In the previous series, our Founder Mr Yong Ning Foo shared with us how our award-winning, MIT-inspired coding curriculum was thoughtfully created.
Today, in the second part of this Hear From Our Founder series, we sit down with Yong Ning and his two children and inspirations – Audrey and Mitchell, ages 9 and 7 respectively – who are students of Coding Lab themselves! Hear all about their experiences and get the answers to the most commonly asked questions about our curriculum.
It’s exciting to hear how the Coding Lab curriculum all came together at the start! Now that your children are old enough to join Coding Lab as students, would you say that you’ve successfully introduced your favourite subjects to them in a fun way?
Yong Ning: Audrey is now 9 years old and Michell is 7 years old, and they have been attending our Coding Lab preschool and Scratch classes. With the curriculum that we built, we devised the Coding Lab Way of teaching which was also inspired by my time at MIT.
Having a good curriculum is important; but I believe that having a good teacher can make all the difference in engaging your child the right way, and set the tone for their journey in technology. That is why I carefully select tutors who not only have the requisite technical skills, but who most importantly embody our passion to teach, love engaging and educating children. They form a team of nurturing and inspiring educators that I envision and am comfortable for my own children to learn from.
Audrey: I started with Scratch 1 and 2 when I was in Primary 1 and am now learning Cognitive Artificial Intelligence with my brother. I like coding because it’s fun and it also teaches me how to do different things. I can make my drawings come to life. For example, I can draw a unicorn and make it walk!
Mitchell: I like coding because I can do a lot of stuff! It’s exciting and fun. I learnt how to move characters, to make the computer recognise the car number plate just by showing it more car number plates.
Audrey: I also learnt facial, speech and text recognition, such as making the computer recognise my face or my hair colour. It also guesses how old I am, and today I learnt to say something and the computer tells me whether the pronunciation is correct.
Wow, it sounds like Audrey and Mitchell both really enjoy learning to code! I have a question that we always ask all of our featured students – what difficulties do you face when learning to code and how do you overcome them?
Mitchell: It is difficult sometimes because of typing the words and sometimes there are very long sentences!
Audrey: He (Mitchell) always asks me to type it for him! For me, sometimes I have no idea what to draw or how to put the blocks together. I’ll try harder and do different combinations to get it to do what I want.
Yong Ning: It’s interesting that Mitchell and Audrey brought these up! We always consider the curriculum’s suitability before creating and rolling it out. For example, our Scratch curriculum is adjusted to children Ages 7 to 9 who are still learning to type and spell.
This is the same for all the other age groups, especially our Junior Coders Programme where preschoolers ages 5 to 6 are still working on their spelling and fine motor skills (not the best at using the mouse or at typing yet). That’s why we incorporate kinaesthetic activities and use touchscreen tablets for this age group.
“Simply jump in and code. … The amazing thing about Coding is that it can be applied to practically everything.“
What is a common question that you get about the Coding Lab curriculum?
Yong Ning: Many parents enquire why their children spend so many hours learning a programming language, particularly Scratch (for Ages 7 to 9), when they should be moving on to other programming languages.
It’s not about how many programming languages one knows, but about the concept behind it. We focus on the true understanding of the codes and class material, as opposed to simply memorising or copying. Our students gain a critical understanding of Computational Thinking, which is applicable across all domains regardless of the programming language used, so they are able to quickly pick up any coding language in the future.
In fact, Scratch actually looks deceivingly easy. It has what is called “low floor, wide walls and high ceiling” and is a principle that guides MIT Media Lab in its design of the Scratch programming language. It allows newbies to get started easily (low floor), engage all kids from different backgrounds and interests to explore multiple pathways (wide walls) and create increasingly complex projects over time (high ceiling).
This is why we spend so much time expanding our Scratch curriculum in the Young Computer Scientists programme, which has so many exciting research areas for students to learn all about Music, animations in Movie Magic, Physics, Biology and Mathematical concepts such as geometry.
Scratch is also being taught as Harvard’s introductory course in computer science. It gives students with no prior programming experience an introduction to the fundamentals of programming, as well as prepares them for the subsequent courses, which is what we strive to do here at Coding Lab too.
