The new Primary Digital Learning Coach at Nexus International School (Singapore) is spearheading a new initiative for digital learning at the school. STEPHANIE THOMPSON highlights the exciting coding languages and programmes that spans the Early Years through to the Secondary School.
Tell us a bit more about the Digital Learning programme at Nexus International School (Singapore).
In the same way that Nexus prepares learners in how to think and how to be versatile when it comes to everyday life, we’re applying a similar concept to digital learning.
Our school doesn’t necessarily teach programmes – we teach the logic, language and thought processes around how to use these programmes. Learning the core concepts of technology makes Nexus learners more applicable, especially considering the constantly evolving landscape of technology.
For example, we teach our learners about the concept of icons, which is highly used in Apple products. We teach icons as a language and teach our learners how to decipher and learn this language.
In the Early Years, coding starts even before our learners get their hands on a device. They learn about basic coding concepts such as Computational Thinking, and these can be introduced via storytelling. For example, they learn that one fruit equals one hop (one input and one output in a sequence of events). This is actually a key and core concept of block programming.
Learners continue building their digital skills throughout primary. By Year 3, they’re engaging in gamified block programming and collaborating with each other to solve problems. By Year 6, they’re exploring UI/UX, web and app design. This helps them foster design-driven problem-solving skills.
What are the benefits of teaching the thought processes and logic of coding languages?
There are several benefits to developing the thinking skills and logic required to use coding languages.
- Problem-solving: Children learn to approach complex problems by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Managing failure: Children often find that their first, second or even fifth attempt at coding languages is not successful, and they have to go back and fix their errors to make their programme do what they envisioned.
- Collaboration: Children work together to solve their coding programme problems, share solutions, and identify issues.
These are all invaluable skills across the digital learning curriculum.
How does the new approach to digital learning enhance the current programme?
The first aspect is that Year 3 to 6 learners get dedicated time for digital skills. This encompasses a broad area, from digital citizenship and ethics to coding languages and robotics.
The other part of my role is to support teachers in using technology effectively in class. This means staying in touch with the latest trends and looking for opportunities within the curriculum to leverage new technologies.
What are the various coding languages that a learner can expect to learn, without the use of a device?
In lower primary, learners are introduced to the fundamentals of coding languages through block-based programming platforms like Scratch or Tynker. They begin by creating simple animations and games using visual blocks, which teach them the logic behind coding. As they progress, they may transition to text-based coding languages like Python.
An example of hands-on learning without devices could involve a classroom activity where learners think “like a Robot Coder”. They will follow commands written on cards to simulate coding language logic. One card might instruct them to take two steps forward and turn 90 degrees to the right. This helps children grasp coding concepts through physical interaction and sequencing.
When will devices be introduced and what are some of them?
As an Apple Distinguished School, Nexus Learners use iPads exclusively until the end of Year 9. Then they have the option of choosing between a MacBook or an iPad to support their digital learning. The frequency of device usage increases as the learners get older and the learning tasks become more complex.
What are some projects that they undertake and present in class?
Our learners engage in a variety of different inquiries where technology enhances their learning experience. This includes activities such as creating short movies, programming Dash robots to explore angles in mathematics, and using augmented reality to visualise body systems.
Additionally, a group of learners has developed a digital platform where other children can share their inquiries with the school community during online learning.
How can parents be more actively involved in safe digital learning and management with their child?
Our learners are encouraged to converse about digital responsibility with their families. The most effective way to ensure a child’s digital learning and management safety is by maintaining an open dialogue about digital tools such as sharing some of the ways you use technology.
Model the kind of behaviour around technology that you want to see in your children. If you expect devices to be put away during mealtimes and before bed, it’s important that you do the same.
More importantly, take the time to engage in your child’s digital activities. This might involve playing a game they enjoy alongside them, watching cat videos on YouTube together, or even engaging in social media alongside your older children.
The key to online safety is to keep communication open and ongoing between you and your child. In this way, when they’re faced with any type of situation, they can come to you as a trusted adult.
Stephanie has 19 years of experience in education, with three of those coaching children in digital learning. Her own path to digital learning began with messy handwriting. To share her thoughts with others, she started using a word processor in upper secondary school. The Kiwi-Canadian took her first educational technology course in 1999. This was when she learned how to use HTML to build websites for children to access their homework online.
Nexus International School (Singapore)
1 Aljunied Walk
6536 6566 | nexus.edu.sg