To date, 15 European countries have introduced coding into their schools’ curriculums with many other countries in the process of doing so. However, more could be done to support informal coding activities as well as in schools from both governments and European institutions.
October saw the end of another successful Europe Code Week, during which thousands of CoderDojo volunteers, parents, and ninjas took part in events around Europe.
The initiative which began three years ago, by Neelie Kroes of Young Advisors, aims to expose individuals, both young and old, from all across Europe to develop a greater understanding of coding and its importance in today’s digitally connected world.
All new Champions who get in touch about starting a Dojo are asked, how did you hear about CoderDojo? For a month or two following Code Week a number from not just in Europe cite Code Week as their reason for wanting to join the community!
CoderDojo continues to grow massively throughout Europe. From the beginning of this year to October 2015 over 160 Dojos have been verified in Europe, with many more people registering their interest in setting up Dojos in their communities as well.
Coding at school: How do EU Countries Perform?
A great achievement this past year has been the creation of the European Coding Initiative, a multi-stakeholder group whose aim is to promote coding and computational thinking throughout Europe, both inside and outside of the classroom.
A number of organisations and CoderDojo partners such as European Schoolnet, Liberty Global and Microsoft are all involved in making sure this initiative strives to empower young people and promote the importance of learning to code.
To date, 15 European countries have introduced coding into their curriculums with many other countries in the process of doing so.
National governments are beginning to realise that the introduction of coding into schools not only helps children develop computer literacy skills but also equips youth with many other valuable skills in areas such as logical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork.
Exposing youth to coding through the formal education system and outside through informal clubs like CoderDojo will also assist with closing the digital skills gap that is being experienced across Europe.
Not all children who learn coding will become software engineers and this is certainly not the aim of CoderDojo!
However, it is estimated that 90% of all jobs require candidates to have basic computer skills and CoderDojo is enabling youth to be successful, competent adults regardless of their chosen career direction.
Best Practice Project: Erasmus +
This year we were delighted to become involved in an Erasmus+ project. In conjunction with partners CIT, The Nerve Centre, WiMi and IBE, it aims to create toolkits which will be utilised by new and existing members of the CoderDojo Community.
By surveying the existing CoderDojo Community, our partners are in the process of developing a CoderDojo International Toolkit which will be a detailed set of recommendations, methodologies and guidelines covering all aspects of establishing and operating a CoderDojo Chapter.
While continued support from European programmes such as the Erasmus+ project is vital, we believe more could be done to support informal coding activities as well as in schools from [CM1] both governments and European institutions.
Introducing coding into school curriculums is a huge step in the right direction, so is making ICT training compulsory for incoming teachers.
But this is not enough. Supporting programs like CoderDojo, held outside of formal education system, give European institutions a viable avenue for ensuring more youth are exposed to coding in a meaningful and creative way.
CoderDojo provides an opportunity for children to maintain and further develop an interest in coding whether it was gained from taking part in Code Week, or from a computational thinking class in school.
Throughout our four years of existence, we at CoderDojo has learned that having Dojos outside of a classroom setting helps to encourage young people’s creativity and allows for self-led learning.
Dojos are largely unstructured and young people are given the opportunity to work on projects of their choosing which makes learning to code seem less like another subject and more like a hobby.
In order for CoderDojo to grow and reach more young people, European institutions need to:
1. Make the development of coding skills for youth a top priority.
2. Recognize its place not only in the formal education system but also in informal learning environment.
3. Promote coding at a local level within their communities.
4. Continue to highlight initiatives like CoderDojo and Europe Code week and encourage all stakeholders to get involved.
As an understanding of ICT is a requirement in nearly 90% of professional occupations, embedding coding skills in both formal and non formal education should become a priority – especially in Europe where a massive shortage of tech workers is looming
As technology becomes further integrated within our society, it has become increasingly important for young people to understand the world around them. Few stakeholders in employment and learning doubt the importance or relevance of learning programming.
[Tweet “Europe is expected to face a shortfall of over 900,000 technically skilled employees by 2020”]
In the UK alone, it is estimated that there will be a shortage of approximately 249,000 workers for technology based jobs by the same year. The creation of a European Digital Single Market is one of the top 10 priorities of the European Commission.
As an understanding of ICT is a requirement in almost 90% of professional occupations, the lack of skilled experts which Europe is currently experiencing, will hinder the advancement of a hyper-connected single market.
To overcome the the gap, coding skills need to become embedded in both the formal education systems through curriculum development, and in non formal education such as after school clubs. The success of this will depend on a strong collaboration between Government, civil society and industry.
CoderDojo is a global community of after school, free programming clubs for young people. It is focused on giving kids and young people all over the world better access to the magic behind the technology that surrounds us.
CoderDojo clubs (Dojos) run all over the world on a weekly basis, giving young people between the ages of 7 and 17 the opportunity to learn how to develop computer code, websites, apps, programs, games, and to explore creatively with technology.
Young people who attend Dojos also learn complementary skills of logical thinking, problem solving, presentation and communication skills. As of January 2015, there are over 560 active Dojos in 56 countries, 370 of these clubs are spread across 27 European countries.
In England, schools are introducing aspects of computer programming to children as young as five. Estonia has assigned €70,000 to an e-enabled program called Proge Tiger which aims to teach children from 7-19 how to code.
The program offers teachers resources and training as well as supporting their schools financially in order to buy the equipment they need. These initiatives are part of the reason that the English and Estonian governments some of the most proactive institutions in promoting and supporting coding among young people.
A recent survey of 20 EU countries, conducted by the European Schoolnet, delivered encouraging results in relation to the introduction of programming to school curriculums. Twelve of the countries already have integrated coding at a secondary school level while 7 countries plan to do so. However the introduction of coding into curriculums is not enough.
For young people to become truly immersed in coding, afterschool clubs like Dojos are required to facilitate this extended learning. Children attending Dojos are driven by their own motivation, learning at their own pace, exploring and creating technology in a way that interests and excites them.
[Tweet “Acquiring an understanding of computer coding is extremely important within our society…”]
…if we want to create a European Digital Single Market. Without it, the majority of citizens will remain passive consumers and will be at the mercy of programmers and technology giants.
The creation of a European Digital Single Market will bring with it great opportunities, with the European Commission estimating that it could produce up to €250 billion in additional growth and could also counteract rising unemployment rates.
Commissioner Ansip recently wrote in a recent blog on the development of the DSM strategy that, ‘ We should only set out what is realistic, what is achievable and what can be easily understood. This should not become a ‘catch-all’ strategy, in the sense that it promises and talks a lot – but does not contain anything that can be done properly, or has any real impact’.
I would echo his sentiment, but apply it to digital education. For Europeans to develop the necessary skills to succeed in the Digital single market, a combination of supporting of informal learning programs, like CoderDojo, and the implementation of computational thinking courses into formal education systems is required. But most importantly, real tangible support is needed from a range of stakeholders including European institutions, national governments, and industry leaders.
There are many ways to get involved in CoderDojo, if you are intersted in mentoring at a local Dojo please see zen.coderdojo.com and get in touch with the Champion. For more information on starting a club see www.coderdojo.com. Or Get in touch e-mail: [email protected], Newsletter: Sign up, Twitter: @CoderDojo