Coding has been gaining a lot of attention over the past year. As reported in the Globe and Mail in January, Nova Scotia is leading the country in introducing coding into schools. Coding has been identified as a priority for all classrooms under Nova Scotia’s Action Plan for Education, and students in grades Primary to 3 were introduced to coding in September 2015. I was pleased to announce that as part of Budget 2016-2017, the province has invested $1 million to expand support for this initiative.
Coding is integral to the successful development of students and their critical-thinking, problem-solving and creativity skills. These skills are directly linked to many of the growth industries in Nova Scotia, including computer programming, marine, manufacturing and communications. This investment in coding means our young people will have the skills they need to be successful in a digital workforce.
Starting with our youngest students, programmable floor robots will be available in P-3 classrooms in every elementary school. This helps in teaching sequencing and problem solving. Students in grades 4 to 6 will learn more about coding as part of a renewed curriculum and every elementary school in Nova Scotia will receive Innovation and Exploration Kits, which include leading-edge technology and support devices. These kits will contain iPads, Chromebooks, PASCO wireless probes and software – and Sphero robots and Makey Makey invention kits, some of which our young students are demonstrating.
High school students will have access to Computer Programming 12 through the Nova Scotia Virtual School. Students will continue to participate in events like the Hour of Code and STEAM Olympics – which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurship, Art, and Mathematics. Partnerships with organizations like Brilliant Labs and Acadia Robotics promote coding, technology use and innovation.
This investment will provide teachers and students with the support they need to be successful. Professional development to all grades 4-6 teachers will begin in May and June of this year, and will continue at the IT Summer Camp for Teachers as part of the Summer Learning Academy. Last October, the province hosted an Education Day for Nova Scotia high school students at the international Big Data 2.0 Congress in Halifax. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for high school students from across the province to engage with some of the world’s leading technology-based companies to learn about the impacts of technology in the classroom and on everyday life.
In December, tens of thousands of Nova Scotia students from grades Primary to 12 participated in the Hour of Code, a global learning event that introduces the basics of coding, technology and design, and opens young minds to a world of career options. Nova Scotia had the highest percentage of growth in the country for the number of Hour of Code events, and the third highest participation rate in all of Canada, placing just behind Ontario and British Columbia.
In February, students from ages 9 to 18 years representing schools across the province participated in the Acadia Robotics competition. Winners in this competition have now advanced to the North American Championship in California. Our high school students also enjoyed the competition in the Robofest category, and will participate in the World Festival. In April, the theme for Nova Scotia Education Week, which celebrates the exceptional work of teachers and educational partners throughout the province, focused on Media Literacy and Empowering Critical Thinking in a Digital Media World.
Coding is everywhere. In Nova Scotia, we are proud to be recognized as a leader in coding and are working to provide the best possible opportunities for our young people to learn the technology skills they need to pursue careers of the future. The learners of today will be the leaders of tomorrow.
Karen Casey, MLA
Minister of Education & Early Childhood Development