The Use of Scratch in Estonia

Using Scratch to introduce Computer Programming Concepts in Estonia
Olga Mironova
Kersti Antoi

Since 2008, Scratch is being used, in Tallinn University of Technology (TUT), as a tool for teaching the fundamentals of programming for most specializations, including both the IT field as well as the students of other fields. It is essential, especially, for the non-information technology fields, for whom it enables an easier and quicker way of grasping the main concepts and methods of programming, algorithming and modeling as well as application development and design. Scratch is being used in first practice sessions – for 6 to 10 hours. The classes using Scratch are followed by making use of Visual Basic and, in the case of non-information technology students, of VBA.
We have, for years, made use of Excel’s VBA, as a programming environment, whilst teaching to non-information technology students. According to our approach, VBA and Scratch have a lot in common. An Excel worksheet, is a big canvas, onto which a number of of graphical objects can be placed. There are a number of VBA methods and functions that that have unambiguous equivalents in the form of Scratch blocks (e.g. set color). We provide beginners with ready-made procedures, to be used as ‘black-boxes’. For example, we have procedures, that correspond to Scratch blocks wait, move, glide, touching etc. The primary control statements of VBA and Scratch are closely akin. All this enables a faster transition to more serious tasks we undertake in VBA.
As a result of our initiative, a non-mandatory course ‘Fundamentals of Application Development and Programming’ has been included in the curricula of Estonian high-schools. Currently we are in the final phase of developing study materials, testing them in pilot schools as well as during classes held for high school students and teachers in TUT. Scratch is used for programming – in the main module (20-25 hours). An additional module (10-15 hours), applies a text-based programming language – VBA or Python.