The idea to create sustainable opportunities by training young ones and creating the next future leaders in technology was addressed in a 4-hour long stakeholders’ workshop, concluding the first phase of the Coding Education for Ghana program, through “The Coding Caravan” in October and November 2021.
Background and Objective
Technology education and skills development should not be the preserve of a few in society. It must be democratized, revolutionized, and accessible by all. 21st-century skills have become a necessity for survival in this age, as innovation and emerging technologies are on the rise and at a faster rate. As the purpose of every education system is to make capable graduates fit and function effectively in their environment, these skills have become inevitable. The main objective of the program is to build teachers’ and trainers’ capacity to support Ghana’s coding education, and to impart that knowledge, unearthing creativity in children by learning to code. Also, to improve local partners´ capacity of implementing hands-on coding projects, to promote and strengthen coding education in Ghana. Thus, the program seeks to develop a modular framework to integrate art and visual programming into the Ghanaian educational context, to ignite or enhance the development of digital skills. This can be achieved by fostering closer collaboration among education providers, policymakers, and other relevant stakeholders in ICT in Ghana, with private sector organizations, such as IIPGH.
Driving an emerging technology-focused capacity-building program to prepare the next generation for entrepreneurship, and new job requirements in today’s fast-moving technological world, the Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana (IIPGH) together with its partner, Code for Afrika, from Leipzig, Germany, has embarked on Coding Education for Ghana program. The program aims to strengthen computer science education in Ghana through coding and enhance computational thinking skills in children since these skills are valuable in the 21st century. Skills such as creativity and innovation skills, digital fluency and literacy skills, collaboration and communication skills, exploration and problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and analysis skills are essential for all learners irrespective of their fields of interest. The project, developed and tested, offers a simple and motivating introduction to computer programming for children (from 8 years) – conveys basic programming concepts, introduces computational thinking, and shows the creative potential of programming. This program rode on the back of “The Coding Caravan” launched in August 2021.
Why Learn about Coding
In our digitized world, coding is becoming an integral part of literacy. To understand and change our digital world, which is increasingly determined by algorithms, one needs at least basic programming skills. Learning to program is no longer just for computer specialists and software developers – in many countries, programming is becoming a mandatory part of school education. In more professions and social fields, programming skills are becoming a prerequisite.
The Coding Caravan (TCC)
Given the opportunity and exposure, every child has brilliance. As the skill of the future, it is necessary to introduce coding to every child, strengthening the basics from an early start. Building the youthful population and huge human resource asset of Ghana and Africa, skills development training, particularly in the technology-related fields, needs to be introduced early in their formative years before they are out of school. Targeting pupils, teachers/trainers, schools, communities, educators, and policymakers in Ghana, the first phase of the Coding Education for Ghana program had “The Coding Caravan” in three locations: Kasoa, Takoradi, Koforidua, and ended with a stakeholders’ workshop in Accra. The Coding Caravan introduces coding basics to young ones, aiming at implementing creative ideas – as one can create computer games, interactive animations and graphics, and many other applications. It offers all children and beginners an easy and playful introduction to programming.
With no prior programming knowledge required, participants can learn to code using software such as Codeit!, practicalizing digital design and creative coding, and 3D printing. Code it! learning platform was developed, especially for teaching coding in schools. The learning platform offers a variety of materials to teaching programming: self-learning courses, child-friendly programming editors, ready-to-use teaching materials, and more.
Tutors during the caravan took turns in each session, teaching participants practically and playfully to code. With assistants, teaching and learning are made easy as the assistants are seen going round to help students to follow the lead tutor in an instructional method. The Coding Caravan carries along on all roadshows over 150 (one hundred and fifty) laptops, well charged to stay up when faced with electricity challenges. The caravan also makes available its 3D printers to print and showcase 3D designs from creative coding.
Many of these children who had never used a computer before nor seen 3D printers appreciated the experience and showed more interest and creativity. They yearned for more, but the caravan could only last 2 and a half hours per batch.
