Tech giant opens doors to savvy students

by Brett Henebery18 Nov 2015

Many schools around the country are providing students with coding skills to meet the challenges of a 21st century workplace – but what about opportunities for students outside school?

By opening its first overseas storefront in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall last Thursday, Microsoft answered this call, providing creative coding classes from the store’s ‘community theatre space’.

Digital literacy is a key component of STEM education, something the Federal Government has set out to improve as part of its aim to drive greater innovation across the nation’s economy.

Siva Umaharan, who teaches technology classes at Chifley College’s Mt Druitt campus, told The Educator that the coding classes would provide stepping stones for students towards a possible future career in STEM.

“Anywhere students go they will experience this kind of technology, so opportunities like these will be stepping stones for them to prepare for the future in the 21st century workplace,” Umaharan said.

The opening of the store coincided with a $2.8m grant from Microsoft to The Smith Family, which the charity said will be used to improve children’s educational opportunities nationwide.

“This grant really enables our whole operation. It helps us with our fundraising, our communications and the programs we offer to young people,” Smith Family CEO, Lisa O’Brien, told The Educator.

“This is a huge deal for us.”

Jessica Erhart, Microsoft Australia’s community development specialist, said the work Microsoft was doing within schools and the broader community was providing a “hands-on” experience to kids who are interested in learning coding.

“What we really want to do through this store is put our products and technology into the hands of the people who need to use it. We want to give kids the opportunity to not just look but to touch, feel and really experience,” Erhart told The Educator.

“Our community theatre space is giving kids hands-on activities, whether it’s a coding workshop or something more casual like a Minecraft experience.”

The launch of the coding initiative follows Microsoft’s partnership with Code.org, an online educational resource that teaches the basics of computer science using Minecraft-themed lessons.
 

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