Facebook to offer robots to schools that learn code

CodeFWD program will provide free computer science education online and a Sphero robot to practice on

teenagers on technology

Facebook has introduced a free, online learning program for educators to help inspire students to pursue computer programming.

'CodeFWD' has been created in partnership with robotics company Sphero and aims to increase interest in studying computer science, with a particular view of boosting female engagement. 

"Schools and learning communities are among the most important communities that we all belong to," said Lauryn Ogbechie, education partnerships director at Facebook. "We're creating the programs, tools, and products to build diverse education communities that bring the world closer together.

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"We're working on a number of initiatives like CodeFWD to widen the pipeline of diverse talent studying computer science so the next generation of tech innovators reflects and incorporates diverse perspectives, building a future that benefits us all."

According to the social network, CodeFWD prepares educators to introduce the basics of computer programming to their students, with a three-step plan.

The first is a set of online activities, designed for educators to use to introduce students to computer programming. Next is a program that allows them to practice their new skills, before a final set of activities for educators to support their students as they take what they've learned and applied it to block-based coding exercises.

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After completing these three steps, educators who want to continue developing their students' coding skills using a tangible, hands-on product can apply to earn a free classroom set of programmable robots from Facebook's partners, Sphero.

One of the children with a Sphero robot

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Facebook said that educators and educational organisations are essential to expose more underrepresented and female students to computer programming and to create the next generation of diverse tech innovators.

According to software programming course provider Makers Academy, the number of women in digital skills-related roles is declining, despite efforts to convince women that coding is an essential skill for the future.

The company explained that the number of women taking computing or ICT GCSEs has fallen by a third in the last three years, from 52,835 in 2014, down to 35,103 in 2018.

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