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Computational Thinking, which entails using analytic and algorithmic approaches to formulate, analyse and solve problems, has increasingly gained attention in the educational field in the past decade, giving rise to a large amount of academic and grey literature, as well as to numerous public and private initiatives to implement it. Despite such widespread interest, its successful integration in school curricula is still facing several open issues and challenges. In order to contribute to the field development, we are carrying out a desk investigation to draw a comprehensive overview of recent findings produced by academic research, grassroots initiatives and policy actions addressing the development of computational thinking in primary and secondary school, as well as to highlight major implications for policy and practice. In this paper we describe the project methodology and a classification of the comprehensive corpus of documents collected. We also present a preliminary picture of the field as it is emerging from our analysis.
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Proceedings of the EDULEARN16 (Barcelona, Spain, July, 4-6, 2016).
S. Bocconi1, A. Chioccariello1, G. Dettori1,
A. Ferrari2, K. Engelhardt2, P. Kampylis3, Y. Punie3
1Institute for Educational Technology, CNR (ITALY)
2European Schoolnet (BELGIUM)
3JRC - Institute for Prospective Technological Studies,
European Commission (SPAIN)
Computational Thinking, which entails using analytic and algorithmic approaches to formulate, analyse
and solve problems, has increasingly gained attention in the educational field in the past decade,
giving rise to a large amount of academic and grey literature, as well as to numerous public and
private initiatives to implement it. Despite such widespread interest, its successful integration in school
curricula is still facing several open issues and challenges. In order to contribute to the field
development, we are carrying out a desk investigation to draw a comprehensive overview of recent
findings produced by academic research, grassroots initiatives and policy actions addressing the
development of computational thinking in primary and secondary school, as well as to highlight major
implications for policy and practice. In this paper we describe the project methodology and a
classification of the comprehensive corpus of documents collected. We also present a preliminary
picture of the field as it is emerging from our analysis.
Keywords: computational thinking, problem solving, computer science education, ICT.
Computational Thinking (CT) has increasingly gained attention in the educational field in the past
decade, following a short paper by J. Wing [1], who used this expression to indicate “thinking as a
computer scientist”, i.e., using an analytic and algorithmic approach to formulate, analyse and solve
problems. In her article, Wing claimed that CT is a fundamental skill for everyone, not just for
computer scientists: "To reading, writing, and arithmetic, we should add computational thinking to
every child’s analytical ability” [1]. Ten years after this seminal work, over 300 papers on this topic
have been published in the academic literature and about 200 in the grey literature, highlighting,
among other properties, the added value CT can contribute to fostering critical thinking, problem
solving and other 21st century skills.
Despite the widespread interest in developing CT at all levels of education (and especially in
compulsory education), and the increasingly large number of public and private initiatives, the
successful integration of CT in school curricula is still facing open issues and challenges, such as: Is it
possible to define CT as a key skill for the current century? What are its characterizing features? What
are its relation to programming and computer science, on the one side, and to digital literacy, on the
other? Should CT be included in compulsory education? How should skills in this field be assessed?
How should teachers be prepared to best integrate it into their teaching practice?
In order to contribute to answer such questions, and by this means enhance the field development, we
are conducting a study entitled “An analysis of educational approaches to developing Computational
Thinking (CompuThink)”1, designed and funded by the Joint Research Centre Institute for
Prospective Technological Studies (JRC-IPTS) of the European Commission and carried out by the
Institute for Educational Technology of the Italian National Research Council together with European
Schoolnet, which represents a network of Ministries of Education in Europe. The study aims to provide
a comprehensive overview of recent findings produced by research, grassroots initiatives and policy
actions for developing CT as a 21st century skill among primary and secondary students.
In this paper we present a picture of the field as it is emerging from the CompuThink study, based on
both a characterization of the comprehensive corpus of academic and grey literature collected and on
a preliminary analysis of its content. In the next section we describe the project's methodology; than
we characterize the literature corpus collected; finally, we briefly sketch the main lines of investigations
currently addressed in the field.