Kasoa Coding Caravan
The Coding Caravan in Kasoa coincided with the celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child. 11th October is celebrated worldwide as the International Day of the Girl Child. A special day to recognize and empower girls. The caravan celebrated this day in a community to introduce coding to girls in Kasoa. Golden Pride International School was the host for the day, and other students from adjoining schools in the community were allowed to participate in the program. About one hundred and ten (110) girls in two batches were introduced to coding and other digital skills.
Takoradi Coding Caravan
Takoradi was the second of three locations planned for this Coding Education for Ghana program. On October 22, 2021, the caravan arrived in Takoradi scheduled for a 2-day workshop for two schools, namely Rev. Grant Methodist JHS, and St Anthony of Padua Catholic School. With great enthusiasm and testimonies, both schools expressed more interest in this program, hoping to have more regular exposure to coding concepts and development. At Rev. Grant Methodist JHS, we had over 100 (One hundred) students participating in the program, while St Anthony of Padua Catholic School offered over 150 (One hundred and fifty) students, between ages 8 and 15. This was a very revealing moment for St Anthony of Padua Catholic School, especially, as they have already been preparing for a technology competition.
Koforidua Coding Caravan
The last location was on the 6th of November, in Koforidua, at Aspire Educational Complex, where over 150 (One hundred and fifty) students participated in 3 sessions. The first and second sessions had students from Aspire Educational Complex, while the third session of 50 students came from other selected public schools in the community (Okrase Methodist Basic School, and Edwisu Mile 50 MA School). Just as many others, these students were inspired to learn to code, exhibiting their creativity, confidence, and interests.
The Coding Education for Ghana program was climaxed with a stakeholder’s workshop, which invited all participating schools in the Coding Caravan. Representatives from the three locations of the caravan (Kasoa, Takoradi, Koforidua) were present. Other participants from the maiden TCC in partnership with IT Consortium were also present from three locations in Accra (Oksart Place, Kwame Nkrumah Circle; Alpha Beta School, Dansoman; Shield International School, Adenta), and one location in Ho, Volta Region, Ho-Dome RC Primary/JHS School Complex. A representative from the Council for Technical and Vocational Educational Training (CTVET) participated in the workshop, as well as the President of Academic City University College, Prof. Fred McBagonluri.
Speaking at the event, Franklin Eleblu, Chief Solution Architect, IT Consortium, pointed out why we stand a great chance to grow as a continent focusing on digitalization. He said, “Africa missed out in the first, second, and third industrial revolutions. The fourth industrial revolution has suddenly leveled the playing field for Africa to tap into”.
The workshop which took place on the 29th of November 2021, at the Fiesta Royale Hotel, Accra, brought together relevant stakeholders to evaluate the pilot coding programs in schools/communities and to formulate implementation strategies for its sustainability. The workshop lasted 4 hours with a presentation of the concept note of the coding education program, and group round table discussions. All three groups made valuable evaluations and strategies for sustainability, out of which all suggestions will be fine-tuned for implementation.
Call to action
The coding education program shall continue to have a series of workshops for teachers/tutors, who will then impart knowledge from the training and teaching methods to children/pupils. Such training for children shall take the form of workshops in interested or selected schools, educational centers, and communities. IIPGH shall also continue to use its physical and online structures to promote this program. With teaching materials and established approaches, tutors know the pedagogical handouts from software such as Code it! and use them to convey/design their lessons with different methods – to teach children and beginners the basic concepts of programming simply and practically.
Learning to code is a lifelong activity. The Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana as a confident organization in capacity building encourages students, parents, educators, and administrators to take a keen interest and sign up for this skill development program to prepare young people for the future of work. Corporate, Civil Society organizations and government agencies are invited to collaborate with the Institute, and its partner Code for Afrika, to promote coding in communities (both urban and rural) across the country, to drive the message of ICT practical skills development for young people. Other platform developers/providers are also encouraged to come along to make their platforms available for coding and other skills development programs. The future can be bright if we make a conscious effort in preparing our young ones.
Coding Caravan Highlights on YouTube
Author: Richard Kafui Amanfu—(Director of Operations, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)
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