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Wally, the walrus, to learn to code

It was during a visit to her public library that teacher Véronique Patry met Wally, the walrus who codes and decodes. She brought him home to get to know him better. After hours of fun with her children, she decided to bring Wally into her classroom to introduce her students to programming and electronics.

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It was during a visit to her public library that teacher Véronique Patry met Wally, the walrus who codes and decodes. She brought him home to get to know him better. After hours of fun with her children, she decided to bring Wally into her classroom to introduce her students to programming and electronics.

Wally is a learning kit designed to teach children and young adults the basics of coding. It is both a physical and a virtual kit; first, you build Wally (i.e., learn about electronics), then the digital adventure begins. Through various programming challenges on a microcomputer (micro:bit), learners help Wally communicate with his friends in Morse code, while discovering the history of telecommunications.

"I thought it was an interesting topic: the origin of Morse code and the basics of communication. How do we communicate effectively? The course of Wally's adventure allows us to learn several concrete concepts. In addition, the proposed activities make programming accessible to everyone," explains Véronique Patry, a teacher at Center de formation en entreprise et récupération (CFER) Vallée-de-la-Gatineau, Centre de services scolaires des Hauts-Bois-de-l'Outaouais.

Her students, ages 15 to 18, are enrolled in a non-specialized trade training pathway. She had previously done Scratch with them, through the Code.org platform. "Learning to program is a good way to demonstrate the importance of good communication to young people. When you program, every action counts. If you forget one, your sequence won't work. It's the same thing when you express yourself: precision is important," says the teacher.

Concrete

Despite early successes, she found it difficult to make connections to everyday life in programming activities. By joining the physical and the virtual, the Wally kit addresses that need, she says. "The students were curious and interested from the beginning. Then they were very engaged in the adventure. They could see the results of their programming almost instantly in the real world."

Veronique did the activity in four one-hour periods last year. This year, she will certainly repeat the experience with a new group of students. She will first have introduced them to the basics of programming on Code.org.

The learning path, available online for those who have purchased the kitThe program, in French and English, allows young people to progress independently, and at their own pace, through the modules. They can complete the activities alone or in pairs. The physical material, available in the kit, can be reused for other activities later on.

Wally was designed by GénieLabin collaboration with the BIBLIO de l'Outaouais network. Virtually all municipal libraries in Quebec now offer it on loan. It is also possible for schools and school service centers to purchase kits. The GénieLab team is also available for classroom activities.

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About the Author

Martine Rioux
Martine Rioux
After studying public communication, Martine worked as a journalist for various publications, before pursuing her career as an interactive communications consultant at La Capitale, a financial group, then at Québec Numérique, an organization she took over as general manager before making the jump. as political advisor in the office of the Minister for Digital Government Transformation. Today she is the online Editor-in-Chief and Special Projects Manager at l'École branchée. Her dream: that everyone has access to technology and can use it as a tool for learning and opening up to the world.

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