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CanCode: A Year in Review

An opportunity to teach, inspire, and empower all Canadian kids with code and digital skills.

Katherine Lissitsa
April 10, 2019

“Building long-term, sustainable digital skills communities across Canada.” This was our mantra for 15 months of coding, learning, sharing and building towards the future — also known as CanCode.

Launched by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada two years ago, the CanCode program aimed to “support initiatives providing educational opportunities for coding and digital skills development to Canadian youth” and to K-12 educators through professional development. The goal of the program was to ensure that children ranging from kindergarten all the way to Grade 12 come out of school fully equipped with the skills they need to eventually succeed in today’s workforce.

We wholeheartedly agree that “digital skills, like coding and understanding how new technologies can be used to solve real world problems, have become increasingly vital across all sectors of the global economy” and that “supporting digital skills and coding in the K-12 student population is critical to ensure that Canadian youth are exposed to the concepts needed to encourage post-secondary enrolment in STEM fields.” This is precisely why were so eager to get going once we knew that KCJ became one of the initiatives supported by the CanCode program.

With CanCode, we had the opportunity to sink into two big projects: Code, Create, Teach (CCT) and our Code in the Classroom: micro:bit workshops.

In partnership with coding bootcamp Lighthouse Labs, we launched CCT to introduce computational thinking and coding to educators across Canada. From April 2018 to March 2019, we offered free, full-day workshops in every province and territory of the country, from Whitehorse, Yukon to the big and busy Toronto, Ont. Our mission was to put tools into the hands of teachers to give them the confidence they need to transfer those skills to their students and inspire them to become makers rather than consumers of their digital world.

We believe passionate teachers are at the heart of great education, and we are proud to say that through this project, we were able to reach over 1500 educators by delivering 33 CCT workshops.

Our other avenue for reaching teachers — and mostly students — was through our Code in the Classroom: micro:bit workshops. Led by KCJ instructors, these workshops let students play and experiment with a micro:bit, a programmable computer no bigger than a credit card. Centred around block-based coding, tinkering with the micro:bit gave students the opportunity to exercise their creativity while improving their understanding of computational thinking.

Each workshop lasted around two hours, but we didn’t want to draw the line there. We gave each class a set of micro:bits once the workshop was complete, to keep the ball rolling and to give students the opportunity to continue learning after we left the classroom.

Instructor with kids in the classroom
"I think coding is the direction we are headed in and I would like to see more of my female students involved in computer science,” said one of the teachers in Halifax. “Being able to keep the technology is also essential because I always want more tech in my class but the cost is a factor."

Through the CanCode program, we were able to offer over 2200 micro:bit workshops and reach over 50,000 students and their teachers.

Naturally, we couldn’t stop at that. On top of our CCT and micro:bit workshops, we also developed numerous partnerships and organized various projects and activities all in the name of digital literacy.

We partnered with NBA Canada to host Hoops & Loops, an event to bring code and basketball together. The events took place in Vancouver and Montreal, reaching a total of 300 kids with exciting, hands-on activities that showcased how an unlikely pair, such as code and basketball, can work together.

We also partnered with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to promote Astro Pi across the country and to engage Canadian kids in David Saint-Jacques’ 6-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Astro Pi invited kids to submit a coding project using Python that would be guaranteed to run on the ISS for 30 seconds. We launched Astro Pi throughout Canada in collaboration with the CSA on January 31, 2019. The launch took place in an elementary school in Vancouver that featured a livestream Q&A session between curious kids and a floating, gravity-free Saint-Jacques.

Group of kids wearing KCJ t-shirts

We also partnered with Let’s Talk Science to train their coordinators and with Dans la Rue and mental health clinics to teach homeless youth and youth with mental health issues how to code to promote accessibility and inclusivity when it comes to digital skills.

Lastly, we distributed Code Club Canada project materials to schools and libraries to empower local communities with code, growing the volunteer-run network from 300 to over 700 clubs in every province and territory.

Code Club Canada

With the support of CanCode, we were able to achieve what is near and dear to our coding hearts: bringing digital skills into underserved communities, inspiring youth that is typically underrepresented in STEM fields, and coding with students and teachers in every Canadian province and territory.

Most importantly, we hope that our work has spread the message about the significance of digital literacy in our day and age and that building digital skills communities can lead to a brighter future for the youngest generation of today and tomorrow.

Thank you CanCode!

Teachers, bring our CanCode funded Code in the Classroom workshops to your school! From introductory coding to artificial intelligence, our workshops lay the foundation for you and your students to continue building digital skills for creative learning.

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