We sent our intern to Japan to teach over the summer holidays. He shares his 4 key takeaways on how children learn.

Monday, 1400H: The plane touched down at Haneda airport. It was my second time in Tokyo, but it certainly felt different from my first. As I breathed in the cool air and looked around me, I felt a sense of excitement as to what would await me the next day, when I would first step into the Coding Lab Japan campus and have my first interaction with the students and teaching team.

Tuesday, 0800H: Finally! After a quick ride on the efficient subway, I was about to take my first step into the Coding Lab campus – easily identifiable with the Signature Coding Lab emblem visible on the glass door. My time in Coding Lab Japan was about to begin.

I stepped through the glass doors, and here’s what I learnt:

Coding Lab Japan Campus (Tokyo, Japan)
Coding Lab Japan Campus (Tokyo, Japan)
  1. Entertain their curiosities

In Japan, I had a very young student who was very nervous and afraid in class. But I soon found out that she loved to play the piano. She was fascinated when I introduced the different musical instruments in Scratch, and we had great fun creating music related projects together. I realised just how important it was to pay attention to the children’s curiosities and interests, as that would be what gives them their intrinsic motivation to learn. We need to ensure that we discover the topic that the child is interested in, and engage them by combining it with programming concepts to build a fun project.

Moral of the story: Children will be curious, no matter which country they are from. They are always fascinated about how things work, and more often than not, there will be a mischievous student in class figuring out how to take it apart. Taking note of what they are curious about is a good way to find out more about the child’s interests, and these are going to be your best allies in grabbing and holding that child’s attention.

  1. Understand how they Learn

Although many of the students in Japan do not take English as their first language, communication was no issue as I was able to help them understand key concepts by switching between different methods of teaching. I alternated between drawing it out, to using real-life examples (acting it out sometimes!), and most importantly, encouraging them to try it out by themselves. The satisfaction when they finally got it and were able to write their lines of code brought a huge smile to my face.

Moral of the story: Children learn and develop at different rates. It is important to understand how they learn, and adjust our teaching methods accordingly. The process of figuring out the child’s learning style will require time, observations, and trial and error. At the end of the day, it is completely worth it, just to make a difference in the child’s life.

Students in Japan learning how to code using Scratch
Students in Japan learning how to code using Scratch
  1. Explore through Play

Whether in Japan or Singapore, students are always excited about playing with their own games after they have created them. They often get absorbed in experimenting with their projects, oftentimes changing a value here and there which makes a huge difference to the difficulty and gameplay of their games.

Encouraging students to experiment with the games they have learnt to create reinforces what they have learnt and also helps to build confidence in their own abilities. Sometimes the results of their experiments can surprise you!

A student in Japan was playing with one of the tech toys at Coding Lab – an Airblock drone – during his break time and he could program the drone without much help even though he has not done it before, as it was similar to what he had learnt in Scratch.

Moral of the story: Children love to play! Play is one of the main ways in which children learn. Give the children some time to play and experiment on their own; you’ll be surprised by their concentration, and what they can achieve.

Learning to fly and code the Airblock drone
Yilun with the kids – Learning to fly and code the Airblock drone
  1. Challenge them at the Right Level

Whenever any of the students got stuck writing their code, I would ask them to take a quick break if they needed to, and challenge them to solve the problem when they return. More often than not, they quickly got into solving the problem, as solving a challenge given by a teacher gives them a great sense of accomplishment.

However, it is important to take note of the abilities of the children, and challenge them at the right level. Giving them a challenge that is not within their capabilities will discourage them, doing more harm than good. It is important to observe the capabilities of the children, and create challenges that are slightly outside of their comfort zone.

In the Coding Lab curriculum, there are many different problems and challenges available, designed for different levels of abilities to bring out the best in your child.

Moral of the story: Challenges and competitions are a great (and fun) way to get the children involved and motivated. This way, you can push the child to achieve more, and build their confidence.

Wednesday, 1630: As I boarded the flight back to Singapore, I couldn’t help but review the memories of my experience in Japan. All in all, it was amazing and I really enjoyed the chance to make an impact in the students’ lives during my time in Coding Lab Japan. On top of that, I experienced the wonderful culture of Japan and visited many beautiful places. 

I have truly learned a lot from the teams in both Japan and Singapore and the experience has been invaluable.

Nikko, Japan - The beautiful Shinkyo Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage site (One of my favourite places in Tokyo)
Nikko, Japan – The beautiful Shinkyo Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage site (One of my favourite places in Tokyo)

Parents’ Learning Festival 2018

Coding Lab was privileged to be a part the Parents’ Learning Festival 2018. Our founder, Mr Foo Yong Ning was an invited panelist where he addressed issues on S.T.E.A.M. Learning in this digital Age.

Our Founder, Yong Ning, as an invited panelist for the Parents' Learning Festival 2018
Our Founder, Yong Ning, as an invited panelist for the Parents’ Learning Festival 2018

Key issues debated included the way learning has changed in the 21st Century (where students are now taught to think and apply what they have learned, rather than rote memorisation of notes), as well as the implications of this in countries all over the world, comparing the technology adoption rate of Singapore with other countries such as China and India (Eg. Cashless Payment and mobile apps).

