City University of Hong Kong (CityU) is a co-creator in a HK$216m-funded project to promote computational thinking and coding skills in primary schools, driving CityU's community outreach activities to new heights.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust (Trust) is collaborating with CityU, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) to organise the programme CoolThink@JC, aiming to equip upper primary students with basic coding capabilities that will strengthen their computational thinking (CT), as well as helping teachers to master the necessary professional skills.
The four-year programme will train 100 teachers at 32 pilot schools for the benefit of 16,500 primary four to six students. It targets to establish CT as part of Hong Kong’s curriculum in the long run.
With funding support from the Trust, CityU will outreach to 32 primary schools providing teaching and learning support as well as organising parent education activities while MIT and EdUHK will collaborate on curriculum design and teacher development.
Officiating at the launching ceremony on 15 November were The Honorable John Tsang Chun-wah, Financial Secretary of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; Mr Anthony Chow Wing-kin, Deputy Chairman of The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC); Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, CEO of HKJC; Professor Way Kuo, CityU President; Professor Eric Grimson, Chancellor for Academic Advancement of MIT; and Professor Stephen Cheung Yan-leung, President of EdUHK.
“CoolThink reflects a much larger strategy of our Government in making Hong Kong an innovation and technology leader in the global economy,” said Mr Tsang. “It will help Hong Kong to diversify the economy and enhance the competitiveness of our industry and our business.”
Mr Chow added that the initiative was not only about coding and programming but also about empowering students to become problem-solvers and creators in the digital world.
Professor Kuo shared his views and insights about CT education with educators and students alongside Professor Cheung, Professor Grimson and Professor Daniel Lai, Director of CoolThink@JC, at a panel discussion moderated by Ms Marjorie Yang, Chairperson of Steering Committee of CoolThink@JC after the launching ceremony.
Professor Kuo said CT was important nowadays as it was crucial for young people to think critically and become innovators. In order to create space for knowledge creation, original discoveries and innovative thinking, educators should integrate learning and research, and have a change of mentality, one that is open to new ideas and all-embracing, he added.
CityU will train 200 university students, graduates and a small number of disadvantaged youth as teaching assistants in support of the new pedagogy, and assist teachers in the pilot schools by being tutors and preparing teaching materials. They will also act as ambassadors for the project, promoting CT to the community. Professor Matthew Lee Kwok-on, CityU Vice-President (Development and External Relations) and Steering Committee Member of CoolThink@JC, will lead the CityU team.
In view of the importance of parents’ role and understanding in CT education, Professor Lee said CityU would organise workshops and events to build awareness. The aim is to target over 2,000 parents.
The CityU team comprises Professor Robert Li Kwok-yiu, Associate Dean of the College of Science and Engineering; Dr Ray Cheung Chak-chung, Associate Professor of the Department of Electronic Engineering; Dr Ron Kwok Chi-wai, Associate Professor of the Department of Information Systems; and Dr Tan Chee-wei, Associate Professor of the Department of Computer Science.
Under the programme, co-curricular activities, summer workshops, and student competitions will further enhance teaching and learning. Rigorous, evidence-based research will be conducted to assess how the project benefits students.