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Blog post from Gerard de Graaf, Director at European Commission, initially posted in the Digital Coalition newsletter Summer 2019.

The aim of EU Code Week is to demonstrate the potential of digital creativity and coding. This year, a summer school was organised for teachers, giving them the opportunity to explore new ways of using technologies with their pupils.

Sometimes I ask myself: if I were a 10-year-old schoolchild today, what would I want my teacher to be like? Knowledgeable? Of course. Inspiring? Definitely. But, most importantly, I would like her or him to be open-minded and bring innovation to the classroom.

In my imagination, I see the ideal classroom as a buzzing hub where I could exchange ideas with other pupils and work together to find solutions to real-world problems. I would also like a teacher capable of encouraging me to think outside the box, improve my logical judgment, and understand the technologies that are shaping today’s world.

For teachers today, this is a challenging task. In most cases, their university studies did not show them how to explore the use of tablets, touchscreens or robots to enhance the learning experience and engage their pupils. That is why we want to give them a hand.

Time to go back to school

EU Code Week is a grass-roots movement that promotes computational thinking, coding and the creative and critical use of digital technologies to everyone in Europe. As part of its efforts to target the widest possible audience, a key focus of its activities is schools, and the teachers who teach in them.

In July 2019, we invited 25 primary school teachers from 16 countries to come to Brussels and attend the first EU Code Week summer school. Through a four-day programme hosted at the Future Classroom Lab, an inspirational learning environment for educators and decision-makers, they learned how to bring more activities focused on coding and logical thinking into their schools, cities and communities, and how to become an inspiration and guide to their peers. We also partnered with Code.org, whose Computer Science Fundamentals curriculum will help teachers and provide them with practical daily lesson plans, student activities and answer keys.

Two ideas became very clear during the summer school’s discussions and activities. The first was that it is possible to teach and learn the basics of computational thinking without computers or tablets. The participants discovered that so-called “offline” activities can easily give a taste of what coding is about. This is especially useful when working with younger children who might not even be able to read or use a computer programme.

The second key message is that teachers are keen to bring coding and logical thinking to other disciplines. During the summer school, they discussed how they could apply what they learned to subjects like history, social sciences and biology. This is exactly why learning how to code is important: not only as an objective in itself, but as a stepping stone to learning and understanding the world in a much more effective and engaging way.

The importance of equal opportunities

The summer school helped the teachers who participated to become more confident about approaches to computational thinking, and it has equipped them with ideas and tools to pass on this knowledge to their communities. We also believe that investing in teachers means supporting social mobility, by ensuring that the needs of all students, whatever their background, are met. Among the 25 teachers who participated to the summer school, 19 work with underrepresented minorities, five have a class with 15 or more pupils who are immigrants, and seven teach more than 20 students from a socioeconomic deprived area. By supporting them, we have the potential to make a difference to their students’ lives too.

Three people looking at a tablet

Ready for EU Code Week 2019

The summer school participants also contributed to a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on coding and computational thinking that will start in September. I hope that this MOOC will be an opportunity for hundreds or thousands of other teachers from all over Europe to become more confident in bringing coding, computational thinking and innovative tools to their classroom. The MOOC will be part of the huge database of resources for teachers that we offer for free on the EU Code Week website.

In 2019, EU Code Week will take place from 5 to 20 October. Everybody is welcome to organise a EU Code Week activity. If you do so, don’t forget to pin it on the map. In 2018, 2.7 million people joined the campaign: I hope you will help us to reach even more this year.

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