Code is everywhere. It runs our phones, cars, movies, hospital equipment, and even our refrigerators and washing machines. It’s been estimated that Google, for example, uses two billion lines of code to run all its internet services — from Gmail to Google Search to Google Maps. In short, code enables the everyday actions of our lives.
“To participate in the tech-driven world around us, coding has become as essential for students as reading, writing, and math,” said Peakon’s Chief Technology Officer Anne-Sofie ‘Fie’ Nielsen. “Kids need to be literate in the language of technology that is shaping our future.”
Learning to code also teaches valuable cognitive skills like critical thinking and problem solving, as it involves dividing up a task into its most basic pieces and then putting them together in a logical order. This analytical thinking process has many real-world applications.
It has been estimated that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.Institute For The Future and Dell Technologies
That’s why the IT industry in Denmark started the Coding Class program in collaboration with local governments. The program aims to inspire kids to be creative and innovative with technology and IT, perhaps in a way that frog dissections have previously inspired future surgeons and biologists.
Peakon has embraced the Coding Class program, partnering with the city of Copenhagen to share the exciting potential of coding and different types of jobs in technology.
“The Coding Class program plays the dual role of introducing children to becoming co-creators of technology — not just consumers — while also introducing them to workplaces and more types of jobs than their own family members have,” said Fie, who’s also the lead sponsor of the program at Peakon.
The “Lion’s Den”
One sunny December afternoon, a group of more than 20 sixth graders from Lergravsparken Skole in Copenhagen gathered in a bright, stately room at Peakon’s Copenhagen office. The room brimmed with excitement and creativity as the students were there to show their Coding Class projects — the culmination of weeks of brainstorming, coding, and collaborating.
At the start of the project, the children received a task from Peakon to create a piece of software similar to Peakon’s engagement solution, but one that would serve the purpose of improving how children feel about school.
They worked in groups of three, with each group building their own app to address the challenge. As part of the program, the six graders were taught the visual programming language Scratch, which they used to code the apps and create their own interactive stories, games, and animations.
At Peakon, the students would finally pitch their projects in a “Lion’s Den” format (or Løvens Hule) — the Danish version of the heavily-adapted Japanese television show, most commonly referred to as Dragon’s Den (Shark Tank in the U.S.), in which inventors present their business ideas to a panel of experts.
Team by team, the students walked through their design process, plan, and ideas in front of the group. There were some truly creative examples.
- A clone of the popular “Among Us” game: the students replaced the game’s normal tasks with new tasks in which players had to answer Peakon-style questions about their wellbeing at school.
- A virtual school app: Players could walk around in typical scenes found at school, such as classrooms and outdoor break areas. At each scene, they would be able to click a smiley to indicate or rank how they’ve felt in that area today.
- Upgrade your avatar’s outfit app: Players could gain virtual gold coins in a game by answering wellbeing questions. The gold coins could then be used to upgrade the outfit of their avatar.
Building the skills needed in a tech-driven future
It has been estimated that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. Think about how, even in the past ten years, the demand has grown for AI and machine learning specialists, big data specialists, process automation experts, robotics engineers, and blockchain specialists.
“New categories of jobs will emerge, partly or wholly displacing others,” says the World Economic Forum in its 2018 report, The Future of Jobs. “The skill sets required in both old and new occupations will change in most industries and transform how and where people work.”
The pandemic, along with massive shifts in technology and globalization, are already transforming the workplace — and the pace of change will only accelerate.
“Workers will need to have the appropriate skills enabling them to thrive in the workplace of the future and the ability to continue to retrain throughout their lives,” according to the World Economic Forum report.
And learning to code is not only an important first step down myriad careers paths, but also to participating in the world around us: it affects the products we buy, the legal policies we vote for, and the data we share online.
But for the sixth graders — and Peakon — the Coding Class program was a fun and creatively challenging way to learn more about coding and get excited about its possibilities.
“We’re super proud to be part of this program and help seed the interest for tech in young people,” said Fie. “They learned how to think creatively to design projects, reason and solve problems, work collaboratively, and communicate their ideas — all essential skills for wherever they go in life.”