Our co-founder, Candice also gave a talk on Coding: The Language of the Future, where she shared more on how coding is not a separate subject, but rather, a language or a skill that can be applied to all disciplines, including Math and Science.

Our co-founder, Candice, giving a speech on Coding: The Language of the Future
Our co-founder, Candice, giving a speech on Coding: The Language of the Future
Conducting the 1st coding class of the Sep hols!
Conducting the 1st coding class of the Sep hols!

Whilst the parents were busy with their talks, students also had lots fun with their first foray into coding at our class conducted during the festival.

Cracking the Code: Coding Lab Feature in Little Magazine (Aug – Oct 2018)

We are featured in the August – October 2018 issue of Little Magazine! Read on to discover what our Founder, Yong Ning and our Curriculum Advisor, Julius have to share on why Coding is so important for the children of today’s digital age.

Little (Aug - Oct'18) Feature
Little (Aug – Oct’18) Feature (Page 90)
Little (Aug - Oct'18) Feature (Page 91)
Little (Aug – Oct’18) Feature (Page 91)

 

Coding Lab Zaobao Feature: Must-Have 21st Century Skills – Get a Head start with Enrichment Activities from Debate to Coding

Check us out – we are featured in today’s issue of Lianhe Zaobao, the largest Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper!

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Click on image above for full article (PDF)

Translation in English:

The Ministry of Education is pushing for holistic education among the students in recent years. Students are not only expected to grasp the academic knowledge from their school curriculum but also master the 21st Century Competencies which include critical thinking, communication skills and the spirit of teamwork.

Lianhe Zaobao observed that there is an increasing trend in education service providers targeting these skills through debate and coding courses to nurture students’ soft skills. For example, The Global Citizen, which was established in 2015, aims to provide students with experimental learning and varied extra-curricular activities. The company helps the students grow through different activities like Debate, Model United Nations, Public Speaking, Global Citizenship education and leadership training.  

Founders Jared Yeo and Walter Yeo feel that learning should nurture students’ worldview and critical thinking, and not just be confined to books. They observed that most young people today lack the ability to understand the importance of their role in the society and the world. Hence, the company wishes to stimulate the students’ interest in local and international development topics and affairs, in order to be a responsible global citizen.

Coding Lab nurtures and develops students in their computational thinking. During the interview, the founder, Foo Yong Ning, talked about the four pillars of computational thinking – problem decomposition, abstraction, algorithm and pattern recognition. Lessons at Coding Lab cater to students from four years old to 18 years old. Coding Lab has collaborated with the National Library Board (NLB) to organise workshops for pre-schoolers, groomed primary school students to gain tech-know-hows with Scratch, and allowed secondary school students and tertiary students to combine Mathematics knowledge with Python.

When discussing how the company’s classes can help students grasp the 21st century competencies, founders of The Global Citizen used debate as an example and pointed out that debate helps students to improve their communication and expression skills, training them to think logically, observe their surroundings and analyze the problem before expressing their own views.

For Coding Lab, Yong Ning talked about how students are able to apply computational thinking to solve problems. He elaborated, “Our students are interacting with apps every day so when we teach them how to create games and apps, we are providing them with tools for them to tackle the future.”

An administrative executive, 38, who is a mother of two, places her two sons at Coding Lab to learn to code. During the interview, she said that the coding lessons can stimulate the children’s creative thinking and encourages them to think out of the box. She added, “Attending coding classes can allow children to relax because they do not need to worry about tests or examinations and can express their creativity freely.”

One of the sons from Wellington Primary School started to attend coding lessons this year and has already mastered the creation of games such as Flappy Bird. He said, “Through the coding classes, I understand the mechanics of programming like how to move and interact and broadcast messages.”

Coding Lab Student Feature: Josephine, 14, Raffles Girls’ School

Our team had the opportunity to catch up with our talented student, Josephine, 14. A member of her school’s Infocomm club, she started with Coding Lab in 2017, where she was first introduced to Python programming. She has since progressed upward and can now count programming in C++ as another skill under her belt. This humble and intelligent student shares with us her journey in programming and why she enjoys the challenge it poses for her.

Hi Josephine! Could you share with us how you got started on coding?

I started coding at the end of 2017, mostly due to school’s influence because I am in the Infocomm club. I like computers so I thought I might as well try coding and see if my interest lies there. So that is how I started researching on coding – lessons and which ones I can join. 

How was the learning experience and what did you like about it?

I started with Python and it was very fun! Honestly! It was new and it was fun. It was something other than school work so it was great. I guess afterward I became more and more interested so I kept continuing the lessons. And I think another part of Python that I really enjoyed was Python Perfect which was basically coding challenges. I would work on different challenges each week, to devise a solution to the problems.  I really enjoyed it and that kept my interest sustained. 

I started with Python and it was very fun! I really enjoyed Python Perfect which was basically coding challenges.

I know you are preparing for the NOI competition. How does it differ from your previous Python lessons?

