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Coding is the new cool at Joamie School in Iqaluit

When Joamie School vice-principal Scott MacDonald learned Google Canada was coming to Iqaluit in November, he jumped on the opportunity.

photo courtesy Caleb Little
Grow with Google team member Mike Armstrong helps Joamie School students Anne Marie Cooper-Higgins and Leslie Awa with their Google Doodle projects Nov. 8.

"We've been trying to do more and more coding workshops and introduction to students here in the school. Adam (Laforest) and I are going to start a coding club after Christmas," said MacDonald, adding he's still learning himself.

He managed to contact the right people, and Google agreed to come to Joamie.

"The workshop taught them through the basics of coding and they all created their own Google Doodle," said MacDonald.

"Basically, they were selecting character and backgrounds and putting them in order. It was cool to have a finished product like that."

Grow with Google is the initiative which brought the company to Iqaluit from Nov. 7 to 11.

photo courtesy Joamie School
An example of a Google Doodle made by students at Joamie School during their workshop with the Grow with Google team Nov. 8.

While coding teaches sequential thinking and logic, MacDonald says literacy is also a big part of the learning for students.

"There's certainly lots of digital literacy and traditional literacy where you're reading instructions. It incorporates math, as well," he said.

"There's probably a big push for two reasons. One, for the literacy aspect of it, but also the whole technology aspect of it where you're not only using technology but how to create the technology."

photo courtesy Caleb Little
Anne Marie Cooper-Higgins, left, Leslie Awa and David Kelly are hard at work on their Google Doodles.

Students make the shift from consumer to creator.

"Kids are pretty excited to create that stuff," said MacDonald.

Students also worked with specialized equipment. Head of marketing for Google Canada Fab Dolan explains they were prepared for any Internet environment.

"We actually created a new piece of hardware and software to do a local session for the kids. So we effectively took all of the coding courses that normally would be on the web and we optimized them to be held on a local router using a piece of technology called Raspberry Pi," said Dolan.

photo courtesy Caleb Little
Duncan Mearns, left, Salomonie Eegeesiak, RJ Nowdlak, Brian Kanayuk, and standing, Alaasua Akavak and Sebastian Natsiq share their excitement as they learn how to code.

"We used that to create a local environment. So for each of the kids it felt like they were on the Internet using a web application but, in fact, everything was hosted locally."

Dolan says the technology could be transformative for education in rural communities and places where the internet isn't as accessible or cost effective.

"You're still able to teach kids and give them the same experience," he said.

"This was very much a Google first for Iqaluit."

The team also brought the laptops the students worked on, and donated 20 to Joamie School.

"We can use them in our classrooms for student use. The laptops we have aren’t great. It's a generous donation. That will help with our coding club, as well, because the stuff we want to do … the laptops we have are probably not good enough."

Grow with Google, along with providing an afternoon of workshops at the public library and Joamie School, hosted virtual reality demonstrations at Iqaluit's Pinnguaq Makerspace for youth from the community.