In education, Computational Thinking refers to developing behavioural traits and linking skills used across a given curriculum to support students in patterning, sequencing, planning and processing, and then in evaluating problems or constructing ideas and projects. Ultimately, the value in developing these thinking skills and potential in application of traits is vast, and in no way limited to just coding or mathematical processing.
Starting in Early Years
By supporting young learners in connecting their everyday thinking skills, problem solving skills, and computational thinking skills to real life AND technology, we can further support and generate a more global learning approach in the early years. No longer does planning and building a structure out of blocks, or applying strategies for writing an unknown word sit in isolation as play or literacy, but rather these tasks serve as important pieces of a fundamental skillset which will be developed over time. These same fundamentals, developed through to elementary, middle and high school, can be layered and augmented to later attempt much more complex tasks, such as coding, space design and data analysis.
We know, in fact, that computational thinking occurs in everyday experiences in play, discovery and creation as children practice their ability to plan, to sequence and to logically connect their ideas. By improving their creations, they also review and make authentic improvements, known as debugging in computer science and core to computational thinking. By more deliberately making these connections we are supporting students in being more proactive in their creativity and more purposeful in their solutions.
Plan, Do and Share
Teaching young children to think sequentially and to value a plan prior to creating helps them to develop awareness of processes and to develop thinking and organizational skills. As teachers, when we ensure students reflect and share their experiences in a visual representation, an oral expression or photo they are developing their ability to communicate the process. This offers crucial experience in thinking and logically linking ideas that allow them to build their computational thinking skills with greater awareness. Plan, do and share!
The Path Ahead
As education becomes more broad and simultaneously less about content and more about skills and access, the idea of computational thinking has relevance in classrooms over and beyond previous understandings. For teachers it is about facilitating learning for students – helping them access the relevant information and supporting them in facing challenges by logically connecting ideas, creating solutions, reviewing outcomes and utilizing the tools and content available to them. In doing so, children begin to value the many ways in which computational thinking can help them learn!