Schools, Turtles and Code – Enabling Early Technology Education

Schools, Turtles and Code – Enabling Early Technology Education

Wednesday, 8.45 a.m. in Munich, the school bell rings…

…and kids in the 5th grade are just starting their second lesson of the day. But this lesson is very different to the usual subjects like Math, German or English. In this period, the kids are sitting in front of computer screens with engineering and computer science students in between them, explaining concepts like loops and variables. The kids then turn on their computers to apply the concepts hands-on with Tobi, BVB or Schildi. These are just some of the names the schoolkids give the little, colorful turtle they work with on their computers. Besides naming their turtles, they then step-by-step enable their turtle to walk and draw lines or shapes on the screen through code. For some, of course, in the colors of the favorite soccer club.

Digitalstunde teaches kids the basics of programming

This special class every Wednesday is called “Digitalstunde” and aims to teach pupils in grades five to seven the essentials of programming. The idea for such a class arose already a year ago in the Entrepreneurship Laboratory course of CDTM in collaboration with the Global Shapers World Economic Forum. With rising social inequality, automatization and high need for human resources in programming and computer science in the future, the class aims to provide an early foundation of the necessary skills for children regardless of societal and financial background.

The greater vision behind it? Sharpen children’s analytical skills and strengthen the consciousness for technology from an early age on. Also, initial concerns and fears are substituted by self-confidence in being able to solve problems by using technology. The plan is to integrate the Digitalstunde in the education system in general, so that all schools provide the necessary equipment and offer an early technology education in the children’s regular schedule.

Students learn together with pupils

Other than in normal classes, university students and young professionals come in to teach the kids in an interactional setting. The students themselves engage on a voluntary basis. Their interest is supporting others and  the greater vision of enabling technology education for anyone. By now, the Digitalstunde has already about 40 tutors, all in their early to mid-twenties and with some technology background. About 15 of these tutors are also current CDTM students or alumni. An idea for the future is to involve university students studying teaching for secondary schools. By this they could gather their first practical experiences in education as tutors for the Digitalstunde.

The turtle and others as learning material

The turtle is just one of the nice stories the children engage with when familiarizing themselves with coding and computer science. The material is oriented on Microsoft YouthSpark’s Code Your Life initiative to teach students in the age from 10 to 14.  Other than the turtle, it also includes programming mandalas and weather balloons or hardware building. The kids quickly start to play around with the code, and progress fast. One of the students, for example, quickly found out for himself how to let the turtle draw a star with 30 corners, as one of the tutors proudly told. Beyond that, children take first steps in their English education, as the commands are all in English.

The future

The Digitalstunde is still in an early stage. However, it has much potential to develop and enable the greater vision of technology education for all schoolkids in Germany. It remains exciting what will happen next. We from the CDTM will be watching carefully and full of great expectations. If you are interested to join as a tutor or just want to start a conversation, feel free to reach out to info@digitalstun.de