Programming at Schools and Hobby Clubs

Modern computer and information technology studies at schools should not only focus on computers and word processing programmes. More and more technology has emerged in students’ lives, and to understand the principles of it they need to know more about programming and technology in general.

The Tiger Leap Foundation has launched a programme called ProgeTiger which teaches programming, web applications and website creation during classes or in hobby clubs to students from grades 1 to 12.
The aims of ProgeTiger are to:
  • develop students’ logical thinking, creativity, mathematical skills etc.;
  • demonstrate that programming can be interesting and done by anyone;
  • teach the basics of programming through practical activity; and
  • teach students to use different age-appropriate programming languages.
The first group of schools joined the programme in autumn 2012 when 30 primary school teachers completed the training course. By the end of 2012 educational materials had been prepared for every school level. 
Teacher training will continue in 2013. The development of new educational materials and kick-starting local ProgeTiger hobby clubs are also planned.
The level of technological knowledge and interest according to age are being considered in creating the courses. At the high school level the programme will prepare students for higher education in the field of information technology.

Structure and tools
Both object-oriented and partial functional programming languages are used in ProgeTiger. At the elementary school level computers are only used in graphic programming languages (LOGO, KODU Game Lab and Scratch). Later, LEGO Mindstorms is added as a robot platform, where the programming language is at first NXT-G (graphic) and then Not ExactlyC (NXC) as a transition. Robots are used as a means of keeping programming interesting and for the students to see the output immediately. In addition to programming robots, ProgeTiger also offers middle school and high school students the chance to create websites and web applications.

Elementary school (grades 1 to 4)
The best way to become familiar with programming in elementary school is via the teacher. The students will acquire basic skills that will help them make the transition to programming more effectively – by learning how to use the mouse and keyboard as well as by playing games that involve logic and thinking. After this they will be introduced to certain programmes, the first of which is called  KODU Game Lab. This is an object-oriented programming language used to create games. It does not require any prior knowledge – students learn to programme simple games through practical work. In the third part, a programme called MSW Logo is introduced to students. This is a simple programming language that teaches the children to understand, analyse and apply structural thinking. It is also a good training language before moving on to real programming. 
Class teachers are trained in the first phase in order to start programming. Teachers can also take part in e-study events via the 'Koolielu' educational portal.
 
Middle school (grades 5 to 9)
In middle school the opportunities to make a start on programming are enhanced significantly. In the ProgeTiger programme, courses in two distinct directions will be developed. Since LEGO robots that act upon programming have already reached many schools, four exciting courses of programming robots in NXT-G and NXC languages for grades 6 to 9 will be launched. As an alternative, students from grades 4 to 6 will be able to learn how to create websites and web applications, as well as web design. A popular programming language called Scratch will also be introduced.
 
High school (grades 10 to 12)
ProgeTiger offers high school students courses on creating websites and web design, as well as creating web applications. These are an addition to the optional courses from the national curriculum entitled 'Programming and the basics of application development'. Having completed the programming courses in high school, students are better prepared to enter university, especially if they are studying scientific disciplines, and have a better understanding of how technology works. They will also be better placed when buying IT solutions in terms of thinking about their future work.
Although the educational material of ProgeTiger will be developed for all school levels (grades 1 to 12), earlier skills will be cemented in new programming environments and languages. All of the materials are open and created substantially, allowing students to continue in environments they like until they have exhausted their possibilities. Repetition and the transition of earlier skills to new environments will strengthen the bond between theory and practice. Except for the high school level, where earlier skills are used to develop applications or programmes directed at end users, the courses are created in such a way that students can join at any time with minimal knowledge.