access.

We can follow the Hour of Code lesson plan tutorial on Code.org and Khan Academy for ways to teach coding to our students. We could also use smart small computers such as the Raspberry Pi to learn coding through fun, practical projects. These Arduino devices could be easily programmed by novices and these kits are becoming popular today as do-it-yourself (DIY) kits. These small smart computers help motivate children in terms of algorithmic thinking, problem solving  and creativity, especially when they understand for themselves that they can create their own devices that interact with their surroundings.

Moving forward, we strongly believe the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) has made the right decision to ensure coding is officially added to the curriculum of national schools starting next year. Let us work together to contribute to the benefits of our society and nation.

* Associate Professor Dr Raja Kumar Murugesan is Acting Dean of Taylor’s University, School of Computing and IT.

**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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