Kainos is thrilled to announce that its CTO, Tom Gray, alongside leading IT teacher and academic, Ian Simons, have been selected to present at this year’s SXSWEdu conference which takes place between 9th-12th March in Austin, Texas.

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This is the second year that Tom has been selected to present at the event, which is decided by a public vote. Tom will be joined by Ian Simons to present the session, ‘Coding in Schools: A Conversation’, which will inform the audience of the various initiatives undertaken in Northern Ireland to engage young people in coding from an early age, and to generate a discussion on what has or hasn’t worked in other countries and regions.

This is one of many activities undertaken by Kainos to support and nurture the next generation of IT talent, which it does through a suite of initiatives known as the Kainos Digital Academy.

A full synopsis of Tom and Ian’s session is below:

A challenge that Ireland shares with most nations is to give all young people the opportunity to engage, and have fun, with using computer code while developing their problem solving and analytical thinking skills alongside being creative and innovative from as young an age as possible.

The need is clear – there is a global shortage of skilled IT professionals; most fields and careers rely increasingly on digital technology; and the next generation of talent (our children) need to be at ease with being creators of technology and not just passive users.

However, a number of obstacles exist – young people, and their parents, are not aware of the opportunity; schools do not offer opportunities to study coding; teachers are not qualified to run the necessary classes.

To help address this problem, the Northern Ireland IT industry has collaborated with a leading IT teacher and academic, Ian Simons, to create an Industry Ambassador role to address the problem creatively and provide the platform for learning that is relevant for everyone in today’s digital age. We feel that the learning process needs to begin around age 7-8 by using real code and, only then, will we create a generation who are totally at ease with being creators of technology.

We have produced resources to support this, have won numerous awards and have an academic report carried out in schools that proves the approach works and adds confidence and self-belief to everyone involved – teachers and students.

The Core Conversation session will be moderated by Ian Simons – teacher and academic – and Tom Gray – CTO of Kainos, a leading digital technology company, who has driven these initiatives from an Industry perspective.

The conversation will give Ian and Tom the opportunity to outline what they have found works in schools, and summarise the academic report, and to moderate an open discussion with the audience of their experiences of teaching coding in schools and successes or problems they may have encountered.

The outcome is hoped to be a free exchange of experiences and, more importantly, the beginnings of a global community which can provide support and resources to individuals involved in teaching coding in schools.