Monthly Archives: January 2015

Coding – an emerging reality for students and teachers in Europe

by Anja Balanskat Senior Analyst and Project Manager Creative Classrooms Lab

As a follow up of our desk research investigating computing and coding initiatives in schools, we now have a more coherent picture about priorities, school curricula and initiatives across Europe.

Altogether 20 Ministries of Education participated in the EUN survey on coding and computer programming in schools. Here are some of the main findings:

Picture1

Computerprogramming and coding is already part of the curriculum in 12 countries: Bulgaria,
Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and the UK (England) (see graphic: Yes). 7 countries plan to integrate it in the future (see graphic: it is planned). There is no information available from 10 countries (see graphic: ???).

 

 

Does this mean that coding/or compute programming is the only main priority for Ministries of Education when it comes to ICT competence development? Fortunately it is not, 16 Ministries of Education still prioritize Digital Competence Development, developing ICT as a tool for learning and ICT user skills in line with policy initiatives that have been developed in this area for many years.

Picture2But what is the main rationale for integrating coding and programming in national or regional school curricula? The majority of countries participating in the survey, which have integrated computing in the curricula or plan to do so, aim to develop core educational skills such as logical thinking skills, coding skills or core competencies e.g. problem solving skills. Only 10 countries introduce it to respond to the needs of the job market and to foster employability or to attract students to study computer science.

As regards curriculum integration:

  • Computer/Programming/coding is integrated by most countries (10) at upper secondary school level in general education and vocational education.
  • Three countries (Estonia, Greece,United Kingdom (England) integrate it in primary education.
  • Only Estonia and Greece integrate coding and programming at all levels of school education.
  • In 7 countries (BG, CZ, CY,EL, PL, PT, UK (England)) it is compulsory for specific levels of education and mainly part of a computer course.

Given this higher profile of coding in the curriculum in these countries, are teachers prepared to teach this as part of the ICT subject, which is the most common subject, in which coding is taught?

  • 9 countries (BG, CZ, CY, EE, IE, IT, LT, PT and the UK (England)) make training provision (in in-service or pre-service training) to support teachers in teaching computer programming/coding.
  • Ireland offers a variety of activities to teachers as part of initial teacher education (ITE) mainly for the Post Primary ITE sector. In the Primary ITE sector, coding is not included as a mandatory element but some electives maybe offered.

Developing students coding skills can be approached in various ways, in school, within and outside official school hours, and benefitting from a variety of offers from other stakeholders in the field, e.g. by taking part in competitions or coding clubs. 12 countries have reported on their collaboration with industry, sector organisations, computer society clubs, teachers and subject associations, or universities.

First lessons of successful integration will be hopefully learnt in the near future from countries that are today forerunners in this area such Estonia, Greece, Ireland, UK (England). Certainly other interesting initiatives are going on in countries that did not respond to the survey. We will be keeping an eye on the subject. Check details in the report,” Computing our future” which also contains a case study on the introduction of coding in the English curriculum.

If you already feel like starting to learn how to code in one day and create your own app check out the one of the recent initiatives offered by the Sunday Times: http://thesundaytimes.co.uk/learntocode

It just requires a mixture of concentration and creativity to learn the new literacy of the 21st century: //Create play function play() {

How mainstream can inclusion and accessibility become in 2015 and beyond?

blackboard with random drawings by children

Pelgulinna Gymnasium in Tallinn

The start of a new year is always also a good moment to look back at what happened the last year and which new things one learned. For me, it was the conclusion that while the topic inclusion has been high on the agenda of many European countries the last few years and many students with special needs moved from special schools to mainstream schools, the topic is still not mainstream enough to be a concern for all educators. Below I share the most interesting facts around inclusion and accessibility issues I came across during SENnet  workshops and Peer Learning visits in Portugal and Estonia in 2014.

(1)    Who is a student with special needs and who is not depends on the definition used. The term is, according to the OECD, not well defined internationally. For the Estonian government, for example, also very gifted students are students with special needs.

(2)    Devices like tablets can enable students with special needs to make independent choices and communicate who could not do so otherwise. (see SENnet Austrian Case Study video)

(3)    At the Pelgulinna Gymnasium in Tallinn, students with special needs are particularly interested and active in coding and robotics classes.

(4)    Teaching students with special needs and teaching with ICT are the areas in which teachers need professional development the most. (TALIS, 2013)

(5)    One cannot assume that parents of students with special needs can always provide all necessary support. The UK Teacher of the Deaf Darryl Bedford shared at the SENnet workshop on 21 October that most of this students are not even able to communicate at home, as their family does not learn sign language .

(6)    Providing continuity in external support provided to schools is vital, as teachers will only cooperate with services they know and trust.

(7)    Including students with special needs in mainstream schools is a benefit to all students, as all students learn important skills for life while learning and cooperating together.

(8)    Making texts/ audio/ video etc. accessible benefits in most cases all readers, not only those with special needs.

(9)    Especially having in mind today’s ageing population, also people with no disability at present might develop a special need later in their lives. Having that in mind, any step towards more accessibility/ inclusion is in any of our best interests.

Further reading:

http://sennet.eun.org/studies-and-evidence-wp2

http://www.ict4ial.eu/ 

Katja Engelhardt has joined the European Schoolnet Observatory Team in 2012. She mainly works on the Creative Classrooms Lab project and the SENnet project.