How my son took his first steps into coding

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Author: Amanda Johnston-Pell, Chief Marketing Officer IBM A/NZ

One of my biggest passions – as a parent and as an IBMer – is boosting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths) skills among our younger generations to ensure they have the capabilities needed to thrive and succeed in our ever-evolving digital world.

Recently I had the pleasure of bringing my son Harrison into my workplace for a Coder Academy Day – a dedicated IBM-sponsored program run by Coder Academy giving him his first taste of coding and artificial intelligence.

The result was better than I expected…and my son can be a tough critic!  He was happy and enthusiastic about the session and it gave him an entirely different way to look at technology and also made for a good topic to share with schoolmates when he next has his ‘show and tell session’.

During the day – which was attended by school children aged 5 to 12 years old – IBM helped run a number of small group activities designed to boost STEAM skills in fun, engaging, and interactive ways. As well as speaking with industry experts, the young boys and girls took part in creative learning workshops, got hands on with IoT, Virtual Reality and AI, were given the opportunity to build their own robots, and even created their own applications during a coding workshop.

Initiatives like the Coder Academy Day, and IBM’s P-TECH Program, are critical to Australia’s future economic prosperity, and our children’s success within it.

Children were able to build robotsOur younger generations have grown up on devices, so the concept of spending your whole day ‘connected’ is normal to them.

Similar to how they view constant connection to devices as normal – what if we could get them to see working with artificial intelligence, robotics and virtual reality as normal and encourage them to develop these skills earlier?

Instead of seeming like foreign, futuristic technologies, our children could think about these technologies in a very different way. They could integrate them into how they solve problems and how they work collaboratively in teams.

As a mother, I’m often told that if you want your child to learn a language, you need to get them to learn from the ages of 3 or 4. Like learning a language, I’m encouraging my son to explore STEAM early, so he begins integrating it into his way of thinking early.

When I was beginning my career, a university degree opened up a world of opportunity for you. The workplace of the future requires different skills, which don’t necessarily need to be learned at university – it needs mathematicians, problem solving skills, and coders. Those able to demonstrate creativity and resiliency, as well as collaborate with others, will thrive.

The countless studies highlighting Australia’s skills shortage in this space highlights the urgency at which we must focus on building these capabilities and interest in them – within industry, government, and academia. After all, the outcomes are shared, and success benefits us all.

Working on collaborative STEAM projects, like the sessions my son participated in during the Coder Academy Day, are a great fast step. I’m really pleased that my son – and many others on the day – have been inspired to continue their journey in this space.

At IBM we’re working towards a future where mankind and machine can partner to build a better world. New technologies – from AI through to IoT and cloud – represent a plethora of new, amazing environmental, societal, and economical opportunities, and the sooner we equip our children with the skills needed to unlock them the sooner we can all reap the rewards.

I’m excited by the journey and innovations that lie ahead in coming years – beginning with the opportunities for my own family and offering initiatives like this to little people’s education around the world.

For more information around how IBM is boosting STEAM skills in Australia click here.




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