Singapore’s largest coding event for seniors proved that one hour is enough to start anyone on a coding journey.
By Tan Yan Ni
Is anyone ever too old to learn how to code? For the 500 seniors who signed up for Hour of CodeTM, the answer is a resounding no.
The Hour of CodeTM is a global movement that aims to introduce coding to everyone, regardless of age and background.
On 28 October 2017, Hour of CodeTM workshops were held at 16 libraries across Singapore. Targeted at seniors aged 50 years and above, the workshops were jointly organised by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the National Library Board (NLB), and supported by Admiralty Secondary School.
The hour-long sessions gave the attendees an opportunity to learn the basics of coding, and aimed to instil in them the confidence to learn new technology.
An hour of fun
Most of the event’s participants were seniors who had no experience with coding.
“I’ve heard about Bee-bot (a programmable robot in the PlayMaker range of gadgets, for teaching children sequencing and computational thinking) from my granddaughter, and seen some news reports on coding, but I have never tried it,” said Mdm Lim Siew Buay, 67, whose curiosity towards coding prompted her to sign up for an Hour of CodeTM workshop.
Another participant, Mr Patrick Tan, a social worker in his 70s, echoed Mdm Lim’s sentiments. “I was excited and curious about coding as it is something I have never tried before, and I am interested to learn something new,” he said.
Participants like Mdm Lim and Mr Tan were guided by enthusiastic student cyberguides from Admiralty Secondary School, and Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassadors (SIWAs). SIWAs are tech-savvy seniors appointed by IMDA and the People’s Association Active Ageing Council.
At the workshops, SIWAs used the Swift Playgrounds app on iPads to introduce participants to basic coding techniques. The interactive app is specially designed to make coding fun and easy, which makes it suitable for seniors.
Participants also “interacted” with Byte, a virtual app character, by helping it navigate through a virtual landscape by coding commands.
“From [having] no experience in coding, I now understand the meaning of ‘Hour of Code’ and how coding works,” said Mdm Jean Lim, 65. “It may only be one hour, but it’s still worth attending,” she added.
Never too late to learn
It was a fulfilling experience for the SIWAs, too. SIWA Mr Foo Chee Meng, 71, knew he had made an impact when one of the participants told him of his plans to buy a tablet to continue learning to code at home.
“Most seniors hesitate because they are not sure about whether they are able to cope, but once they take that first step, and have a buddy for support, they are likely to find it a joy, and will continue learning in their own time,” observed Mr Foo, who also just recently picked up Swift programming.
Mr Randy Sng, a 63-year-old SIWA who led the Hour of CodeTM session at Bedok Public Library, felt rewarded seeing smiles on the faces of seniors as they learnt how to code and interacted with the student cyberguides.
He also believes that the benefits of learning to code for seniors extend well into the future. “Coding arouses the senior participants’ desire to learn, and motivates them to be lifelong learners,” he said.
Mr Sng hopes that other seniors will be able to overcome their perception of coding as an activity only for young people, and adopt a growth mindset.
“There is no age limit to learning to code. Many seniors have done it — so can you!”
If you are keen to join events like Hour of CodeTM in future, do follow the Silver I.T. Fest Facebook page for updates on upcoming silver infocomm initiatives.