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.

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.

#Girl Power: Meet Sarah, our talented young coder. Starting from ground zero,  she has come a long way – after all, she clinched an Honourable mention at the National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) in March 2018, in just less than six months of learning to code. How did she do it? Read more from our plucky student as she shares with us her journey with coding and how it has impacted her life.

Q: Tell us how you got started with coding. What do you like most about it?
Sarah: It was Coding Lab that sparked my interest in coding. In the past, I’d never imagined using a computer for anything more than a Google search. But after a few lessons at Coding Lab, as I began to take my first steps into the Python programming language, I fell head over heels in love with coding. My interest surprised even myself! My teacher Mr. Foo is truly inspirational. As I  started with no coding experience, he guided me with infinite patience and would be more than happy to fill the board with diagrams and explanations just to make sure that I completely understood a concept. His enthusiasm really got me into coding- passion for coding is contagious! I started out with the Python meets Math course and I think it’s a great course for easing complete beginners like me into computers and coding. After you complete the course, you’ll have enough programming knowledge to read and understand code, pick up new languages and, most importantly, explore things through coding.

Sarah and her family, trekking in the USA
Sarah, with her family, trekking in the USA

Q: It took you less than six months to participate in your first coding competition. How did you manage that?
Sarah: Well, The one thing I like most about coding is the freedom and possibility it presents. The fundamentals of coding are quite simple, but there’s so much that you can do just using variables, functions, and loops! I understood this when I was learning Python, but only truly appreciated it when I began learning algorithms and C++ to take part in the NOI. Mr. Foo started teaching me sorting algorithms about halfway through my December break, and I still remember my delight when I realized that I was beginning to explore coding at deeper and very relevant level. That’s why I decided to try out the NOI as a personal challenge. It was tough, but fun!

The National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI), held at the NUS School of Computing
The National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI), held at the NUS School of Computing

“After learning about graphs and data structures, I saw how coding can be used for modelling and organizing real-world information- just thinking about it makes me excited!”

Q: That’s really impressive! Not many would dare to compete so quickly! How did you feel about it?
Sarah: Well, I think I just felt that there was nothing to lose! I was definitely a little nervous before the competition, but I always saw it as just another stepping stone to an even better understanding of coding. I faced a steep learning curve while preparing for the competition, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Sarah, receiving her award at the NOI competition in March 2018
Sarah, receiving her award at the NOI competition in March 2018

Q: Now that the competition is over, what else do you think you want to do with coding?
Sarah: I’ve really just brushed the surface of computer science. Coding is really a language, and just like someone learning a second spoken language, I’m still learning how to express myself and get my ideas down in clean (and readable!) code. I know that this only comes with practice and experience, so in the meantime, I plan to continue my journey into the awesome world of algorithms. I really want to be able to understand algorithms on a high level so that I can comfortably modify them and use them to solve complex problems. I hope that someday I can even design sophisticated algorithms myself! Apart from that, I also want to explore coding for modelling and simulations. That also makes me very excited.

Q: Designing algorithms – that’s fantastic. Could you share with us why you think learning to code is so important?
Sarah: Coding is an important skill to have not just because people with a coding background earn higher salaries- more than that, coding gives you power over the technology that will only play an increasingly significant role in your life. Speaking from a teenager’s perspective, there’s never a day when I don’t use my phone or computer. Coding also opens your mind to a different way of thinking.

“I find myself applying the logic and analytical skills I’ve picked up in coding both in school and in everyday life.”

Q: Apart from coding, what else do you like to do in your spare time? What’s a typical day for you like; how do you unwind at home after school?
Sarah: Well, to be honest, coding has slowly become the hobby I really enjoy- but I still love baking! When I’m not studying or coding, I’m usually in the kitchen covered in flour or busy scouring blogs for recipes. I’m also learning tai chi fan, which I find a fun and challenging exercise. And yes! fishkeeping is one of my hobbies and I rear Discus fish at home.

Discus FIsh - One of Sarah's hobbies (Believe it or not!)
Rearing Discus Fish – One of Sarah’s hobbies (Believe it or not!)