The literature analysis we are discussing in this paper represents one of the four working packages
that constitute the CompuThink project, and certainly the most complex and informative one, due to
the wide-angle literature search it is based on. In the overall approach, this desk research is
complemented by several semi-structured interviews with policy makers, researchers and practitioners
involved in the implementation of relevant policy and grassroots initiatives, so as to collect further data
contributing to understand possibilities and implications of introducing CT in K-12 educational
contexts. The overall structure of the project is shown in Fig. 1. The project is running from December
2015 to September 2016.
Fig. 1. The overall organization of the CompuThink project.
2.1 The overall approach
Our literature collection and review is based on a structured approach to locate, review, categorize
and represent information, consisting of three steps: a) strategic searching; b) literature processing; c)
tag-and-map representation.
Step 1. Strategic searching.
The literature review drew from a wide variety and range of sources. In order to reflect the wider
definitions, conceptualization and characterizations of CT, a broad selection of bibliography portals
and consortia was explored, representing a crossover between various disciplines (mathematics,
1 The CompuThink website is accessible at
psychology, sciences, computer science, engineering, education, and computer science education
research). They included: Scopus, Elsevier Science Direct, Web of Science (all Databases),
IEEExplore Digital Library, ACM Digital Library, SpringerLink, Sage Publications, EdITLib, Wiley
Online Library, Taylor & Francis Online, World Bank Open Knowledge Repository, Emerald, Google
Scholar, Eric. This was complemented by direct search in highly regarded academic journals (e.g.
Communications of the ACM, Educational Researcher, Journal of Computational Science Education,
Journal of Pervasive and Practical Computing, Journal of Computer Science and Technology, etc.).
We also found documents through snowballing, by examining the bibliographies of recent literature
reviews on CT in compulsory education (e.g. [2]; [3]) and in CT-related fields (e.g. [4]). Backward
references in highly cited papers related to CT in compulsory education (e.g. [1], [2]; [6]; [7]; [8]) also
provided additional sources of information.
As concerns the grey literature, we queried several databases, such as:,,
ResearchGate, Mendeley, EBSCO. Other data sources were: reviews and evaluation studies in the
Department for Education of many countries (e.g. Research Councils UK, iDA Singapore, etc.), and of
education-related organizations publishing studies, technology reports, press clippings, blogs and
Regarding curricula and guidelines at national level in Europe, relevant documents were collected
from the Internet by accessing websites of the relevant Institutions, as well as from a survey of policy
documents carried out by European Schoolnet with the Ministries of Education. Additionally, policy
documents that relate to the concept of CT at European level (e.g. communications and reports from
the European Commission; position papers from European stakeholders active in the field of CT, ICT,
digital literacy, e.g. CEPIS; and reports from organizations that work on ICT in education, e.g. British
Computer Society) were detected.
Online courses and MOOCs for the development of CT skills, together with other educational
resources that promote CT among primary and secondary school students, were detected through the
analysis of the best known course providers, such as: Coursera, EdX, Futurelearn, EUN Academy,
EMMA, Stanford online courses, OpenLearn, Canvas, Udemy, Udacity, complemented by a web scan.
In all databases, the search was based on a combination of keywords, such as: computational
thinking, algorithmic thinking, critical thinking skills, computing curriculum, computational thinking for
learning, computational thinking assessment. Special terms such as 'abstraction', ‘decomposition’,
‘algorithm’, ‘modelling’, ‘problem solving’, etc. were also used.
Step 2. Processing the literature.
The detailed examination of the references collected has been carried out by means of the review
matrix approach [9], that facilitates the comparison of different sources in a structured way. In such
matrices, reading a line provides a concise summary of the main aspect of a bibliographical reference,
while analyzing a column helps comparing how a particular aspect is handled by different sources,
hence helping to highlight major findings, emerging patterns, and scarcely addressed elements.
