Why Children Should Learn to Code?

【Interview with Dr. Jackei Wong, Founder of RoboCode Academy】

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education has been gaining a lot of attention in recent years. The Hong Kong government is committed to promoting STEM education, and many schools offer exposure to these subjects both within their curriculums as well as through their after-school programs. However, parents are often unclear about what STEM education entails. Whizpa has invited Dr. Jackei Wong, the founder of RoboCode Academy, to explain the concept of STEM education and share how it can be of benefit to children.

Jackei is a university and research institute lecturer, as well as an inventor. After graduating from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, he completed his doctoral degree and worked in scientific research specializing in artificial intelligence and big data analysis. His scientific research projects included the development of artificial intelligence software to assist Chinese medicine practitioners with consultations. By collecting and analyzing data, the software - for which Jackei obtained a patent - helps Chinese medicine practitioners in establishing the correct diagnoses for their patients. As a lecturer of master’s degree programmes at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Jackei has also worked very closely with college students. “During my teaching at university or while working on scientific research projects, I had a close relationship with the students. However, when I invited them to participate in the projects I was working on, I found that most students did not have very strong logical thinking and problem-solving skills. In the era of big data, our lives depend very much on new technologies. I foresee that we will rely more on artificial intelligence in future years. It’s very important for students to have a better understanding of the technology in order for them to be successful in the future” says Jackei. As a result, he decided to establish RoboCode Academy, through which he aims to promote STEM Education and to develop children’s logical thinking and problem-solving skills.

RoboCode Academy courses are designed for children aged 4 and above. The series of STEM & coding courses on offer consists of four levels based on different age groups. Various topics include robotics, coding, animation and games. The regular course is 12 classes per term with an end of term semester report for each student. “In the 12-week regular course, our well-designed learning path teaches students fundamental coding skills. This helps in building their logical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as developing their creativity. Starting from the beginner course, the classes make use of graphics to help students better understand the basic skills of coding. When students move on to higher levels, the classes involve more advanced programming software. STEM Education is actually not merely coding and robotics, but also has a lot to do with mathematics and logical thinking.”

At RoboCode Academy, students are required to take on a final challenge at the end of each course. The final challenge requires students to design their own project based on the knowledge they have gained from the course. When designing the project, students will need to use their creativity and find ways to solve problems. They will also need to present their projects in front of their classmates. During students’ presentations, teachers will record videos for use in helping students to improve their self-expression skills and build self-confidence. At the same time, the videos also allow parents to have an idea of what their children have learned in class. Jackei points out that the semester reports given to each student focus on six different areas. “Teachers give feedback to students based on these six areas: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, presentation skills, self-learning and problem-solving skills. These are also the objectives of our program. We hope students can develop skills in all aspects.”

The maximum student-teacher ratio at RoboCode Academy is 4:1. RoboCode Academy currently has 10 teachers in the school. Jackei points out that experience and passion are the two main factors he considers when recruiting teachers. “In addition to their academic qualifications and related teaching experience, their passion for teaching matters too. They need to be passionate about teaching and be able to get along well with children. It’s also important for us to maintain a close relationship with parents in order for them to better understand their children’s learning progress.” The curriculum at RoboCode Academy is tailored to each child’s specific learning needs to ensure that they learn effectively. For example, a class might designed to be more activity-based for children who have concentration problems.

Jackei believes that the sooner children are exposed to STEM Education, the better their development will be. Besides learning in school, Jackei suggests that parents can develop their children's interest in STEM education in their daily lives. Parents can raise questions more frequently to encourage children to think in different ways, and explain the concept of cause and effect to them. Parents should avoid giving their children too much pressure. They should try to understand how their children think so that they can help motivate them to learn.

Since its establishment in 2017, RoboCode Academy has so far recruited over 100 students. For the future, Jackei plans to launch more coding courses covering a diversity of topics. “Technology is rapidly changing. Our curriculum needs to be adjusted from time to time to ensure it is up to date. In the future, we will be offering various types of coding courses for children to be exposed to coding as soon as possible.” As a new coding school, Jackei hopes more parents will find out about RoboCode Academy. “With 30% of our existing students coming from referrals, I hope to have our name spread out among parents, so they can know more about our teaching methodology and let their children learn coding.”

RoboCode Academy is now offering Summer STEM/Coding Holiday Camps

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