Q: Coding, baking, fishkeeping – way cool! so what do you think you will end up doing when you grow up?
Sarah: I’m still rather tentative when it comes to my career aspirations, but I really want to study math and computer science in college. And I honestly can’t imagine myself in a job unrelated to either of these fields- so maybe I’ll end up as a coder, who knows!

How Sarah unwinds: Baking cream puffs
How Sarah unwinds: Baking cream puffs

Q: We hope so too! Lastly, in the current field of STEM, there is sometimes the mistaken impression that it is ‘only for boys’. How do you think girls can be encouraged to pursue their passion in Math, Science and coding? Do you have any tips for young girls who want to code? 
Sarah: To all girls who are thinking about getting into coding, my advice is to not be afraid and try it out! It’s never too late to begin coding, and everyone- even experienced coders- has been a newbie at some point in time. If you find that you really like coding, then go ahead and explore at your own pace, and don’t forget to enjoy every moment! Starting to learn how to code is the hardest part.

“You’ll definitely encounter problems and get frustrated at times, but with patience, there’s nothing that you can’t achieve. There’s no one who can’t or shouldn’t learn how to code.”

Also- speaking from experience, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the troves of information online. Don’t let this get the better of you. Just take things step by step. Break down a hard concept into bite-sized chunks. If you need a couple days to process something, that’s perfectly fine! Coding is a lifelong journey. Personally, even though I’ve learned a lot in the past few months I only feel that the more I learn, the more I realize that I don’t know.

“It’s weird but true- so just be sure take the time to appreciate what you’re learning, and don’t be intimidated by the vastness of coding, because that’s where all the possibility lies, and that’s what makes coding beautiful!”

Sarah is currently a JC1 student at Hwa Chong International. She attended Python Meets Math class from 2017 – 2018 and received an honourable mention at the 2018 NOI competition, in less than six months after she picked up coding. 

Coding Lab x Brands’ – Inter Primary Robotics Competition

And this concludes the Inter-Primary Robotics Competition, brought to you in collaboration with BRAND’S SG! More than 30 schools participated in the selection round, and only 5 finalists were chosen. Each team was scored based on their algorithm, speed, as well as creative dress-up of the mbot. It was heartening to see the teamwork and great effort of all the teams.

A cute little mBot dressed up by one of the groups
A cute little mBot dressed up by one of the groups

 

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Our top finalists got to walk away with Brands Essence of chicken Alphamynd and surprise gadgets from Coding Lab!

Congratulations to all our fabulous prize winners!

Congratulations to our Co-Founder, Ms Candice Wang who was recently featured receiving the prestigious School Of The Year award (Computer Science) on behalf of Coding Lab.

Coding Lab is proud to be recognised amongst the top schools and products in Singapore, alongside BusyBees, Heguru Education, Royal Carribean Cruises, and Sophie La Girafe.

A huge Thank You to all Parents and Students for your unwavering support.

Candice Wang, Co-Founder of Coding Lab
Candice Wang, Co-Founder of Coding Lab, on winning the award
Our Co-Founder, Candice, featured in Little Magazine
Our Co-Founder, Candice, featured in Little Magazine

Happy Birthday, Singapore! A National Day ScratchJr Animation


“Count on Me, Singapore” – How do we raise our Singapore Flag to move up continuously? Our 4-6 year olds learn to code with National Pride, belting out a familiar favourite.

We got to test out the swankiest library in town – Tampines Regional Library and the newly-opened state-of-the-art IMDA Pixel Labs, where we were given the privilege to conduct a workshop as part of the opening series for the Pixel Labs. We throughly enjoyed teaching the little ones how to code, with a combination of craft, kinasethetic action, and of course ScratchJr blocks. Way to go, kiddos!

Our student, Jake was recently featured in #ALittleSomebody, by Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报. Congratulations to Jake and his cute family! From his winning Bat out of a Bat game, to a Birthday App for his Dad, to a beautiful game for his little brother, Jake is truly a young talent in coding.

P/s: Catch our Founder, Foo Yong Ning in action as he coaches Jake and his classmates during their lesson.

Doing our part to train up our young coders to become future leaders in technology!