Microsoft inspires Australian students to start computer coding now

More than 7000 Australian students learning at #WeSpeakCode events this week

15 May 2015 – Sydney, Australia: Microsoft is leading a campaign this week to encourage more Australian students to take up computer coding and discover how others are using it to change the world.

YouthSpark #WeSpeakCode is a special week from 11 to 15 May to celebrate the power of coding throughout Australia – inspired by the international movement Code.org.

Coding is the set of commands required to develop computer software, websites and apps and is key to almost everything we do in the 21st century from using a mobile phone to combatting climate change.

The week long campaign will see more than 7,000 students from all over Australia get a taste of what coding is with the help of volunteers and teachers who will be showcasing coding through school and community events, tutorials and online activities.

Today alone, more than 800 students from more than 30 local schools in Sydney will learn to code at the main #WeSpeakCode event being held in the Great Hall of the University of Technology (UTS).

“Coding is the key to change,” said Pip Marlow, Managing Director of Microsoft Australia.

“Through the use of code, computer programmers are working on amazing and innovative new ideas, using technology to improve the way we live, consume and interact with people from around the world.

“Microsoft’s YouthSpark #WeSpeakCode week is really shining a light on the power and possibilities of coding for thousands of young Australians who are increasingly discovering how rewarding it can be.”

The #WeSpeakCode event is being held in partnership with The Smith Family, UTS, the Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN) and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, NSW.

The partnership effort has allowed coding events to be showcased in more than 130 schools nationally during the #WeSpeakCode week, with a particular focus on helping students from disadvantaged schools.

Microsoft’s Managing Director, Pip Marlow today welcomed the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull MP at the launch of the #WeSpeakCode event at UTS.

“Improving the technology skills of students is essential for Australia to remain competitive and prosperous in a globalised world,” said Malcolm Turnbull MP, Minister for Communications.

“We need to expose more students to coding so they are inspired to create, build and develop new technologies rather than just being passive users of it,” he said.

2015 Imagine Cup

Microsoft has established a number of key initiatives including the Imagine Cup global tournament, to inspire young people to develop innovative solutions to problems using coding and new technologies.

Microsoft is proud to announce the Australian finalists for the 2015 Microsoft Imagine Cup. Both teams will now compete in the Asia Pacific Regional round of Imagine Cup, with the hope to secure a spot in the Imagine Cup World Finals, held in Seattle this July.

  • Team Opaque Multimedia are the Australian finalists for the 2015 Imagine Cup’s Citizenship division. They partnered with Alzheimer’s Australia to develop a Virtual Dementia Experience. It is used with training programs to allow caretakers and family carers to experience first-hand what life is like for a dementia sufferer through cutting edge virtual reality.
  • Team Speakerboxx are the Australian finalists for the 2015 Imagine Cup’s Innovation division. SpeakerBoxx is a social companion app for mobile that combines a student’s community support group with the benefits of thought verbalisation. Students can use the app to record a private diary, send anonymous messages to a teacher or school counsellor, or simply chat with friends at school. Its most innovative feature is its cloud-based analysis of user recordings, which picks up key words and patterns of a negative or extreme nature, providing immediate support via links to mental health support services or suggesting management techniques in a friendly, relatable manner.

“It’s great to see these young Australians get the recognition they deserve through the Imagine Cup,” said Pip Marlow.

“Computer science and programming skills can really supercharge careers no matter what you want to do. That’s why Microsoft is helping young people get access to the education and skills they need for a great career future,” she said.

Coding research

However new Microsoft research shows Australian students are well behind their counterparts in the Asia Pacific region when it comes to coding training and uptake.

The Microsoft Asia Pacific study released today for Australia found students generally feel relatively unsupported in their interest for coding, signaling an urgent need for educators to look deeper at integrating it as a core subject in the school curriculum.

Only 32 percent of students in Australia said they have an opportunity to learn coding in school, whether as a core subject or an extracurricular activity, marking the lowest figure in all countries surveyed.

Nearly two-thirds of Australian students surveyed said they wanted to know more about coding, but didn’t have the opportunities to gain the computer skills they need.

“We have a problem in Australia around the uptake of coding amongst our young people which needs to be addressed now otherwise students could miss out on huge career opportunities,” said Pip Marlow.

“It is important for educators to move on from asking whether or not to offer coding as a subject – but how it can be integrated into the curriculum as soon as possible,” she said.

This was echoed by The Smith Family, a key #WeSpeakCode partner focused on helping disadvantaged youth.

“With the current high youth unemployment rate, it is important to ensure more Australian students, especially those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, have access to the right kind of training so they can develop key skills to successfully attain employment,” said Dr Lisa O’Brien, CEO of The Smith Family.

“Today’s event showcases the importance of ensuring a more digitally literate student population. This is particularly important for students who are less likely to have this kind of access to technology and training than their more affluent peers.”

“Learning about coding is one way to help young Australians onto the path to success as it gives them the skills they need for tomorrow’s high-tech global workforce,” Dr O’Brien said.

The #WeSpeakCode partners believe the challenge is to help more students in Australia take action and turn their coding interest into reality, and for educators and parents to quickly reflect on how they can better support our younger generation in taking their first coding steps.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services, devices, and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.

About Microsoft YouthSpark #WeSpeakCode

In partnership with Code.org, Microsoft Asia Pacific’s #WeSpeakCode campaign aims to promote coding as a language for everyone. The movement connects aspiring student coders of all skill levels with the tools, resources, and experiences they need to turn their innovative ideas into reality. Visit www.wespeakcode.net to find out more. #WeSpeakCode is also part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark program – a global initiative to create opportunities for 300 million young people by 2015.

About the Microsoft Asia Pacific study

Conducted in February 2015 in line with the Microsoft YouthSpark #WeSpeakCode campaign, the survey polled 1,850 students under 24 years old from across 8 countries in Asia Pacific[1], including Australia, on their sentiments towards coding or software programming. They were also asked about the learning opportunities for coding that are currently available to them. The student respondents came from a variety of academic backgrounds, including arts and humanities, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), business, and other general fields of study.

[1] The countries involved in this study are: Australia, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

For more information, press only:
 
Tara Mills – Ogilvy Public Relations
0415 506 014
David Dunn – Ogilvy Public Relations
02 8437 5312 / 0413 743 931

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