NOI is a completely different language – which is C++. Initially, the first day was quite hard to convert over to C++ because the syntax is quite different. But right now I find it quite fun.

How does C++ compare to Python?

I think it’s the same. Both require logical thinking and designing algorithms. But C++, because it is an NOI lesson – the challenges are really hard. Harder than the Python ones. So they are quite hard to deal with and I feel like my brain is exploding sometimes (laughs) but it is still fun! 

How does it help you in school? Do you think it is an essential skill to learn? 

When I code in school, I do see some of my friends getting interested in it.  They will ask me about it. I told my CCA teacher that I am taking Python lessons outside of infocomm because Infocomm doesn’t do any Python lessons. I enjoy thinking – especially the application of school mathematics to Python. I get really excited when I see lines and lines of code (yes, really!).

I enjoy thinking – especially the application of school mathematics to Python.

What career would you like to pursue in the future?

I cannot very confidently say I would like to code for the rest of my life (laughs). But definitely more towards the area of Science. I think it is an extremely important skill to have because society is fast-paced now.

Technology is getting more and more advanced so in the future, it will be hard to survive in the world when you have absolutely no idea what is happening behind the computers, the AI, and the robots. 

Josephine, 14, is a student at Raffles Girls’ School. She started off with our basic Python course and recently attended our NOI preparation class this summer. The National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) is organized by NUS School of Computing annually to spur interest within the school community and to create more awareness among the students and teachers on the finer points of programming, which involves useful algorithmic techniques and problem-solving skills.

5 Things You Must Know About InnovFest UnBound 2018

Innovfest unbound: The anchor event of Smart Nation Innovations; a week-long series of events that showcase Asia’s most innovative developments. It is a platform for entrepreneurs, brands, corporates, investors and tech start-ups from all around the world to meet and share ideas, build partnerships and celebrate digital disruption.

Our intern had the opportunity to gain first-class insights into innovfest unbound, and here she lists 5 things that you absolutely have to know if you missed the highlight event:

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Number 1: Tencent may take over the world (literally)

We all know what WeChat is but fewer of us know that WeChat’s parent company is actually Tencent. WeChat is but Tencent’s latest success. Steven Chang, the CVP of Tencent introduced the concept of building an ecosystem that targets at what a consumer does daily in order to meet their needs. This requires intensive studying of the consumer. This is also how WeChat, which started off as just a social media platform, is now an app that people cannot live without in China. Steven also revealed the next big thing for Tencent is ABC. A for AI, B for Big Data and C for Cloud. They have already started their initiatives such as the building of smart cities, revamping retail to be smarter and AI in the medical field. Learn the fundamentals of Artificial Intelligence right here and now!

Number 2: It’s all about the Consumer, the Customers, and the Market

The common theme that keeps coming up in the talks by successful businesses is their focal point on their consumers or customers. LINE music talked about understanding of the Japanese consumers to discover what they like and implement that function. Netflix talked about the importance of listening to the market in order to adapt to changes. Consumer power is rapidly growing in our digital era and they hold great importance to how businesses dictate their direction today. It is about crafting that experience for customers in order to grow and sustain the business.

Number 3: Optimization. Automation. Machine Learning. What now?

The venture capitalist judges of the Unilever Pitch Challenge pose a critical question for the pitcher and the floor. “Yes, you have optimized and automated this process. So what differentiates you from the rest of the pitchers who have said similar things?” In a few years’ time, I reckon that automation and optimisation are going to be the next must-haves for businesses and that they will no longer be unique selling points. So how do businesses differentiate themselves from their competitors and be different? This brings us to our next point:

photo_2018-06-25_17-10-11Number 4: Brand Storytelling

Coca Cola, Intel and Circles.Life shared about the essential point of storytelling and that is what brands are built upon. Every brand has its own story and building it requires 3 ‘C’s: Context, Content, and Creativity. It is to showcase your point-of-view but more importantly, for consumers to interact and resonate with. This intangible aspect may be hard to quantify in a business. However, decisions are made with emotions, no matter how much logic we put into them. Hence, businesses need to create timely and creative content to deliver to their customers.

Number 5: Don’t be a Doctor, Be a Computer Scientist

The world has grown to become one that cannot function without technology. Lai Chang Wen, founder of Ninja Van joked about future careers for Asian parents to nag their children about; instead of being a doctor, be a computer scientist instead. This shows the equivalence in prestige and demand that a computer scientist has with a doctor, in the Asian context. Kickstart your journey to be a Computer Scientist with the versatile Python language.

Final Takeaway: We need to rise up as a generation that utilises technology to aid our daily lives and solve world problems. The importance of programming and coding is irrefutable. We must aim to be at the forefront of this technological era.

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.
 
IMG_2646
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. 

 

IMG_0441 (2)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.

 

IMG_0460Bright 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”

Meet Jun Min, 9, our young coder
Meet Jun Min, 8, our cool young coder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Can you post Jun Min's favourite characters on this cake? Hint: #Scratcher #mBot
Can you spot Jun Min’s favourite characters on this cake? Hint: #Scratcher #mBot

“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.