Sunday, 17 May 2015 21:22

Campaign to boost learning in computer coding Featured

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici,

Microsoft is leading a campaign week to encourage more Australian students to take up computer coding and discover how others are using it to change the world.

The campaign -YouthSpark #WeSpeakCode – kicked off last week, as a celebration of the power of coding throughout Australia – inspired by the international movement

The campaign coincides with a study just released by Microsoft which shows that Australian students are well behind their counterparts in the Asia Pacific region when it comes to coding training and uptake.

The study also found that Aussie students generally feel relatively unsupported in their interest for coding, which Microsoft says signaled an “urgent need for educators to look deeper at integrating it as a core subject in the school curriculum”.

And, only 32% of students in Australia said they have an opportunity to learn coding in school, whether as a core subject or an extracurricular activity, marking the lowest figure in all countries surveyed.

The Microsoft campaign last week attracted more than 7,000 students from all over Australia to get a taste of what coding is with the help of volunteers and teachers showcasing coding through school and community events, tutorials and online activities.

“Microsoft’s YouthSpark #WeSpeakCode is really shining a light on the power and possibilities of coding for thousands of young Australians who are increasingly discovering how rewarding it can be.”

The Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull said improving the technology skills of students is “essential for Australia to remain competitive and prosperous in a globalised world.”

Microsoft has established a number of key initiatives including the Imagine Cup global tournament, to inspire young people to develop innovative solutions to problems using coding and new technologies.

As part of the coding campaign, Microsoft has established a number of key initiatives including the Imagine Cup global tournament, to inspire young people to develop innovative solutions to problems using coding and new technologies.

And, Microsoft has announced that two Australian teams that entered the 2015 Imagine Cup tournament have made it into the world finals:

•    Team Opaque Multimedia are the Australian finalists for the 2015 Imagine Cup’s World Citizenship division. They partnered with Alzheimer’s Australia to develop a Virtual Dementia Experience. It is used with training programs to allow caretakers and family carers to experience first-hand what life is like for a dementia sufferer through cutting edge virtual reality

•     Team Speakerboxx are the Australian finalists for the 2015 Imagine Cup’s Innovation division. SpeakerBoxx is a social companion app for mobile that combines a student’s community support group with the benefits of thought verbalisation. Students can use the app to record a private diary, send anonymous messages to a teacher or school counsellor, or simply chat with friends at school. Its most innovative feature is its cloud-based analysis of user recordings, which picks up key words and patterns of a negative or extreme nature, providing immediate support via links to mental health support services or suggesting management techniques in a friendly, relatable manner.

Commenting further on the research study, Pip Marlow said Australia had a problem “around the uptake of coding amongst our young people which needs to be addressed now otherwise students could miss out on huge career opportunities.”

“It is important for educators to move on from asking whether or not to offer coding as a subject – but how it can be integrated into the curriculum as soon as possible,” she said.

Marlow’s comments were echoed by The Smith Family, a key #WeSpeakCode partner focused on helping disadvantaged youth.

“With the current high youth unemployment rate, it is important to ensure more Australian students, especially those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, have access to the right kind of training so they can develop key skills to successfully attain employment. ” said Dr Lisa O’Brien, CEO of The Smith Family.

Marlow says coding is the key to change. “Through the use of code, computer programmers are working on amazing and innovative new ideas, using technology to improve the way we live, consume and interact with people from around the world.”


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).



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