Coding Lab is deeply honoured to have been invited for a live radio interview with Capital 95.8FM. Capital 95.8FM is a pioneering Chinese radio station which specialises in current affairs, finance, and lifestyle content.

Yong Ning with Ee Sim, 98.5FM host DJ
Yong Ning with Ee Sim, 98.5FM host DJ

In their 8th January morning show, co-founder Foo Yong Ning shared with Ko Ee Sim, host radio presenter, on the importance of digital literacy for the younger generation. Ee Sim is the anchor host for the station’s morning show which specialises on local current affairs and social issues.

Before going live on-air at the broadcast studio
Mr Foo, before going live on-air at the broadcast studio

As the interview was conducted in Mandarin, we present to you the translated radio transcript in English for easy reading below.

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Coding Lab logo

Ee Sim: Today we have with us the co-founder from Coding Lab, Foo Yong Ning. Good morning, Yong Ning! You studied Engineering in university right? Coming from a science and engineering background, is it natural to have a keen interest in computers and the like?

Foo: Yes I feel that this is the case for most people.

Ee Sim: Unless you were forced to learn engineering, it should be natural to be interested in this field, am I right?

Foo: Yes definitely. I am very lucky that my parents did not force me to learn engineering. I pursued the field voluntarily based on interest.

Ee Sim: It seems that you had completed your masters degree in Computational Design at MIT. After coming back to Singapore, why did you decide to open a coding educational centre for children?

Foo: The idea for our educational business did not arise immediately. Back then, I was working for an American MNC. Only in 2015 then did I think about starting a learning centre for kids. One fine day, I chanced upon a talk which gave me an epiphany. That talk made me realise how important it is for the new generation to pick up coding.

Ee Sim: Wow, since 4 years ago in 2015?

Foo: Yes, and what’s important is not just coding, but computational thinking too. Initially, it was more about how I could benefit my own children, given that we just had a recent addition to the family. However, gradually, we thought about extending our outreach to benefit more children around the country.

Ee Sim: Why is computational thinking so important to children?

Foo: In today’s age, computational thinking permeates every single aspect of our lives. For example, essential apps such as Google, Grab, and Facebook are all built on computer programs. They are all built on code, which requires computational thinking to be carried out.

Ee Sim: Indeed, we really cannot keep away from products of computational thinking because we use them so often. These applications are all products of man. If we possess computing skills and a solid foundation, we can definitely create more and better applications. In addition, understanding what goes behind these technological products may lead to a greater appreciation for it.  

Foo: Yes indeed, but I must say that it is not just about inventing things individually. At work, we may need to collaborate and communicate with developers that some applications or processes need improvement. Computational thinking offers many benefits in this area as well.

Ee Sim: Do you think that the popularity of coding courses for children has soared since Coding Lab’s opening in 2015?

Foo: Yes definitely. More parents and children have started to recognise the importance of learning coding. On one hand, parents have realised the infiltration of coding in our everyday lives. On the other hand, the government has also highlighted the importance of digital literacy through its policies.

Ee Sim: Certainly, the government, private organizations and even MNCs are encouraging children to learn coding. What are your views on parents who send their children to learn coding at an early age?

Foo: This question is tough because the parents of our students all come from different fields, educational backgrounds, and socio-economic status. Therefore, it is very difficult to place them into one homogenous group. But if I had to pick out a specific group, it would be those who are very concerned for their children’s education and future.

Ee Sim: Do the parents who send their children at your centre know exactly what coding is?

Foo: To put it simply, coding is just the act of instructing computers to do what we want them to do.

Ee Sim: What are the benefits of learning coding?

Foo: There are many benefits to learning coding. One direct application is that we can build our own web programs like Google and Facebook, or even create video games such as Angry Birds. I must stress that what’s more important here is how computational thinking is cultivated through the process of learning coding. You must be wondering, what exactly is this ‘computational thinking’? Computational thinking is a skill that allows us to make use of computer science to solve problems. It is made up of problem decomposition and pattern recognition, abstraction and algorithm design.

Ee Sim: If I don’t intend to make my child a coder or programmer when he/she grows up, do I still need to send my child to learn coding?

Foo: That is a very good question. To answer that, let me ask you another question back: Most of us did not end up as Mathematicians, but why were we made to learn Mathematics when young?

Ee Sim: Yes, so it is just a skill. Perhaps in the future, computational thinking will become like Mathematics, a compulsory subject in schools.

Ee Sim: Ok so we will be taking a break now, in the second half, Yong Ning will be sharing with you more about Coding Lab’s curriculum.

Ee Sim: In the first half our interview, we have established the importance of coding in today’s world. It seems that coding can be used in investment too.  

Foo: Definitely. For example, in quantitative trading, computer programs are utilised to help traders decide on the direction of investment.

Ee Sim: Yes, the computer really does a lot for us. Humans are unable to handle large amounts of data without the help of computers. Also, if the process tends to be consistent in nature, doing it using computers will be much more effective.

Foo: Yes, the computer can analyse more data and consider more factors.

Ee Sim: At Coding Lab, what ages do you welcome and are the courses long or short term?

Foo: We have courses tailored for children from as young as 4 to 18 years old.

Ee Sim: Really? 4 years old? They don’t even know how to hold a pencil properly!

