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Cracking the code on coding for young Canadians

UOIT teacher candidate program emphasizes the importance of coding


Concern continues to mount in many corners of the country about Canada’s future capability to be a significant contributor to the global economy. The prime issue, experts say, is the nation’s challenge in improving digital literacies and coding skills, particularly among young Canadians who will face an increasingly digital world.

The economic implications for Canada are significant, as outlined in an October 13 op-ed in the Globe and Mail (We need to teach 10 million Canadians to code or we'll get left behind). The article highlights some of the opportunities offered by private organizations; however, these groups are not alone in pushing for better coding education in schools. Universities across Ontario are paying more attention to coding through their teacher education programs.

At the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), researchers in the Faculty of Education echo the sentiments of author Melissa Sariffodeen’s comments, including the assertion: “Coding education in schools can no longer be considered a unique competitive advantage. It must be understood as the minimum standard."

“We too have heard the concerns of teachers who feel ill-equipped, and from parents excited and eager for their children to learn,” says Ami Mamolo, PhD, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education. “Our faculty can proudly say that we are doing something about this. As of September 2016, every pre-service teacher enrolled in the university’s Education program receives high-quality instruction in how to introduce coding across the curriculum.”

This year’s Bachelor of Education graduates will be among the first in Ontario to have graduated from a program that recognizes and emphasizes the importance of coding for the future of Canadian learners.

The Faculty of Education views coding not as ‘additional’ content that elementary- and secondary-level teacher candidates need to tack on to lessons; rather, it’s a venue through which to engage meaningfully with concepts that are already integral parts of the curricula in math, science, the arts and technology.

About the university’s Bachelor of Education program:

  • Recognizes many teacher candidates are new to coding.
  • Takes into account candidates’ diverse backgrounds, experiences and expectations.
  • Instructors are leaders in education and industry, with experience in successful integration of coding into scholastic and entrepreneurial endeavours.
  • Emphasizes exploring a range of technologies and computer science concepts, to help new teachers learn how to integrate these within the existing Ontario curricula.

Sarah Naqvi, who leads computer science education initiatives at Shopify Toronto, is one of the university’s elementary teacher instructors whose passion and expertise has inspired her Kindergarten-to-Grade 6 students as well as her teacher candidates.

“My course builds an awareness of the value of introducing computational thinking concepts and coding to young learners,” says Naqvi. “They're learning to code, and also engaging in deep discussion and debates on everything from building problem-solving skills through coding, to the technology divide, and the need to shift the youth mindset from consumers to creators.”

Faculty of Education Instructor Sheila Rhodes, who teaches coding courses for prospective elementary teachers, is also the Director of the university’s coding and STEAM education family camps.

“Our faculty’s popular summer camps feature LEGO robotics, Minecraft coding and digital making, and are run with the help of teacher candidates who are enthusiastic about integrating coding into students’ learning, while reinforcing the fun of coding,” says Rhodes.

Coding is not just important for young learners, according to secondary education coding instructor Diane Tepylo.

“All students, regardless of age, should learn the basics of coding to counter negative stereotypes about programmers and to understand the technical world within which they live,” says Tepylo. “Secondary school students need to acquire coding knowledge and spatial reasoning–these problem-solving skills are transferable to so many disciplines.”

“We are confident about the impact our philosophy will have on student success, achievement and engagement in the classroom,” says Dr. Mamolo, “We are extremely proud of our teacher candidates who will bring their new knowledge and expertise in coding to their future classrooms, to help Ontario students develop and prosper as 21st-century learners.”

Media contact
Bryan Oliver
Communications and Marketing
University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)
905.721.8668 ext. 6709

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