The French school system in New Brunswick is launching a pilot project that will teach computer coding to junior high school students, even when their teachers have no experience in computer science.

The initiative will use a new product from Moncton-based EduCode Canada Inc., which has developed a computer science educational platform that helps teachers with no background in coding. The pilot project is being offered to Grade 7 students in four French-language schools in Kedgwick, Bathurst, Tracadie and Fredericton, but EduCode also has curriculum in English.

The company is the brainchild of Founder and CEO Guyverson Vernous, a native of Haiti who several years ago launched Moncton-based iCubemedia, which developed digital products for small business. He said iCubemedia has been doing well and is financing the development of his new company.

“EduCode Canada Inc. was created to build a bridge for all students, to help them go from a consumer of technology to understanding and becoming the creator of that technology,” he said in a statement released by the New Brunswick government. “We are pleased to partner with these schools to offer students the opportunity to learn about coding.”

EduCode chief marketing officer Kerry Knee said in an interview the company provides an “ingenious” solution to a pressing global problem. There’s a dire need to teach young people how to code because the jobs of tomorrow will be in information technology. Even now in New Brunswick alone, there are 2,200 openings for programs. Too few students are going into computer science after high school because too few of them have been introduced to coding in grade school.

Governments can try to improve curriculum in elementary school or junior high school, but there are too few teachers able to teach coding. What EduCode does is teach coding in grades 6 to 8 and all the teacher needs to do is monitor the class.

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The company’s split-screen platform has videos that teach the students basics of coding. Junior high students learn JavaScript, though there is also curriculum for more advanced languages, like Python and C++. The students can progress at their own pace, and if they run into problems they can jump on a chat function with a remote computer science teacher. That teacher, based in the EduCode office in Moncton, can see the student’s code and immediately help with any problems.

The brilliant aspect of the program is it actually introduces coding to teachers who have never been exposed to it before. The program encourages classroom teachers to take each one-hour lesson a day or two before the students. That means they can help the students in the classroom, and throughout the course they come to understand the rudiments of coding.

Knee _ who met Vernous when she was searching for a place for her seven-year-old son to learn coding _ said the company has been offering an after-school program in Moncton this year. Some 300 students went through the program, in which they built their own websites and then their own video games. They will come together for a computer science fair next month to showcase their work.

Vernous and Knee eventually hope EduCode will be used by schools across Canada and in the U.S., but for now they’re focusing on the pilot project in New Brunswick.

“We have a four-week pilot and then we’ll see what is working and what needs tweaking,” said Knee. “Then we would like to see it in schools for a full year.”

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