Code Kids, a documentary on the movement to teach computer coding to Atlantic Canadian school children, will air on CBC television Saturday at 8 pm, hopefully building greater support for tech education.
Though Code Kids was directed by Greg Hemmings, , the founder of Hemmings House film studio in Saint John, it is really a collaboration between Hemmings and a range of tech evangelists in the region, especially in New Brunswick. It shows how these evangelists started a movement to teach coding to school kids, and the team traveled to Estonia and Finland to discover how those countries developed technical education. (We previously featured the project on Pages 14 and 15 of our Winter 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report.)
The story began when David Alston, the Chief Innovation Officer at Introhive, the Fredericton- and Washington-based relationship analytics company, began to push for coding in schools and to work with Premier David Alward on such a plan. Other enthusiasts such as GoInstant CEO Jevon MacDonald in Halifax were also pushing for similar measures.
Hemmings had recently completed a documentary called Sistema Revolution about a music education program for children of all income-classes in Venezuela. He and Alston decided to apply the same approach to the tech project. They would find the best computer education programs in the world, which happened to be in Estonia and Finland, and use a documentary to show how they could be replicated domestically.
“The outcome was phenomenal,” said Hemmings in a phone interview yesterday. “There’s no way we could have known what the final product would be like when we started.”
He said that in the 12 months since they had the idea for the project, they witnessed a grassroots movement gain momentum, and the New Brunswick government actually take action on the project.
The government action was Alward’s announcement last winter that Alston would work on a new educational initiative called Brilliant Labs, which encourages teachers throughout New Brunswick to adopt new strategies for teaching programing. The goal is to produce a generation of computer-literate citizens who can compete in the modern economy.
The Brilliant Labs concept is gaining steam and moving throughout the region.
Hemmings said the artistic side of the project was interesting because “so many cool things happened” during the course of the filming. It was difficult to develop a unifying impression that runs through the whole film, he said, because so many things happened in so many different locations. But throughout the 12-month project, the team was able to capture wonderful scenes that are scattered throughout the documentary.
Code Kids will be broadcast initially in the Maritimes and is due to air nationally at a later date, both on CBC TV and on the CBC Documentary channel. It will also soon be available online.
Hemmings now hopes the film will continue to build the momentum for more tech education in schools and greater prosperity through a digital economy.
“We want Atlantic Canada to be one of the healthiest and more thriving economies in the world,” he said. “We saw it done in Estonia. It can be done.”