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Google-supported programme in Netherlands helps primary schools with computational thinking

A programme to help primary school teachers in the Netherlands understand IT is gaining momentum

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: CWEurope: CW Benelux: Google helps Dutch schools to teach computer skills

A programme in the Netherlands to support primary schools in providing computational thinking and programming, developed with financial support from Google, is well on schedule.

The DigiLeerKracht (DigiTeacher) training programme, run by the Dutch national expertise centre for girls and women in science and technology (VHTO), received a financial contribution of $500,000 from Google to enable 2,000 primary schools to participate in the two-day training programme at no cost to them.

More than 500 primary schools have joined the DigiLeerKracht, and in the coming school year, even more educational institutions will follow. “We want to touch 2,000 schools with our training programme,” said Cocky Booij, director at VHTO.

Women in IT

At the end of March 2017, VHTO DigiLeerKracht was developed in collaboration with experts from Delft University of Technology and Codeklas.

Booij said it was focusing initially on primary schools, many of which still have some way to go in their implementation of digital skills in their curriculum. As part of that, she said it wanted to reach female teachers, because 90% of primary school teachers are women.

“VHTO wants primary school students to show that women can also work well in IT, contrary to [the common belief] that IT is a typical male domain. When a teacher teaches computational thinking and programming, she becomes a role model for primary school students – both boys and girls,” she said.

Read more about IT training in the Netherlands

There are about 7,000 primary schools in the Netherlands, some of which have made good progress in introducing digital skills to their curriculum. However, most of the institutions need training, help and support.

Thanks to Google’s contribution, the VHTO training courses are provided free of charge for primary schools, which is attractive to school boards as well as directors.

“The only challenge schools face is that it is not always easy to free up a teacher for two days of training,” said Booij.

Added value of regional approach

VHTO opted for regional training courses to boost cooporation between teachers. Bart Postma, project coordinator for primary education at VHTO, said teachers exchange a lot of information during the training.

“Because everyone is in the same region, they are more likely to stay in contact,” he said. “We also hear plans are being made to purchase materials together.”

During the training, teachers – who often have little experience and affinity with IT – get information about possibilities in the field of computational thinking and how they can use it in their own education provision. At the end of the programme, each teacher draws up a 10-point plan in which computational thinking must be anchored at their own primary school.

“It is not for us to control and implement those plans for 2,000 schools, but we do contact them after a while to see how it’s going and if we can help in any way,” said Postma.

In addition, VHTO collects all the 10-point plans and shares them with other participating teachers so they can gain inspiration from each other.

Continuous evaluation

One teacher per school can participate for free and the training programme is continuously evaluated. Some schools expressed a desire to send multiple teachers, which VHTO has responded to.

“It adds more support for your 10-point plan if you are not alone in your team after the training,” said Booij. “That is why we now allow this under certain conditions.”

Read more on Diversity in IT

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