STEMpower

Building Computational Thinking in Young Learners

While math and literacy have been advocated for in schools for decades, there is a growing movement within education dedicated to exposing students to a more integrated approach to traditional disciplines, more specifically as it concerns STEM. Due to increasing reliance on technology for information dispersal and learning, it would be unwise to not invest in taking full advantage of its usage and application. With that in mind, many schools have developed technology programs whose intents are to foster computational thinking and learning in the earliest grades possible. Stated another way, “Previous research has shown that children as young as four-six years old can build and program simple robotics projects as well as learn powerful ideas from engineering, technology, and computer programming while also building their computational skills” (Bers, Flannery, Kazakoff & Sullivan, 2013).

Most research seems to suggest that computational thinking is a two-step process that involves pondering on the strategies needed to solve a problem and then relying on the utilization of technical skills to enable a computer to actually “work” on the problem. Now, it is not to say that students are encouraged to think like computers, but rather to think independently while employing the necessary technology to most effectively solve a problem at hand. A successful computational thinker is able to integrate concepts engendered by logic, patterns, decomposition, and evaluation and then apply such concepts to approaches that might include tinkering (experimenting), creating, debugging, or collaborating to best answer a challenge (Computational Thinking, 2014).

Although reading and literature certainly have its place within the classroom, the importance of computational thinking should not be undervalued. Indeed, students who are capable of this kind of thinking are able to confidently address issues like efficiency, speed, resource allocation, and application specific to a certain problem. Mastery of these skills typically translates into producing the best equipped students who are able to tackle a wide variety of problems, beyond what is even expected in STEM.

To aid students in this developmental process, PCS offers Scratch LABCards particularly designed to fit the needs of students in grades one through three. Purchase of this product includes two project-based lessons, two challenges, and one final design project. Coding programs is one of the most basic yet highly efficacious activities students can participate in to improve their computational learning skills. Again, learnedness of this kind has tremendous potential to impact students across multiple disciplines while ensuring that they have the ability needed to solve problems specific to STEM.

 

References

Bers, M., Flannery, L, Kazakoff, E. and Sullivan, A. (2013, October 22). Computational thinking and tinkering: exploration of an early childhood robotics curriculum. Retrieved May 3, 2016, from https://ase.tufts.edu/DevTech/publications/computersandeducation.pdf

Computational Thinking. (2014).Retrieved May 3, 2016, from http://barefootcas.org.uk/barefoot-primary-computing-resources/concepts/computational-thinking/

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