Deciphering the code behind coding

Daniel Lim

With the advent of technologies embedded into our daily routines, the basic foundation managing these technologies are not only dependent on the circuits and chips found in all devices, but also requires the right coding and programming to ensure operations are conducted without faults.

As such, there is a global initiative to introduce coding at an early age to ensure the new generations are able to tackle Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) challenges head on, in helping to further push the envelope of what is possible with current and future technologies.

Though it might be easy to encourage one to code, understanding and mastering the science behind coding can be a daunting task. One has to not only understand the language of coding, but also grasp a detailed overview of what the code is.

Having to teach these two underlying skills can be tricky, but doable, as more recent efforts were made to simplify these processes.

One of them is Block-Coding, which condenses and filters all the technical terminologies into easy-to-understand blocks that can simply be dragged, dropped, and connected to form a basic coding chain.

Belait Arabic School Headmistress Hajah Noramalina binti Haji Mohd Ali and a teacher solve a puzzle.
PHOTO: DANIEL LIM

Despite the ease of learning through Block-Coding, it is still necessary to learn the basics of coding. This is what the Hour of Code is attempting to achieve through interactive and fun games.

As part of a global movement with over 180 countries and 115,317 events registered in the programme, Hour of Code provides the necessary platform for students and teachers to familiarise with the basics of coding, through practical activities and interactive games.

One such school to conduct the programme in Brunei was Belait Arabic School, which had 19 students and 12 teachers participating.

In the programme, one of the key activities highlighted that, in isolation, technologies are only as useful as their function goes, but when linked together they can achieved many feats.

This connection is what coding represents as it is the language that technologies use to communicate, and is what enables us to use smartphones to surf the web or play the next Triple-A game on game consoles.

Teaching students the fundamentals of coding can prove to be challenging, even with the coding being broken down into its barest essentials, as young learners would still need to understand the underlying instructions and goals that they want to achieve with coding.

The programme was designed with one goal in mind – to solve simple tasks such as moving an item from one place to another, to collect items, and many more. All these were masqueraded as individual puzzles which the participating students and teachers needed to solve to reach the end.

Participant Mohd Yusri bin Mohd Yussof said that throughout the 15 puzzles, he was required to conduct simple tasks which grew in complexity with each passing round.

“It was very fun to work together in learning how to code, as we were using basic instructions outlined in blocks, such as ‘when right arrow is pushed’ will lead to ‘the robot moving to the right,’” he shared.

Despite the increasing complexity, Mohd Yusri noted he was able to solve each puzzle as he had gained an understanding on what each of the blocks of code does and, in doing so, he used knowledge learnt from the previous puzzle, and applied it to the next one.

While teaching students who are more able to absorb new knowledge might prove to be easier, teaching teachers who might not be familiar with the current trends in technologies, let alone coding, might prove to be a trickier task.

Belait Arabic School Headmistress Hajah Noramalina binti Haji Mohd Ali was adamant that it can be done, noting that despite having little experience in the field of coding, she and the teachers were keen to learn.

“In partaking in the programme, we want to help inspire you to not only learn about coding, but also to help spread the word and knowledge that coding isn’t just for tech savvy individual, but that everyone can understand and start coding,” she said.

As a global initiative, the Hour of Code Programme also represented an opportunity for Nazurah binti Abdullah, one of the science teachers of the school and facilitator for the programme, to showcase the importance of coding and how easy it is to start learning coding, for both the young and the old.

“Rather than understanding the theoretical knowledge behind coding, using block-coding can help decipher the ‘code’ and to let the user understand the underlying meaning of the code and how its inclusion or exclusion can lead to varying results,” she explained.