Catrobat launches scalable platform, content and training
The need for workers with computer science (CS) and coding skills grew by four percent each year from 2006 to 2016, according to DigitalEurope, and experts estimate that Wi-Fi and mobile-connected devices will generate 68 percent of all internet traffic in 2017. Many educators are struggling to keep up with the demand for technical skills because they lack the training, content and hardware to successfully teach CS skills in the classroom — particularly in underserved regions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. As mobile devices surpass desktop computers as the primary way people access the internet worldwide, educators are exploring mobile devices as a solution to more expensive equipment.
Necessary hardware like desktop and laptop computers are often too expensive for many schools to afford — particularly in underserved regions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Experts estimate that Wi-Fi and mobile-connected devices will generate 68 percent of all internet traffic in 2017. As mobile devices surpass desktop computers as the primary way people access the internet worldwide, educators are exploring mobile devices as a solution to more expensive equipment.
“Without the CS4HS award and Google’s long-standing support, we wouldn’t have had such a tremendous impact on the lives of so many kids all over the world.”
Catrobat founder Wolfgang Slany realized that students lacked a way to learn computational thinking skills in a fun, creative way on their personal mobile devices. He and his colleagues created the Pocket Code app, which uses a visual programming framework made up of building blocks to create games and animations directly on their Android tablets or smartphones.
In 2015, Catrobat secured Google CS4HS funding to create a free online course to teach students and teachers to use Pocket Code. The course includes instructional videos, tutorial flash cards and classroom activities. It helps teachers understand basic programming concepts such as statements, conditionals, loops, threads and hardware connections. “We knew some teachers were already using Pocket Code, but we wanted to extend the reach of the app. As a non-profit organization staffed by volunteers, we can’t travel to Russia or Spain to host a workshop, so we created this course instead,” says Anja Petri, head of design at Catrobat.
Reaching thousands of students and educators globally
Since Catrobat introduced the online course in 2016, around 2,000 teachers from more than six countries have participated. Not only are these teachers are using Pocket Code in their classrooms to teach students to code, they’re also using Pocket Code’s online resources to share classroom exercises and resources with other educators. So far, Pocket Code has been downloaded more than 275,000 times on the Google Play store. It has also been downloaded in app stores in other countries, raising the total number of downloads to over 500,000.
Making the skills needed to code accessible for all
Catrobat strives to make coding easy and affordable for everyone, including schools in developing countries. Pocket Code’s online course is currently available in English and German, and provides teachers with simple classroom activities. “Students from one of my classes represent 17 nationalities, and I teach them to use Pocket Code to create language games and quizzes,” says Magdalena Strauss, a fourth grade teacher at Akademisches Gymnasium Graz Secondary School in Graz, Austria who completed the online course.
Helping teachers show students that computer science is fun
Catrobat’s free online course aims to empower educators to teach coding skills across a range of disciplines. Teachers and students use Pocket Code to create interactive games that encourage experimentation and student-led project-based learning. “Students already enjoy playing games on their phones, so they look forward to using Pocket Code in class,” says Strauss, whose students used Pocket Code to create apps combining language, arts, and CS to learn vocabulary in multiple languages, with unique programming functionalities and even their own illustrations.
“With generous support from Google through the CS4HS program, we have been able to upskill in excess of 300 primary school teachers and pre-service teachers and 50 secondary teachers from across the south-east Queensland region. The change in the confidence and preparedness to rollout the new Digital Technologies curriculum has been dramatic.”
“After the [CS4HS workshop] I'm becoming a 'Computer Science teacher' and I will grow every year. So, more of this CS4HS please.”
“Google's involvement in CS4HS in NZ has been a massive benefit to the country, and every teacher I have spoken too has been extremely grateful for the professional development made possible by Google's funding, due to the lack of other resources in the country.”
“The [CS4HS workshop] provides a platform for the teachers to share and learn from each other. Ultimately, motivate interest in Computer Science in K-12 Environment, to make the students comprehend the principles of computers and sophisticated thinking of solve problems, fostering students computational thinking, to develop their problem-solving methods and self-access to knowledge.”
“The [CS4HS workshop] won huge popularity with the participants as it could better meet the needs of their day-to-day teaching practice in terms of content and form. The goal is to achieve the idea of "Computer Science For All", which requires the teachers to spread the knowledge and skills they acquired in the program to their students as a whole.”
“This [CS4HS workshop] has greatly promoted the popularization of computer education, has pushed the development of the Educational Technology Education forward, and has helped to foster a great amount of IT talents in China.”
“Our initial CS4HS grants were instrumental in gathering critical mass to form an operational CSTA chapter in Wisconsin. Furthermore, it laid the groundwork for a network of CS teachers around the state to begin sharing resources, advocating for state-level change in the capitol, and advising us at the university level.”
“Over the last four years, we have seen tremendous progress in computer science education and advocacy in New Jersey. I don't think we would have come nearly as far if it weren't for Google's support of CS4HS and the relationships and discussions initiated at the workshops. Thank you.”
“The response to CS professional development opportunities from Texas teachers has been outstanding. If you provide teachers with useful, high quality training and support teachers financially to attend, they will gladly step up to the plate to learn these new skills. Thanks to Google for helping The University of Texas at Austin to create this support network and build capacity to provide CS education to every Texas student.”