Children attending Skolasajf 2017 in five different centres in Fgura, Siġġiewi, Ħamrun, St. Paul’s Bay and Sliema, were offered coding sessions, or basic programming concepts, after the Directorate for Digital Literacy within MEDE and the MCA, teamed up for this initiative to help address the digital divide amongst children.
Digital Literacy is increasingly becoming a key competency across the educational system as well as it is presenting itself as a life-long learning skill in its own right. In the light of this reality the Malta Communication Authority (MCA) is collaborating with the Foundation for Educational Services within the Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE) to hold non-formal educational sessions on two distinct yet necessary competencies in their own right.
Another initiative, Be Smart Online! gave children, spread across 12 other Skolasajf centres, the necessary tips to avoid risks while using the internet, for educational, socialising and entertainment purposes.
The scope of Coding sessions was mainly two-fold: empowering children to master the basic principles of coding, and to help them develop logical thinking skills. It is acknowledged that the latter benefits the general thinking skills and not merely those directly related to coding. Amongst the learning outcomes of the programme of activities, children were able to predict and explain the outcomes of a series of sequential instructions, the breaking down of complex tasks into smaller and manageable tasks, and identifying errors in a sequence of instructions. In an effort to increase the children’s participation in the activities, the programme was supported by the use of tablets and robotic kits.
The BeSmartOnline! initiative focused on a wide range of soft, life-centric skills, necessary to ensure that children have a positive online experience. Needless to say, that the more children use the Internet, the more likely it is that they will stumble across risks. Children often lack the life skills and experience to recognise these risks in order to avoid falling victims to them. The BeSmartOnline! Project was coordinated by the MCA, and implemented through a consortium which includes the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, the Office of the Commissioner for Children and the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education.
During a visit at one of the conding sessions being offered in St. Pauls Bay Primary School, Parlamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri, responsible for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation, explained that such initiative compliments the vision and the Government’s commitment to increase awareness on these subjects whilst strenthening digital skills. This is of utmost importance in order to compliment our country’s competitiveness in view of the ever increasing number of industries which depend on employees with advanced ICT skills. Minister for Education and Empoyment Evarist Bartolo stated that although digital literacy is important at every age, especially for primary school children, it is also very important to find a balance between the digital world and reality itself. The Minister was impressed by how happy and engaged the students were, and stressed that schools are not meant to be ‘learning factories’, but engaging and enjoyable, in order to help realise the potential of every learner to the fullest extent possible.