Coding Mentor Shawn Phua is deaf. But this does not stop him from learning and even teaching coding, computational thinking, design thinking and robotics classes in Brisbane, and delivering the Digital Technologies curriculum. This is one way Coding Kids aim to contribute to accessible and inclusive learning with the introduction of Digital Technologies into Queensland schools in 2017.

The Digital Technologies curriculum should be accessible to everyone and available in Auslan and other signed languages. Digital literacy is an empowering skill that develops children into creators, innovators, builders and change makers. It enables imagination and enhances creativity for both hearing children and children who are deaf.

Digital Technologies is not a stand alone subject and it will be integrated into other subjects e.g. Humanities and Social Sciences, Sciences, The Arts. Digital Technologies is already integrated into all aspects of modern life and this will be reflected in curriculum. Digital Technologies is an opportunity to enable all students and make all subjects more accessible to different children.

Digital Technologies including computational thinking, design thinking, coding and robotics classes is already being delivered in Auslan and other signed languages. Technology is a perfect tool for creating, collaborating, problem solving and building in an Auslan-delivered environment because it is a predominantly visual tool with immediate visual feedback.

Engaging in a digital literacy programme develops children who are:

  • Engaged and empowered
  • Creative
  • Informed about technology and its role in society
  • Employable adults

These are traits that need to be developed for all children.

Learning to code is more that just the surface skill of knowing how to write computer programmes. The process of learning to code teaches children to learn from trial and error. Over time children become more comfortable with uncertainty, they may not knowing the answer, but they are willing to guess, check the results and learn from experimentation. Whether you are a professional software developer or a beginner, everyone learns from trial and error.

The key barrier to this method of learning is feeling uncomfortable with failure. Unfortunately, traditional academic education encourages children to fear failure. When a student submits an assignment or an exam, the teachers marks their work and the student receives a grade. The grade is a statement of success or failure. It is difficult to embrace failure when it looks like a “D” or an “F”. However when a student writes code, tests it and it doesn’t work, it is not that big of a deal, the student simply needs to try again until they find a solution that works.

Digital Technologies encourages collaboration. Development of digital solutions is complex and requires a variety of skills: research, psychology, creativity, logic and analysis, building tactile projects, problem solving, communication and presentation, and project management. It is unlikely that any digital project is developed in isolation by one person, it is possible, but it is not ideal.

Digital Technologies does not, however, require hearing. Virtual teams collaborate online through platforms such as Slack or Basecamp. Coding and robotics are an accessible and fun activity for anyone who is deaf or hearing impaired. Coding can give immediate, visual feedback where a student learns from trial and error. Coding and robotics is an empowering tool for children and offers a great career path for adults.

As Digital Technologies curriculum becomes a compulsory subject, deaf children should not be left behind. Technology is an opportunity to improve accessible and inclusive learning. It is creative and empowering. Using digital and tactile elements, learning Digital Technologies can be accessible for everyone.

Our tutor

Shawn has a Bachelor of Arts – Sociology (Specialising in Special Education and Geography). He can communicate fluently in:

  • Auslan
  • Signing in the English Order (Sign-Supported English)
  • Full Auslan Fingerspelling
  • Key Word Signing
  • Australian Signed English
  • Australian Pidgin Signed English.

Sign language videos

For more on accessible and inclusive learning – Watch Shawn in the following videos as he explains in Auslan:

  1. Welcome and introduction to coding classes. See video here.
  2. Introducing Shawn Phua, our Coding Mentor. Shawn is deaf and can teach you coding via Auslan. See video here.
  3. How Coding Kids can help your school. See video here.
  4. Why learning to code is fun. See video here.
  5. About our school holiday programmes. See video here.


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