Finland is a pioneer in teaching coding at schools in Europe
Tiina Partanen and Tero Toivanen, photo by Tarmo Toikkanen.
Coding i.e. programming will be a compulsory part of all teaching in Finnish comprehensive schools next autumn. The Aalto University Department of Media is involved in the Koodiaapinen project (’Code Alphabet’), which offered a MOOC (massive open online course) in coding for teachers. This course ended in December.
‘The goal in the curriculum is that children learn to understand how computers work and what kind of tasks are best suited for them. The MOOC gave teachers an opportunity to try in practice and under guidance the same programming environments that their pupils will probably be using,’ says Tarmo Toikkanen, Aalto University researcher responsible for the coordination and theory in the project.
Of the 1 301 teachers who started the MOOC, 471 completed the course. For MOOCs, the completion rate of 36 % is very high, and the feedback received from the course has been encouraging.
‘The teachers really were enthusiastic and even became addicted to coding,’ explains Vuokko Kangas, who lead the ScratchJr study line for pre-school teachers and teachers of first and second graders.
‘There was also a keen pedagogical discussion on the Padlet wall, which gave me new ideas for the future.’
According to Tiina Partanen, who lead the Racket study line for 6th-9th grade teachers, the MOOC not only provided teachers with the principles of computational thinking and basic programming skills but also gave ideas for suitable exercises for their own pupils as well as a possibility to generate ideas about projects across subject boundaries with their colleagues.
‘This kind of understanding cannot be formed on a course that lasts just a couple of hours. It requires a longer course just like the MOOC offered by Koodiaapinen,’ she stresses.
Coding included in all subjects
Tero Toivanen, who was responsible for the Scratch material for 3rd-6th grade teachers, thinks that Finland has made a wise choice in making coding a natural part of all learning.
‘Coding applies to all school subjects and enables cooperation between them,’ he remarks and continues.
‘Broad-based knowledge and skills, multisectoral learning modules and phenomenon-based learning already play an important role in the new curriculum, and this is something other European countries could learn from us.'
A comparison between 20 countries carried out by European Schoolnet shows that Finland is a pioneer in teaching coding at schools. In addition to Finland, coding is taught to children of primary school age in another six countries, of which only the United Kingdom and Belgium have it as a compulsory part of teaching.
‘However, in those countries it is a subject of its own,’ stresses Tarmo Toikkanen.
‘In addition to us, only Italy mentions it as an element across subject boundaries in the curriculum. Finland has outlined that coding is one of the learning skills – just like reading, writing, counting and drawing.'
The learning material of the MOOC that just ended has been published (in Finnish) in the Koodiaapinen library www.koodiaapinen.fi/kirjasto/. A new free MOOC implementation will begin in February 2016. Further information and enrolment www.koodiaapinen.fi.
Koodiaapinen is compiled by the IT trainers’ association IT-kouluttajat ry. The principal authors of the course and material in autumn 2015 were:
- Coordination and theory: Tarmo Toikkanen, Educational Psychologist and Researcher, Aalto University Department of Media
- ScratchJR i.e. material for preschool-2nd grade teachers: Vuokko Kangas, Classroom Teacher, IT contact person and Teacher of Mathematics at Oulu University Teacher Training School
- Scratch i.e. material for 3rd-6th grade teachers: Tero Toivanen, Special Needs Teacher and ICT Trainer at the Kilonpuisto School in Espoo.
- Racket i.e. material for 7th-9th grade teachers: Tiina Partanen, Teacher of Mathematical Subjects and leader of the Koodausta kouluun project.
European Schoolnet: Computing our Future