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Infrastructure support for schools
In 2020, Estonia is one of the most digitized societies in the world, with a large number of public services available to citizens online, broadband internet coverage across the majority of the country, WiFi available almost everywhere, etc. In order to provide all schools with computers and internet access, the Tiger Leap Foundation was launched in 1997. Tiger Leap Plus, which followed the Tiger Leap program, focused mainly on the ICT competences of students, teachers and educational staff. Its main activities included the creation of electronic educational materials, in-service training, and support of teacher cooperation and experience exchanges. Under the Tiger Leap Plus program the Learning Tiger program was launched, the main focus of which was to make e-learning a natural part of daily tutorial work, curricula, and teacher training. The Estonian Education and Research Network (EENet) established in 1993, which in 2013 was transferred to be part of the Information Technology Foundation for Education has been providing high-quality national network infrastructure for Estonia’s research, educational and cultural communities. All schools have free internet, including via WIFI, available for their students. The Information Technology Foundation for Education was joint amongst other institutions, and starting from 01.08.2020, a governmental institution called Education and Youth Board.
The Information Technology Foundation for Education (HITSA) was a non-profit association established by the Republic of Estonia, the University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, Eesti Telekom, and the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications. The role of the HITSA was to ensure that the graduates at all levels of education have obtained digital skills necessary for the development of economy and society and the possibilities offered by ICT are skilfully used in teaching and learning, which helps improve the quality of learning and teaching at all levels of education. HITSA initiated and guided innovation and development in our area of activities and introduced the best practices.
The activities of the educational programs were targeted at advancing and intensifying the cooperation between ICT industry, universities, other educational institutions, and the state. HITSA also offered a training portal for educators, youth workers, etc. in the area of digital technologies, including on how to support the creativity of young people.
Starting from 01.08.2020, HITSA is a part of the new organization called Education and Youth Board, which fills in the tasks and goals of the previous organization.
With the view of arousing young people’s interest in IT and introducing to them the future possibilities in the area, the activities of the program PrigeTiger are aimed at encouraging preschool, general, and vocational education teachers to use technology (including programming and robotics) more widely in teaching.
To support this goal, Education and Youth Board (up to 31.07.2020 HITSA) implements the ProgeTiger technology education program, which offers varied opportunities for integrating technology into studies, including basic and in-service training courses, subject-based model lessons and tasks, learning and teaching materials and examples of curricula that integrate technology.
Program ProgeTiger was launched in Estonia in 2012 when the idea of teaching programming and robotics was introduced to our schools.
In primary education, there is a national cross-curricular theme called “Technology and Innovation” which requires all teachers to implement technology in their teaching. That means that teachers have to integrate technology in their subjects in different fields (for example using Scratch in mathematics, music programs in music lessons, and so on). It does not say what to use or how to use technology specifically. Teachers can choose themselves how they want to do this. Also, there are different national optional curricula and schools own subjects in technology education (programming, robotics, 3D graphics, computer science, informatics, etc.) which schools can choose to add into their school program (approximately 67% of Estonian schools have one or more optional lesson in their program). Some examples of what the teachers do in schools:
- In preschool, teachers teach and use LEGO WeDo (in order to enhance students' curiosity and science skills), Kodu Game Lab (building, playing, and sharing games), tablets (apps), programs to make animations, etc.
- In primary school, teachers teach and use Kodu Game Lab, Logo MSW (programming), Scratch (programming), LEGO Mindstorms EV3 (robotics), mobile app making programs and environments, many different programs and environments which are used for teaching various subjects (music, mathematics, physics, biology), e-labs, etc.
ProgeTiger program is supported and funded by the Estonian government through the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.
Look@World Foundation (Vaata Maailma SA) was founded in 2001. The goal of the foundation is to serve the public interest by supporting education, science, and culture via encouraging and popularizing the use of the Internet and ICT.
The Foundation launched a SmartLab project in 2012. The project aims to promote ICT related after school hobby education that will contribute to the IT awareness of the youth. During the first season, it gave more than 500 young people the opportunity to engage in activities related to ICT (programming, web design, app development, etc.). Since then the number of kids and clubs has constantly risen.
The Foundation also implemented the Project „Theatre on the Internet“. The target group of the performance comprised of young people aged 12-16. However, the performance also addressed teachers and parents and made them see that in today's world there is no line between the virtual and the real world. The topic is approached in an unusual way and the threats of the online world are explored through theatre. The material for the play was collected through the methods of forum theatre where young people could share stories of the things that had happened to them online. The web-police and Estonian Child welfare Union also provided stories.
For real though? is a project of the foundation initiated in 2013. 10 440 young people aged 10-15 were advised during the active phase of the project. Additionally, an interactive web-environment "Päriselt ka või" was developed. The page provides access to information materials for youth and adults alike. One can also find lesson plans for teachers. The information regarding the safe use of mobile and smart devices is available on the project web page "Päriselt ka või".
Smart youth work
In 2017, a concept of smart youth work was introduced with an aim to support and develop better usage of technological advancement in youth work. It aims to create more opportunities for young people to explore and develop their full potential and in order to do so, among other approaches, states the need to develop a concept for smart youth work:
- to make greater use of information technology in working with youth, including raising the digital literacy of young people by offering ICT-related hobby activities;
- developing youth work using new means;
- raising the competencies of young people and youth workers.
See more information regarding Smart Youth Work from Chapter 10.4.
In Estonia, there are several initiatives aiming at access to culture through technologies, however, there are none specifically targeting young people as the only or main target group. The programmes or initiatives may also be targetted to teachers, parents, etc.