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 all industries, cutting across departments or functions.
Demand is increasing exponentially. As organisations rely more and more on technology to do business, we are 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, so knowing how to code or program gives a competitive edge to an individual, organisation and the nation.
Computing is becoming vital to many disciplines, 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. Generation Y and Z students now want to learn how to code.
They are shifting from a passive to an active role, where they want to learn how to make tablets and computers to do useful things.
This is reflected when they are curious about the behind-the-scenes in creating mobile applications (apps) on their smartphones or building web spaces and websites.
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 into the school curriculum.
Any country recognising the importance of computer science will experience its 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 campaigns.
This is an initiative to increase access for youth to learn computer science, empowering them to achieve more for themselves, their families and communities. The programme for youths to hone their coding skills has inspired the largest number of students within the Klang Valley.
Gamification in learning coding can enhance learning outcomes and increase motivation for the younger students.
Code.org has suggested 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 on ways to teach coding.
We can also use smart small computers such as the Raspberry Pi to learn coding through fun and practical projects.
Arduino devices can be easily programmed by novices and these kits are becoming popular today as do-it-yourself kits.
These small smart computers help motivate children in terms of algorithmic thinking, problem solving and creativity, especially when they understand that they can create their own devices
that interact with their surroundings.
Moving forward, we strongly believe the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation has made the right decision to ensure coding is added to the curriculum of national schools starting next year.
Let us work together to contribute to society and nation.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DR RAJA KUMAR MURUGESAN, acting dean, School of Computing and IT, Taylor’s University