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Moonhack: why it’s important for kids to learn how to code

Telstra Foundation Technology For Kids

Posted on July 19, 2019

5 min read

With Moonhack about to lift off, the annual record-setting global event to get as many kids coding as possible, Jackie Coates, Head of Telstra Foundation chats to Telstra’s Group Executive Product & Technology, Christian von Reventlow about the importance of coding and AI education for young minds.

Jackie Coates: It’s the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing this year and to celebrate we’re aiming to get tens of thousands of kids coding across the world as part of our annual Code Club Moonhack campaign. Why do you think parents should get their kids to learn how to code?

Christian von Reventlow: I believe it’s vital for kids to learn how to code. I have taught my own children and it’s certainly a skill they’ll have for life and can build upon. I think initiatives like Code Club and Moonhack are a great first step because they demystify technology and enable children to “get under the digital bonnet” and understand it better. When a child learns coding, they are also developing skills in critical thinking, persistence and problem-solving – skills needed as they grow up. Coding can also help develop mathematics skills and despite what many people think, it actually helps them to be more creative as it encourages curiosity and teaches us to be a bit fearless and not worry about making mistakes.

JC: What advice do you have then, for parents with young children?

CvR: The challenge for parents nowadays is around how we can help young people with the skills they need to thrive in the future. We need a pipeline of future developers to take the first step and get kids coding. There are thousands of Code Clubs around Australia that can sew the seed. Parents don’t have to know how to code to start which is a great thing.

JC: There is a sense of urgency and sometimes it feels we are in a bit of an arms race in education with technology evolving so quickly – it’s hard to keep pace, would you agree?

CvR: It’s true, things are moving fast which is why we need to futureproof this learning investment in our young kids. Just like we looked at the moon and said one day we’ll walk on it, we need to look at AI with a future focus. Young people will need to understand machine learning and the concept of AI – really know how it works in order to make more informed and critical use of these technologies. 

We need to start thinking about AI literacy because coding itself is evolving. It is shifting to a self-coding model where AI will create its own code. This is different from classic programming which describes what the machine does. In AI, the machine finds patterns to program and the deterministic nature of programming gets lost in AI scenarios as a result. I don’t think we’ve fully digested the meaning and impact of this, which is why we need to up-skill our young people to be AI literate so they can better understand this future.

JC: You’ve written a book about Artificial Intelligence where you advocate it must become a tool for everyone. What do you think the challenge will be for young people growing up in a world where machine learning and AI is increasingly pervasive?

CvR: I think one of the biggest changes in the next two decades will be increase relevance of artificial intelligence changing the way we live our lives. Digital Assistants, Chatbots, music and video recommendations, flying planes are just some of the ways it’s in our everyday lives now. So given this context, if our children have an early understanding of how it works, they’ll be better equipped to live, work, and interact in this future world.

Along with an understanding of AI and machine learning – such as how bots learn, how algorithms work and how data is being collected – we also need to teach kids how they can humanise AI and adapt it. This is critical because this is what humans will ultimately need to do in an AI-saturated world. We will need to make sure the next generation has the programming skills to ensure AI is inclusive and reflects the social, cultural and moral standards of contemporary society.

Parents can introduce their children to the concepts of AI through educational projects online like Cognimates which was developed by the MIT Media Lab

About Moonhack

Moonhack is an initiative of Code Club Australia, powered by Telstra Foundation. This year’s event will be held on July 20 to July 26 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing – and we’re looking for more Aussie kids to get involved. To take part, you’ll need a computer with internet access and a passion for discovery. Simply register your interest and prepare for lift off!  Kids can take part in the challenge at home by themselves or in groups.


Moonhack 2018: 24,000 kids learn to code to prepare for the future

Telstra Foundation Technology For Kids

Posted on July 19, 2018

3 min read

Calling all earthlings from Sydney to Seoul, Montreal to Madrid, who’d like to learn more about coding and join 24,000 kids aged 8 – 18 from around the world in a record attempt to get as many kids coding together as possible!

Started by Code Club Australia in 2016, Moonhack is the annual record setter event that aims to get as many kids around the world coding over a 24 hour period, and inspire collaboration and interest in digital technologies.

This year’s event will be held on July 20 to mark the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing – and we’re looking for more Aussie kids to get involved. To take part, you’ll need a computer with internet access and a passion for discovery. Simply register your interest and prepare for lift off!

Kids can take part in the challenge at home by themselves or in groups as part of a ‘Moonhackathon’.

There are four space-themed projects for kids to choose from and discover how fun, easy and exciting coding is. The projects are generally designed to take 45 minutes to complete, but it will depend on the participant’s level of coding experience.

Why is coding such an important skill for kids to develop?

We believe that all Australian children should be given the opportunity to develop skills in coding and across the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) so that they can succeed in a rapidly shifting and technologically focused workforce.

Coding develops skills in critical thinking, persistence and sharpens children’s problem-solving abilities. Coding can also assist in developing children’s skills in mathematics and despite what many people think, coding actually assists in the development of creativity.

What’s the connection to July 20?

On this day nearly 50 years ago, the first humans landed on the moon in the lunar module, ‘Eagle.’ Landing this machine was no easy task; the Mission Commander, Neil Armstrong and the pilot, Buzz Aldrin, had to land the craft softly enough so that it wouldn’t crash – this is actually one of the projects that Moonhack participants can tackle through the challenge.

Surely all the excitement was in America – why are we celebrating this anniversary in Australia?

Our nation played a pivotal role in the moon landing of 1969. Just this past weekend I was in Canberra, where I visited the Deep Space Communication Complex, the antenna known by the name of Deep Space Station 46 which relayed the first television images of Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps the Moon, which is pretty cool!

About Code Club Australia

Code Club has been operating since 2014, thanks to the generous support of their founding partner, the Telstra Foundation. There are now more than 1600 Code Club’s operating around the country. In addition, we have reached more than 100,000 children and empowered more than 500 teachers to deliver a curriculum with a focus on digital technologies education.