Primary schools are playing an increasingly important role in providing students with computer science and technological literacy education and computational thinking skills as part of a  solid 21st century skills and education strategy.

NewTechKids has been visiting a variety of primary schools in the Netherlands and interviewing principals and teachers in advance of our latest teacher training program which begins on Wednesday, January 17, 2018.

Here are some tips for parents which will help you evaluate how committed a primary school is to integrating computer science education into its curriculum and activities.

Curriculum: Ideal schools are those which have made computer science a core subject, on par with reading, writing and math and have supporting pedagogy, teaching approaches and classroom management strategies. Most schools don’t do this yet so look for schools which offer some form of technology education focused on helping kids understand technology: how it works, why it works, and how to think in order to create technology solutions. This can be coding/programming lessons or the integration of technology usage in lessons.

Even if teachers don’t have specialist computer science training, they can discuss technology and its pros, cons, and implications with their students. Good schools should be integrating technologicalee literacy into their curriculum.

Teachers: Ideal schools are those which have subject teachers who focus on teaching computer science and programming or integrating technology into learning experiences. Since only few schools do, look for schools where teachers are providing coding or programming lessons or coordinating technology prototyping projects during school or teaching after-school programs.

Look for teachers who actively integrate technology usage into their lessons eg. laptops, computers, tablets, digiboards, etc. Good teachers are those who design learning activities which encourage students to create multimedia presentations, blog and vlog, edit videos, practise graphic design and develop ideas for apps.

One of the most important indicators is a teacher’s willingness to engage in professional development activities. Look for teachers who are participating in training courses or completing online courses. Engaged teachers are actively seeking out curriculum and lesson materials from sources such as, CS Unplugged and Google for Education: Computer Science.

Technology Resources: A school’s technology resources indicate a lot. A good indicator is a school with a dedicated computer lab and/or tablets and laptops in the classroom. Even better: schools which have invested in technology teaching tools such as LEGO Mindstorms, LEGO Boost, Bee-Bots, Cubetto, Micro:bits, Arduino, etc.

School Activities: Ideal schools are those which participate in tech-related educational initiatives. Look out for schools which participate in EU Code Week, Hour of Code and Computer Science Education Week. Many schools often host project weeks during which all classes focus on a technology assignment. Schools which host computer science programs during lunch hour and after school are good bets. (Like Leonardo da Vinci School where we teach in Amsterdam.)