Turkey has the second-most Code.org users in the world, after the United States. Here’s how Robin Code did it!
He’s only in 8th grade, but Can Torungil already has a certification from Cisco Networking Academy and several computer science credentials from the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. A student at Uskudar SEV Middle School in Istanbul, Turkey, his introduction to coding came in 2014 during the Hour of Code, and he immediately loved the experience of solving problems.
Since then, Can has gone on to taking further coding lessons at a Turkish nonprofit organization called Robin Code and is now the team captain of the robotics club at his school. What Can likes most about coding is that if he wants something to happen, he can actually do it by creating a game or an app. “It is just fun,” he underscored.
Championing computer science in Turkey
Robin Code provides computer science courses for students; partners with corporations to raise awareness about the importance of CS; coordinates national Hour of Code activities in Turkey; provides training for teachers; and engages with the Turkish government to advocate for the adoption of CS in school curriculum.
Founded by entrepreneur Gözde Erbaz, its name was inspired by the English folk character Robin Hood. The idea is that when a parent or sponsor pays for the tuition of one student, it also covers the cost of an underserved student to attend the same courses. Erbaz is convinced that “Turkey has talent but not enough skills to build its own innovation and technologies, and tech freedom is very important for a country.”
With a consulting firm focused on technology and cybersecurity, Erbaz saw the need for qualified talent, prompting her interest to focus on technology education in the K-12 curriculum.
“One day I listened to President Obama in Code.org’s video talking about the need for children to learn how to program their devices and that motivated me to join the global computer science movement,” shared Erbaz. “I knew that not all kids in Turkey have the educational opportunities that my daughter has had, and that led me to create Robin Code,” she added.
With a population of over 84 million, Turkey is the 18th largest country in the world and it has a relatively young population. According to the United Nations, 30% of its people are under 20 years old. “Over the past decade, significant investment and reform to Turkey’s education system have enabled a major expansion in participation … its core challenge now is to raise the quality of schooling,” according to an OECD report about the Turkish Education System.
Supporting teachers to make a greater impact
In addition to impacting students like Can directly, Robin Code empowers teachers to reach an even larger number of students. A primary school teacher for 22 years now, Gulhanim Dursun came across Robin Code in 2016 when she was searching for a platform that could make her computer science teaching easier.
Dursun has always loved computers, and began teaching computer science on her own initiative. Dursun said, “I started with algorithms by doing the sandwich unplugged exercise and another day we played to be robots and followed instructions.”
Her students were so engaged that Dursun searched for content on the internet and made up lessons, bringing props and other resources to her classroom. Dursun explains, “Robin Code introduced me to Code.org and helped me build my lesson plans. They showed me how to follow a computer science curriculum and helped me make my teaching more proper.”
With Dursun raising awareness, excitement for CS grew to the extent that the whole school organized a big Hour of Code activity that overloaded their internet connection! They ended up completing the event with an unplugged exercise.
Since then, she’s taught CS to kindergarteners as well as students from all grades in Şenlik İlkokulu Primary School in Ankara, and during the last three years, she has been creating digital materials for high schools. “My students come from underserved backgrounds and now know critical thinking and problem solving, which are skills they will be able to use for the rest of their life,” said Dursun. “Teachers in Turkey like coding and large schools are already incorporating CS in their curriculum but it is difficult to find CS lesson plans and materials in Turkish,” she concluded.
Partnership with Code.org and impact in Turkey
Robin Code became a Code.org International partner in 2016, and due in part to its work the Ministry of National Education added Code.org content to its curriculum in the 2017–2018 academic year. Their most recent collaboration with Code.org is the Turkish translation of the CS Fundamentals curriculum for primary education and lesson guides for teachers that will be available in early 2021.
After the United States, Turkey is the country with the second-most user accounts on the Code.org platform, the second also in terms of more traffic to Code.org and 6th in overall usage of our Computer Science Fundamentals courses. This impact has to do to no small extent with the relentless work of Robin Code, whose aspirations to bring CS to all students in Turkey seem more achievable than ever. More than 1 million Turkish students have participated in Robin Code’s online activities, and over 50,000 students have attended their in-person classes. Having trained over 1,500 teachers directly, It has reached over 200,000 teachers through third-party facilitators and partnerships with the tech industry.
Robin Code’s work in the country has created such excitement that Turkish pop star Kenan Doğulu agreed to support the movement and his single İlk Adımı Sen At (You Take the First Step) is now one of the songs with which students can code a Dance Party, one of Code.org’s most popular tutorials.
Opportunity for all Turkish students
When Can Torungil learned 3D modeling in 6th grade he lit up at the opportunity to be creative. He now believes that he wants to go into animation. “Everything that involves creativity is something that I am interested in,” he shared.
In addition to creating an outlet for his creativity, computer science has boosted his self-confidence. “He was already skilled in math, but coding helped to discover a jewel within him,” said his father. Mr. Torungil is convinced that even if he doesn’t become an engineer, learning computational thinking will provide Can critical skills for his life. And acquiring the skills they need to succeed in the future is exactly the outcome that Robin Code seeks for all Turkish students.
-Leonardo Ortiz Villacorta, Code.org VP of International Partnerships