Teaching coding, changing futures
As The Alliance Cultural Foundation (ACF) and partners drive coding education in Taiwan, it meets educators who have initiated it beyond their own classrooms. Understanding that coding is an essential skill in the future workforce, Professor Su, Wen-Yu of Information Engineering at National Cheng Kung University brings coding education to underprivileged primary and secondary school students in Chiayi’s remote. At the learning facility of Gougou Church (過溝基督教會), youths in the community learn to build games, apps, automate robotics and machinery through coding.
With over 20 years of teaching experience and a drive to serve the community, Su’s story began in 2012 after witnessing how children in the remote lacked opportunity. The encounter inspired him to develop coding curricula which will enable him to bring basic knowledge of coding to the lives of underprivileged youths. Since 2014, Su alongside volunteer graduate students travel biweekly from Tainan to Chiayi’s Gougou Church to teach coding to youths from single-parent families, low-income households; to date, they have taught over 80 students.
Su’s curricula engages students in four levels of learning using accessible resources such as Scratch, App, Arduino, Maker. Every challenge offers multiple solutions allowing students the opportunity to imagine and produce individual outcomes. Students who normally have little interest in their usual study devote hours into the coding program – one, even earning a second place award in Microsoft’s Kodu Cup competition. The program has motivated students beyond coding, inspiring some to increase English vocabulary which is the language used to code. Additionally, students learned to share and help one another, experienced students volunteered to teach coding to lower level students as teacher helpers. For students to advance into a higher level, two exams are required per year; those who pass are rewarded with a coding kit with items that are needed to advance into the next level; additional rewards include field trips to museums, exhibitions.
Learning to code nurtures creativity and is accessible and affordable requiring only a computer. Su hopes that coding will allow students the opportunity to one day find work which will enable them to remain in their hometown working remotely - to be able to help their families while earning stable income. He hopes that from the program, youths will not only attain a skill, but with and from him, a lasting relationship and support.