In 2006, Dr. Jeannette Wing defined computational thinking as a set of skills and techniques aimed at solving problems which arise from the study of the nature of computing. Computational thinking can be worked through programming, since learning to code is not only useful for people who want to work as software developers but it is a great tool to get ready for the future. Learning to program teaches us to think and helps us developing skills to solve problems of all kinds.
For this same reason, computational thinking should be one more skill to teach children at school, since in a few years it will be as important as reading or writing. In fact, as we already told you some months ago, PISA 2021 will already include a computational thinking test for students. This news are pointing out the need to rethink the educational system and start defining exactly how to include computational thinking in the schools’ curriculum all around the world, as some countries have already done.
Computational thinking development has lots of benefits, but we could summarize them saying it helps us organizing and analysing information in a logic and organised way, decomposing big problems in smaller ones in order to find the best solution and solve them, working the abstraction and recognizing patterns, as well as working algorithmic thinking. In addition, it fosters important skills for everyone’s future which can be worked from childhood, such as teamwork, creativity, the ability to solve problems, resilience or tolerance to frustration, among others.
On the other hand, we cannot ignore the labour market reality awaiting today’s children. Most European countries are already having problems to fill thousands of job vacancies due to the lack of training of most candidates. Technological profiles are the most requested nowadays and this trend will continue to grow in the years to come –a reality that contrasts with the fact that the number of students enrolled in STEM careers has dropped in recent years. Living in an increasingly digitized society, the lack of technology training is creating a big gap on society affecting especially women and it is necessary to solve it as soon as possible.
STEAM education and computational thinking
Now that we have recalled what computational thinking is: what is the role played by STEAM education in its development? STEAM education’s main goal (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) is to find common points in all these subjects to work them together and relate its contents. Thus, working on STEAM projects we can offer tools to children to be able to seek solutions to all kind of problems and to do so from different points of view – and computational thinking is indeed a set of skills designed to enable us to solve any type of problem in life.
The world is not divided into academic subjects but everything is interrelated, so working all these subjects together can be much more real and effective while preparing children for their future. Learning through STEAM education projects allows students to internalize aspects related to computational thinking, robotics or the maker culture, and to do so in a playful, transversal and progressive way. Project work helps students to think, forces them to organize themselves and gives them challenges they must overcome using their wit –either individually or in work groups.
Currently there are many tools we can use to introduce computational thinking in classroom: from programming environments such as Scratch, Logo, RPG Maker or Unity, to tools for working with robotics or electronics such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi or a wide offer of educational robots. Also, we can’t forget about offline activities, especially interesting for the youngest students, such as board games or programming books for children.
The most important thing is to inquire on the wide range of possibilities so that the tools we use are the most appropriate for each educational cycle and the age of children in classroom, taking into account if students have already learned other essential skills such as reading or writing. For example, there is a minimum age to follow the Codelearn method and enroll in our coding and robotics after-school program: it is necessary to be around 7 years old because it is the age at which children start being able to read with ease.
Our method requires that children have previously learned these skills but there are many board games to work computational thinking that do not have this requirement, as well as there are programming environments or other tools to work electronics which are only recommended for older students.
If you are part of a school and want to know the different options to work together with Codelearn and introduce computational thinking at school, either during school hours or as an after-school program, please contact us so we can send you more information.