Foo: Actually at age 4, the main learning outcome is not so much about coding in itself, but to understand how to give instructions clearly. It is more about giving children a head start in computational thinking, learning how to structure their thoughts, and not coding per se. It is to guide the child to know how to give specific instructions to achieve their desired outcomes.

Ee Sim: How about primary school children?

Foo: As they are older, we use platforms such as Scratch and App Inventor to teach coding. These platforms are highly visual, and have a drag-and-drop based interface — perfect for children. These platforms allow children to focus on computational thinking and not worry about writing code because endless scripts of code tend to be intimidating to most people. Through these 2 platforms, they can create their own games and stimulate their interest in game design and programming.

Ee Sim: Wow so even primary school children can create their own apps! What kind of era is this? So what about secondary school students, do they learn something more complicated?

Foo: As secondary school students are more accustomed with typing, we teach them standard coding languages such as Python, which have very broad uses in the real world. For example, in one of our data analytics courses, we had a secondary school student who was very interested in stocks.

Ee Sim: Interested in stocks at such a young age?

Foo: Yes, due to family influence perhaps. After attending our data analytics course, he thought about how he could apply whatever he had learnt into stocks.

Ee Sim: So through your courses, children will achieve mastery in this fundamental skill which can be applied into solving problems in our daily lives?  

Foo: Yes, students can apply computational thinking and coding knowledge to create anything of their interest — games, mobile applications etc. If they have a keen interest in Mathematics, we also have training courses to prepare them for the annual National Olympiad Informatics (NOI) competition held by National University of Singapore (NUS).

Ee Sim: Every child has different personalities and interests. As such, do you think that all children should pick up coding?

Foo: I feel that every child should have some foundation in coding. While it holds true that not everyone will grow up to be a programmer, I believe that in future, we will all need to come in contact with things related to coding. For example in the workplace, we may need to communicate with developers on how to improve their products and/or processes. Therefore, I believe that every child should have some knowledge in this field.

Ee Sim: For the past 100 years, our educational system has focused on writing and arithmetics. However, 100 years from now, coding may very well be incorporated into our compulsory syllabus as it has come to be a necessary skill.

Foo: 50 years ago, if someone had a good grasp of their languages and mathematics, they would be able to do well at their job. However, in the future, it may be computational thinking instead.

Ee Sim: Do you think that is possible to learn coding ourselves?  

Foo: Like many other skills, coding is not impossible to self-learn; It will just be more difficult. Learning things by ourselves can already be a challenge for adults, much less for children. It is very difficult to learn things if we do not have a clear picture of what we are trying to achieve. Therefore, learning through a well-planned curriculum with good guidance is much more effective and time saving.

Ee Sim: Do our government schools offer coding lessons?

Foo: Yes many do. In fact, we have collaborated with various MOE schools to conduct coding classes. These schools reach out to us because a majority of school teachers are unfamiliar with coding. These coding enrichment classes offer students a glimpse into the realm of coding, and those who are enticed will come to us at Coding Lab to further their interest.  

Ee Sim: Thank you. Today we are very happy to have the co-founder of Coding Lab to share with us about coding and its benefits.

Foo: Thank you too.

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)

 

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.

 

Coding Lab Feature – Parent’s World Magazine Issue 65, Nov/Dec 2017

Our Founder, Mr Foo was recently featured in the Nov/Dec’17 issue of Parents’ World Magazine. In it, he shares the importance of building your child’s confidence in problem-solving, and how learning computational thinking early helps them along. Also, get some insights and tips on managing screen time wisely with your child.

Parents World Magazine, Nov/Dec 2017
Parents World Magazine, Nov/Dec 2017

1711 - Parents World Feature Pg76-1 1711 - Parents World Feature Pg77-1

What makes Coding Lab a school that is different? How do we continuously strive to make your child’s learning more fun, more insightful, and more applicable?

Find out more from our Co-founder, Yong Ning as he shares his passion to create a school that inspires, in this article feature with Little Magazine.

“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.”
― Abraham Lincoln

A Personal Touch - Inspiring Passion in Coding with the child-centred approach
A Personal Touch – Inspiring Passion in Coding with the child-centered approach

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!

Coding Lab – Winner of School of the Year (Computer Science), Little Magazine

Coding Lab is proud to be a winner of the prestigious little Award.

Getting an award like this, which is given only to a selected group of top enrichment centres and parenting products in Singapore, really serves as a solid affirmation to the hard work our team has put in, and gives us a strong mandate to continue our pursuit to provide the best coding experience for all of our students.

Rest assured, we will not rest on our laurels. We will continue to work harder, to push the boundaries, to ensure that we keep evolving so that our students get only the best from us. We will continue to do what we do best – fuelling the flame of excitement in our little coders!

Most of all, a huge Thank You to all our students, parents and partners, for your support!

little logo_for web little magazine award 2017_Coding Lab

Little Award Write-up
Coding Lab awarded School of the Year by Little Magazine, 2017

We are so excited to have concluded our very First Parent-Child Workshop on Sunday!

For 120 mins, both parent and child had fun, poring over computing puzzles and learning how to create a game from Scratch. Such wonderful bonding moments for the family, and everybody got to learn something new.

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Teacher Joshua explaining using pattern recognition to code a square

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Parents – Getting into action with the kids!

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We would like to thank all Mummies, Daddies and Children who came down for the workshop.