No, these aren’t the words of  a teacher who has had one too many G&Ts over the Christmas break. 

But they might be heard at Hills International College following  the launch of an innovative program to teach computer coding, without computers. 

The independent Queensland school introduced the active program, which includes all students from Kindergarten right through to Year 12, in response to parent concerns that their children were clocking up too much screen time. 

“As a society, we can observe a link between two childhood statistics which have both increased exponentially, and those are our use of technology and rates of obesity,” principal Kevin Lynch says. 

“Many parents are very concerned  about the amount of screen time their children have  access to, whether at home for recreational use, or at school as part of the learning environment. 

“Conversely, as parents and educators, we know digital proficiency underpins many aspects of life and work in our online world, and learning the language of coding as early as possible develops understanding of how we are connected to this environment, and  ultimately, to each other.”

Lyn Davis is director of global  studies at the school, and has been working with the Kindergarten and Prep students. 

“One of the first things we asked them to do is make and obstacle course in the playground,” she explains. 

“And that was really very good because, basically, they used their computational thinking in the  design of an obstacle course … so the children made pathways, and if it was a ‘yes’, they could continue going down the pathway, if it was a ‘no’, then that pathway quickly ended.

“So it was using the playground to make obstacle courses and that was the way we introduced a very basic, basic idea of coding, but  gave immediate feedback to their intentions of going from point A  to point B,” Davis adds. 

“Our children are developing this style of computational thinking by first solving problems away from the screen, along the way building diverse skills including logical and abstract reasoning, pattern recognition, and creating algorithms,” Lynch explains. 

Students in the Hills Kindergarten also develop their skills using a variety of screenless coding toys, including successful Kickstarter crowdfunding projects Cubetto and Kumiita. 

The coding program at Hills International College isn’t completely unplugged. 

In later years students use Sphero, Dash and Dot robots, Scratch Junior, and Scratch, but Davis encourages educators to think outside of the box as well. 

“When we first sat down and looked at coding, I think we were like all of the other schools and we immediately went to the commercial  products … and we brought them in and the children were able to explore and inquire within  that,” she says. 

“However, we quickly realised that they can only act as a tool and like all things that are tools, it’s what we bring to our programs [that counts]. 

“So they can be just as boring or exciting as a paint canvas, but it’s what we bring to the program and that’s why we started looking  at other options so the children could be more active in their learning of developing the coding language.”