Decoding our children’s ‘smart’ reality with First Code Academy

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Innovation and technology are no longer a preference, but a prerequisite. Are our future builders of the globe ready to embark on this journey? It has been frequently remarked that Hong Kong has lost its competitiveness and is lagging woefully behind its Asian peers.

In the face of the Hong Kong government’s belated attempts to implement coding education, there have been continuous initiatives scattered here and there to foster synergy within the community. The newsDesk spoke to Kevon Cheung, Co-Founder and COO of First Code Academy, to find out why instilling coding education at a young age is important for children of today’s society.

by Joanna Lai

theDesk Leighton Centre Causeway Bay

Grooming a smarter Hong Kong

Despite the years of efforts and financial resources that the Hong Kong government has invested in the new industries, Hong Kong ranked 68th in the 2017 Smart Cities Index conducted by Sweden-based EasyPark Group.

Now trying to keep up with our Asian counterparts, the Education Bureau (EDB) begun rolled out STEM education in 2015.

As an important tool for the Smart Hong Kong initiative, STEM is an educational curriculum that promotes interdisciplinary skills in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Much of the discussion has centred on “T” in STEM, which is the new and foreign academic disciplines to many. Coding is highlighted as a core component.

Read more: How to establish a startup in Hong Kong the right way

While computer science is a study of ‘what’ computers can do, coding unlocks ‘why’ and ‘how’ to make them work. Coding entails information literacy, computational thinking, logical thinking, data analysis, synthesis, problem-solving, design skills, modelling and abstractions.

“The young generation needs a way to express themselves in the digital world, and coding becomes the method,” said Kevon.

Code to express

More than 2,500 students in Hong Kong have taken courses that co-founders Kevon Cheung and Michelle Sun run at First Code Academy since its establishment in 2013. As one of Hong Kong’s leading STEM education institute providing tailored coding programs. Since the opening of theDesk Leighton Centre in March, the company has been conducting coding workshops in our space for kids of different age groups.

As a matter of fact, coding can be more than a tool for learning. It is not hard to imagine that the young generation may find coding as their natural way of expression in the new era. First Code Academy uses various learning tools to teach their children, including the visual programming language and online community for children known as Scratch. Scratch’s inventor Professor Mitch Resnick shared at his TEDx talk,

“Young people today have lots of experience and lots of familiarity with interacting with new technologies, but a lot less so of creating with new technologies and expressing themselves with new technologies. It’s almost as if they can read but not write with new technologies.”

theDesk First Code Acaedmy
Pre-schoolers learning to use coding to programme robotics (Source: First Code Academy)

While the demand to learn coding has been growing, Hong Kong hits a bump along the way. Kevon reflected, “One of the main challenges in coding education is the number of great coding instructors who could teach and communicate well with our young generations.”

Nevertheless, First Code Academy is ever-determined to bring the best enrichment to children who are eager to learn. Currently, First Code Academy operates in six cities: Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and San Francisco. Placing emphasis on quality curriculum, the academy hired world-class teaching team led by MIT-certified Master Trainers.

Collaborations through coding

“Coding is often seen as a solo sport, little do people know that being creative and collaborative are key to coding breakthroughs,” said Kevon.

To instil the spirit of teamwork, First Code Academy hosts an annual regional competition that celebrates young app developers age between eight to 16. Better known as the AppJamming Summit, this year’s event was held earlier in April where a pool of Asia’s brightest young coders gathered at theDesk Leighton Centre.

theDesk Leighton Centre Causeway Bay
AppJamming Summit Final’s first place went to “Viridi Vita”, designed by Chloe Kusuma and Emily Tan from Raffles Girls’ School in Singapore. The app offers a platform for children, teenagers and youth adults to collaborate with real-time users to complete recycling projects in real life.  

A total of 19 finalist teams, coming from 10 countries, were invited to gather together and present their mobile applications based around the theme of “Sustainability — Code for Green”  in front of a 150-people crowd. For over a span of four years, AppJamming Summit has engaged over 400 students across the Asia Pacific. These winners go on to present their apps in the Global App Inventor Summit in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“AppJamming Summit is created with a vision to encourage more young people to become creators with technology,” shared Kevon. “We’re really proud that we’ve inspired and brought together so many amazing young coders to share ideas and celebrate innovations.”

“In each location, co-working spaces such as theDesk make a huge difference by providing convenient and comfortable spaces, so that it is easier for students to access,” Kevon remarked. “These spaces, designed mostly for the technology industry, are inspiring in which students can immerse themselves in the atmosphere that promotes creativity and collaboration.”

“The community aspect also helps by bringing in groups of people who are passionate about making the world a better place. Members of the community are forward-thinking and willing to try new ideas,” Kevon continued. In addition, In addition, the First Code Academy gets a huge amount of support from big tech corporations such as Amazon and Google. It is heartening to see Hong Kong growing in her efforts to provided a valuable eco-system for Asian youngsters who code to create their “smart” reality.

Looking ahead, it seems like our children are more than ready for the profound side of the digital era. We don’t doubt Hong Kong’s potential to groom the next generation to be more than consumers of technological innovation, but rather creators and leaders of the future technology.

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