Did you know? “Low floor, wide walls and high ceiling” is a phrase Mitchel Resnick credits to his mentor Seymour Papert (yes, our latest room Papert at the King Albert Park campus is named after him). Papert quoted this phrase as a way for technology to be effective.
“It’s not about how many programming languages one knows, but about the concept behind it. We focus on the true understanding of the codes and class material, as opposed to simply memorising or copying.”
Fun Fact! Our coding curriculum spans hundreds of teaching hours. For example, the roadmap for just Ages 7 to 9 has more than 150 teaching hours!
How has the Coding Lab curriculum evolved?
Yong Ning: Technology is fast-changing, so we also ensure that our curriculum stays relevant to the times by constantly revising it and adding new courses. I am especially proud of our S200 Advanced Electives, which initially started out as a vision for our students to broaden their horizons and apply their knowledge in a new area of interest. This included learning more about Unity, C++, SQL, HTML, Django and more.
Such curriculum refreshers are not just for teenagers. The Cognitive Artificial Intelligence course that my children just attended is another example of one of our newer courses that debuted in 2022, as well as the most recent Minecraft: Code Your World course.
“You’ll have to think. Even if coding is hard, you can’t give up!”
There is no better subject to teach online than coding and it made me think about our students’ learning experiences and how we were truly nurturing future leaders in technology in more ways than one. We were one of the first to leverage online conferencing tools at our Japan-Singapore Competition training in early 2019. This helped us ensure a smooth transition during the period of Covid, where we had to move our classes online.
Today, we continue to offer online coding classes and it is always a pleasant surprise to hear that students from countries all over the world have joined in.
I’m sure it hasn’t been easy to build such a huge curriculum in the short few years. What’s in store for the future of Coding Lab’s curriculum, perhaps another 10 years down the road?
Yong Ning: Given the rapid pace of development in Coding and Technology, it is difficult for me to predict in detail our curriculum 10 years into the future.
However, there are a few constants in our curriculum. Firstly, our curriculum will continue to focus on equipping our students with Computational Thinking Skills which is highly transferable across domains and time. Secondly, our curriculum would have evolved with technological improvement to equip our students with knowledge of the latest technology and at the same time, utilise the latest technology to provide our students with the best learning experience. Finally, our curriculum will continue to be taught by passionate teachers, using the latest pedagogy to inspire and nurture our students to become future leaders in technology.
Lastly, I have one last question: What advice do you have for kids who want to learn to code?
Audrey: You will have to think. Even if it’s hard, you can’t give up!
Yong Ning: Simply jump in and code. Be brave in experimenting and use it to create games, projects and contents which you are passionate about. The amazing thing about Coding is that it can be applied to practically everything. Applying Coding to a subject (context) which you love makes learning (Coding) much more fun, meaningful and purposeful. And at the same time, you will also develop new insights on the subject (context) through the application of Computational Thinking and further advance your understanding of the subject.
Thank you to Mr Yong Ning Foo and his two children Audrey and Mitchell for taking the time to share with us about the Coding Lab curriculum! We love to hear the different experiences with the award-winning curriculum and we are so excited for what’s to come in the future.
At Coding Lab, we nurture future leaders in technology and we believe that everyone should learn to code. That includes your children. We invite you to experience our MIT-inspired, award-winning coding curriculum and the Coding Lab Way of teaching. View our classes here!
Coding Lab is honoured to have been recognised with numerous awards:
- Parents’ World – 4-Time Best Coding Curriculum 2016/17-2019/20
- Singapore’s Child Enrichment Awards 2018 – Best Coding Curriculum
- Little Magazine – School of the Year (Computer Science) 2017
- Young Parents’ Magazine – voted Best Coding Programme.
Our Coding Lab students have won medals at the MIT App Inventor Global Summit in USA, clinching numerous prizes, emerged as Best Coders at the Microsoft Minecraft Cup in Japan, and entered the school of their choice via the Direct School Admissions (DSA) exercise. We are proud to share that our students have achieved medals in the annual National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI), which is highly recognised for admissions to top universities.
(Written by Cheryl Tang)
Best-in-class Curriculum for Coding
We are honoured to be the winner of multiple awards.
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