Programming made easy: Coding Day 2023
Cheers suddenly erupt in one of the seminar rooms in the WKÖ building in Vienna’s 4th district: Carmen Goby, Vice President of the WKÖ, has just managed to drag her character across the touchscreen playing field to safety. The young programmers of the game look proudly over her shoulder: at the fifth Coding Day, they have just successfully learnt how to design their own game from their ideas in no time at all (in just one and a half hours!).
But back to the start: we took part in the fifth WKÖ Coding Day as a partner organisation to organise six STEM workshops for 70 pupils aged between nine and fourteen. Six local EdTech companies – Robbo Club, RoboManiac, Ovos, DaVinciLab, eSquirrel and ConnectedKids/InnovationsMacherIN – taught game programming, the design of digital learning materials and provided initial insights into the world of robotics.
The positive error culture
While the first successes are already being celebrated on one side, the world looks very different in the next room: The children’s despair at the fact that the little robot is going straight off course is written all over their faces. However, the Robbo Club quickly manages to calm their emotions and steer the pupils in a different direction with clear words and good tips: “How about an emergency stop? Why don’t you enter a down arrow and the space bar”. That’s how quickly a change of direction can be achieved.
Tinkering for design and vision
Surprisingly, the smell of hot glue gun mingles with the whirring of the robots as they groove around their first bends under correct programming. The ConnectedKids workshop – this time organised by InnovationsMacherIN – literally merges the joy of tinkering with the possibilities of the digital world: pupils playfully explore the vision behind the app or programme. “My robot will be able to laser away tooth decay with its eyebrows,” exclaims one of the young inventors. “Mine can be happy all the time!”, echoes from the seat next to him.
“We know from the workshops and apprentice hackathons that it’s about much more than programming codes,” says Bernd Buchinger, a consultant from the WKÖ’s education policy department. “It’s about developing computational thinking. First and foremost, we need creative ideas for apps and programs, knowledge of how algorithms work and how product design can be optimised for users.”
The educators are also convinced of this – because they do not yet see user-friendly learning programmes as a matter of course. “For companies, a workshop like this is actually the best quality control. They get very honest and direct feedback from their target group and whether their programmes are intuitive to use,” says educator Franziska Haberler. The applause from the students shows that Ovos and the DaVinciLab have already mastered this component. But will the joy of programming remain? “I definitely want to develop my own games one day,” says one of the game designers from earlier and is encouraged by his classmates nodding vigorously – so there’s no question that this is indeed a big dream for the future. They already have a focus on programming at their school and have definitely made us curious to see if we can prove our gaming skills in one of their future games!
(Photos: Evelyn Baier-Schmid)
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