Kah Chun | A Teacher’s Perspective on Why Kids Should Code
February 17, 2018
The People of Saturday Kids
It’s been 6 years! We’ve held hundreds of coding classes for kids in the last few years and tried hard to keep you guys happy – but have you ever wondered who the people behind these amazing classes and experiences are? In this series of conversations, we look at the People of Saturday Kids, the ones working behind the scenes to keep Saturday Kids going strong!
Meet Kah Chun – A Scout Leader, Saturday Kids Curriculum Developer and Course Instructor. From leading Scouts camps outdoors to coding camps indoors, read more about his perspectives on why kids should learn to code. He loves programming and is quite keen on getting the whole world to learn to code if possible. In addition to teaching our Start with Scratch, Mobile Madness! and Python classes, he’s heading the curriculum side of things for our Code in the Community programme.
Learn coding no matter how introductory it may be. Just have an exposure to it. To have a clearer understanding of how machines think and so we can also think more logically in life.
Saturday Kids: Tell me what you do here at Saturday Kids
Kah Chun: I’m a curriculum developer…but I’m here to make friends, and bring laughter when we are bored *laughs* Right now I’m working on the Mobile App curriculum. But i’m also doing up an advanced Python curriculum because we’ve had some request from kids for that.
SK: So is that something you really enjoy?
KC: Yeah, in my free time when I’m not doing my Scout stuff, my hobby is to create simple coding projects.
SK: You mentioned Scouts, could you tell me more about that?
KC: Basically I’m a Scout Leader. I help out a lot with National-level programs; recently I was involved with the Istana Open House. The Istana is open to the public 5 times a year and Scouts are assigned as ushers for visitors. On top of that I train new Scout Leaders because I’m in the training team. I just completed the Pioneering skill course as well recently- we learnt how to build structures with a few pieces of wood.
SK: So what else do you like to do outside of work?
KC: I like writing coding projects. My most recent one was a brute force decryption program. During the December holidays, I was teaching the kids to do encryption using some simple algorithms in my Python level 1& 2 class. So one of the kids challenged me to find out if certain computer programs can be used to churn out lists of possible keys to do decryption through brute force. So I said I’d give it a try. I completed it the next day and showed it to him.
SK: What was his reaction?
KC: He was so amazed…and when I showed him the code at a glance he was shocked because he has yet a lot more to learn. Then I dangled a carrot and said come for advanced Python class to understand how this is done *laughs*
SK: So do you often get kids challenging you to things like that?
KC: Once in a while, yeah. They do have really good ideas that challenges us to use our free time to possibly do a demo project to show them. And we do it for them as well.
SK: So what’s your coding journey been like? When did you start, how did you find it etc.?
KC: I have a Diploma in IT from Nanyang Poly. I wasn’t an outstanding student but I continued to do a lot of personal projects so it somehow kept me relevant. After my diploma, I did a few web pages here and there, some simple games here and there. And later on when I started teaching, I took up a MOE course and I learnt coding- basically Python – and that’s how I learnt Python as a coding language. It’s a very good beginner coding language that teaches you a lot about computational thinking without the difficult syntax in other languages.
SK:Oh so you used to be a teacher before you joined Saturday Kids?
KC: I was a teacher from 2009. I was teaching Design and Technology (D & T). As a student I did pretty well in D & T. I remember making a dog food dispenser. Amongst all my classmates, I was the only one who created something that used electronic sensors and an electronic output…so that triggered my interest in such projects. So for my dog food dispenser, basically every night before I slept, I imagined how certain mechanisms would come together. I actually put in a lot of effort in getting it to work.
SK: What’s the biggest project you’ve worked on? The one you’re most proud of?
KC: Hmmm it’ll probably be the school website back when i was a teacher. It was about 4-5 years ago. At that time there was a particular emphasis on responsive web page design so you had to code your web pages so they’ll fit smoothly in a small or large screen. Our school webpage had to be revamped and I took the opportunity to do the coding for the school.
I want to emphasise to all the new students who want to learn, or maybe parents, that coding is not something that is very easy if you’re not going to practice. No matter how much how much you learn, always practice and find some interesting topics to work on because it’s these kind of extra projects that’ll help you to master your skill.
SK: So do you remember your first ever coding class?
KC: My first coding class was in Poly. And looking back, I realise that our teacher didn’t have very good examples. My apologies to all teachers out there who are reading this! But I think kids these days are very fortunate because they’re exposed to a lot of platforms like YouTube and because of that kids today learn a lot faster and with a lot more examples that help them to see concepts much better. Maybe I wasn’t a very intelligent student back then but I’ve compared the kind of lesson content I was taught to the ones out there now, and it’s become a lot easier for students to pick up the skills now. But at the end of the day I want to emphasise to all the new students who want to learn, or maybe parents, that coding is not something that is very easy if you’re not going to practice. No matter how much how much you learn, always practice and find some interesting topics to work on because it’s these kind of extra projects that’ll help you to master your skill.
SK: What’s next for you?
KC: Spread the joy of coding to more students. I don’t think kids should come to Saturday Kids and learn for those five days and stop there. I encourage kids to write in questions they encounter when they’re working on their projects. I do have a few students who wrote in asking for help in solving certain problems and we managed to help them even after their Saturday Kids lessons were done.
SK: So now I’m going to ask you some really random but fun questions…just to see the fun side of you! If you had a superpower what would it be?
KC: Hmm. i dream of being able to build a form of flying transportation. Because right now the road is very congested. So something that will truly fly.
SK: If there was a book/movie about your life what would it be called?
KC: Hmmm. This is really tough…maybe the Geek who brought Tech to Nature. Or something like that. Because I’m a Scout. And I like tech.
SK: If you could make one rule that everyone in the world had to follow what rule would that be?
KC: Learn coding no matter how introductory it may be. Just have an exposure to it. To have a clearer understanding of how machines think and so we can also think more logically in life. I think if more people thought logically, we could reduce the amount of conflict in the world.
So at this point of learning you may not believe there’s any use for these concepts or your teacher may not have the best example to explain something to you but bear in mind that if you want to achieve great things in life, no knowledge is useless.
SK: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me; any last words/advice for parents or kids out there who want to take up coding but don’t really know where to start?
KC: Maybe I’ll give students this advice – coming from someone who has been a teacher for a rather substantial number of years, don’t be too concerned if anything that your maths or science teacher teaches you may not be useful to you right now. Take everything they teach with an open heart and learn as much as you can because you never know when a certain concept may be useful to you. As a student I never thought there was any real need to learn things like cosine, tangent and sine for mathematical calculations. But now I do a lot of programming and i find these concepts are useful. For example, when you want to create a simulation of how a certain object behaves, knowing these calculations can help a lot. So at this point of learning you may not believe there’s any use for these concepts or your teacher may not have the best example to explain something to you but bear in mind that if you want to achieve great things in life, no knowledge is useless.
This year we want to focus on the voices of the people who keep Saturday Kids going – our team members, instructors, students and parents. So keep watching this space for more of such stories!
If you have a story to share with us about how your or your kid’s experience was, we’ll be happy to hear from you! Please get in touch at [email protected]