Today, we have our Lead Educator, Ms Mona Tan, with us to share why coding is the new literacy and why it is critical for parents to start their children on it. Mona is an experienced educator who caters the class according to the needs of her students.
Q. Tell us about yourself!
I graduated from NUS Science with a major in Statistics and a minor in Computer Science. But really, I spent way more time in the School of Computing as opposed to the Faculty of Science.
Q. What are your hobbies?
I play computer games. A lot of computer games. In fact that’s mostly why I like computers.
Mona the tinkerer working her magic on the school’s laptop
Q. How did you get started, teaching kids coding?
I first started teaching robotics and math, during my pre-university days. I later got an internship to teach coding at an education startup, and from then on I fell in love with teaching coding to kids.
Q. What keeps you going? Why do you enjoy teaching kids?
Teaching, in my opinion is one of the most important jobs around. Why? Because we nurture the next generation. We inspire children not just academically, but also on a personal level. Nothing beats the satisfaction of knowing that students look up to me as a role model.
“We nurture the next generation. We inspire children not just academically, but also on a personal level.”
Q. Why do you think kids should learn coding?
We live in a complicated world. Being able to understand how computers works helps kids to understand complexity and learn how to manage it. Coding does not just apply to computers, the logic that goes on behind it can be applied to many situations in life.
Q. If a child is talented and passionate in programming, how will this help him in his everyday life, school, or future career?
Programming is an essential skill in today’s society. Everything we do is largely driven by technology. From the social media apps we use, to work efficiency tools, every aspect of our life is intertwined with technology. Knowing exactly how technology works and how to create technology provides an edge in a competitive society.
“Knowing exactly how technology works and how to create technology provides an edge in a competitive society.”
Q. Tell us about how a typical coding class would look like.
There’s no one-size-fits-all “typical” coding class, it all depends on the students and their learning needs. Given a small class size, each class differs depending on the students that are in it. It is important that every student feels comfortable in class so that they can get the most out of each lesson.
Putting on their thinking caps
Q. If I walked into your classroom during a lesson, what would I see and hear?
A whole lot of learning, interaction, laughter and fun.
Q. In your opinion, what is the most important takeaway for kids from Coding class?
The most important takeaway is learning how to manage complexity.
Q. Describe a bit more about what you teach. If I had 2 kids, one 8 and one 14, what would they learn and how would it be age-appropriate?
For the 8 year old, I would recommend Scratch if the kid has never done programming before. Scratch is a user-friendly interface that teaches kids how to think like a computer without the messy syntax that goes on behind the scenes.
For the 14 year old, I would recommend Python as it’s a powerful real world computer language and it will enable the kid to go deeper into computing concepts to understand more complex algorithms.
Bright smiles after completing the class with Ms Mona
Mona is our lead educator who delights in translating her passion and talent for coding into the bright young minds of children.
Our team had the opportunity to catch up with our cute student, Jun Min, and his mum over the weekend. An avid coder whose top hobby is also coding (no surprises there!), Jun Min started coding with us when he was barely 7, and has since progressed from being a #Scratcher to coding in Python. This talented little boy is now almost 9 – he shares with us more on his journey in coding and how he applies his talent in coding to his daily activities.
Q: Hi Jun Min! Why do you like coding so much? Jun Min: Coding is so interesting, and very tricky at the same time. I like this because I love challenges. I like being able to see the end result of my own creation/ code. Along the way, I get to edit my code just the way I like it, and do add-ons to make it better. This makes me feel like I have accomplished something all by myself.
Jun Min’s Mum: We started out just wanting him to try something new and to spend his school holidays productively, so we enrolled him in the Scratch 1 holiday course. But after that, he was so interested that he began to continue Scratch on his own accord! He showed such enthusiasm in learning coding that we decided to continue on to the Gifted Coders program when he was invited.
“Coding is so interesting, and very tricky at the same time. I like this because I love challenges”
Q: How has the experience been for you so far?
Jun Min: My experience has been really fun. Being in the Gifted Coders program also brings me to the higher stages of difficulty in coding, so this challenges me even more! My teachers at Coding Lab have been very nice and patient as well. I always look forward to coding class.
“Coding is a fun way for me to practice old and new concepts in Maths and Science.”
Q: That’s really cool. How do you find the time to code on top of your schoolwork? Do you think what you learn in Coding class has helped you at school? Jun Min: My favourite subjects are Mathematics and Science. Coding involves Maths and Science as well and requires a lot of mathematical skills. So coding is a fun way for me to practice old and new concepts in Maths and Science.
Jun Min’s Mum: I believe it has helped him express himself better and helped him to foster and develop his creative juices. It has also increased his proficiency in using the computer, which is very useful, as schoolwork involves online work and projects nowadays.
“It has also taught him perseverance, as well as improved his ability to troubleshoot and solve problems on his own.”
Q: Apart from coding, what else do you like to do? What are your hobbies? Jun Min: My hobby is coding! I love creating new games. I also love playing computer games. Other than that, I also enjoy cycling, swimming and drawing, and even designing games on paper. I hope to become a game designer one day.
Jun Min’s Mum: Coding has increased his confidence in his own abilities, and encouraged him to take pride in his own work. It has also taught him perseverance, as well as improved his ability to troubleshoot and solve problems on his own. He is always excited to ‘present’ his code or new design to us, and it has been really heartening to see him so passionate about something.
Q: Share with us something interesting about Jun Min: Jun Min’s Mum: Jun Min loves mathematics and started doing mental sums on his own at a very young age. He has come up with a few mathematical equations and taught us as well.
Q: Lastly, do you have any advice for other parents out there regarding STEM education? Jun Min’s Mum: STEM education is increasingly important and will soon be an intrinsic part of our lives, hence early exposure is useful.
Jun Min is a Primary 3 student at Henry Park Primary School. He is currently attending Coding Lab’s Gifted Coders weekly programme and was one of the participants at the 2017 Inter-Primary Robotics Competition.
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