Computational Thinking

We can learn a lot from our Early Years Classrooms. Preschools, img_4424long day care centres, nursery, Kindergartens, Reggio, Montessori, whatever their title or philosophy……they get it! They get the child.

Whilst our Primary schools grapple each year with the ever changing ideas, concepts and theories, teachers of our youngest learners have a lot to hold their heads up high about.

With the introduction of coding and digital literacy programs in most countries over the past few years, Computational Thinking has been highlighted as an important element of the learning experience for each child.

To remind us what Computational Thinking is –  There are a number of definitions going around and to put it simply, it involves giving children the opportunity to become logical thinkers, evaluators, coders (algorithms), collaborators and problem solvers. Many schools have seen makerspaces and STEAM programs as an opportunity to hit these skills.

img_4428But have we done with Computational Thinking what we did with ICT throughout the 90s and 00s? ICT was seen as an important skill and suites were built in almost every school. In doing so we isolated technology, we set it up as ‘this is where you teach technology’. I’m certainly not judging…..I was one of these people! I was proud of the ICT suite I set up and it functioned beautifully. Admittedly they were the right space for the right time but I would like to think we could learn from this.

Why is it that our preschools are able to teach the skills important to computational thinking without a dedicated space? If you ask me, it’s about jumping into the ‘tool’ too quickly or not! There is a lot to be said for our analogue world, it’s functioned around us perfectly well for centuries, yet we forget the value that it can have within the world of technology.

I see it time and time again when I visit schools. Coding is about using scratch, it’s about having robots in front of us. I don’t doubt that for a minute, but we don’t always need the digital to teach the theory. There is much value in stepping back and starting from the beginning.

Lego, sand pits, paint, story time, puzzles, all of these can be found in an early years setting, and all of them have the potential to enhance computational thinking skills. Our young learners are navigating the world of logic and problem solving in almost all aspects of their day. The fact they ask why…..a million times a day, is testament to their need to solve, create and make.

My dream, is to see every classroom (and by classroom I am not restricting anyone to inside 4 walls) as a ‘space’ for computational thinking to take place. Innovation centres, maker spaces, STEAM labs, these are all amazing opportunities for our children to be involved in but let’s just stop, take a breath and rethink how and where we are giving opportunities to our children for computational thinking to take place.

Just like our early years classrooms, can you imagine, if every classroom was a makerspace, a STEAM lab or an innovation centre. Now that’s something I’d like to make happen!