Two preliminary review matrices were developed to start the process, respectively devoted to:
theoretical/conceptual studies, i.e., existing conceptualizations, definitions and frameworks of
CT as a 21st century skill (or set of skills) as emerged from the academic literature and other
practical implementations, including evaluations of grassroots and policy initiatives for
developing CT skills among primary/secondary students.
The creation of two different matrices instead of only a global one is due to the need to highlight
slightly different elements in theoretical and applicative studies. It must be pointed out, moreover, that
this subdivision does not correspond to the literature division into academic and grey mentioned
above, because many times academic papers concern implementation studies, while grey reports may
be devoted to a reflection on theoretical and conceptual aspects.
The structure of the preliminary matrices (i.e., number and labels of columns) was then revised by
merging and integrating the suggestions of all reviewers on an initial set of papers of different nature,
so as to make sure to have a ductile tool apt to collect and represent in concise form the essential
points of the variety of bibliographical sources detected. In general, both review matrices were
considered easy to use and adequate to the scope by all researchers involved. Each matrix was then
organized into four sheets, subdividing the processed papers into "Highly Relevant", "Relevant",
"Connected" and "Peripheral", based on the richness of their content and its relevance in relation to
the scope of the study. In the end, we agreed to label the columns in the two review matrices as follow
(see Table 1), so as to highlight elements of the reviewed literature that could most suitably help to
answer the research questions, aims and objectives of the study:
Table 1. Structure of the review matrices in the CompuThink study.
Matrix 1. Theoretical/conceptual studies
Matrix 2. Implementation studies
Definition of CT
Concepts/characterizations of CT
Skill (or set of skills) for all
Relation to programming /coding
Relation to digital literacy
CT for teaching other school subject
Definition of CT
Context/settings/funding schema
Learning objectives
Pedagogical approaches
Teacher training
Evaluation strategy
Implementation challenges
Supporting measures
Step 3. Tag-and-map approach.
Based on the review matrices described above, a concept map will be produced, so as to provide a
visual representation of key notions involved in the definition of the CT field and its introduction in
school, together with their relations. This process is also expected to help to identify overlaps, patterns
and connections, helping to identify open issue in the field. The global structure of the whole review
process is schematized in Fig. 2.
Fig. 2. A schematization of the review process adopted by the CompuThink project.
In order to make sure that the selected literature and documents were analyzed and tagged by the
various researchers involved in the project in homogeneous and comparable way, a check of the Inter-
Rater Reliability [10] was carried out at the very beginning, as a measure of quality assurance. To this
end, after uploading all the collected documents into a Zotero repository (, a set
of 15 references of different nature, including both academic and grey literature, have been randomly
selected and reviewed in parallel by all researchers involved. The review matrices filled in by all
researchers during this process were then compared in order to identify inconsistencies, that were
subsequently discussed up to reach a common understanding and build a common perspective on
this literature analysis.
3.1 Distribution of the collected documents
Thanks to the wide search process described above, we identified 569 documents, whose nature and
publication type can reveal interesting trends in the field even before analyzing their content. We
present below their distribution from four different points of view: by source (% of academic and of
grey references), by type of reference, by topic and by year of publication.
Overall, the body of relevant literature include 361 academic papers (63%) and 208 grey documents
(37%). A wide variety and range of sources were detected. The collected academic literature includes
refereed journals, magazines, conference papers, books, book chapters, and PhD dissertations. Fig. 3
details the distribution of academic reference within these groups.
Fig. 3. Distribution of academic references by type
The collected grey literature included reports, newspaper articles, blog posts, video recordings,
presentations, official documents (such as: curricula, guidelines, position papers, working documents,
white or green papers, policy papers, frameworks) and web pages/sites (including: MOOCs, OERs,
courses, press clips). Fig. 4 details the distribution of grey references by type.
Fig. 4. Distribution of grey references by type
By reading the abstracts and scanning the content, it was possible to divide the documents by themes.
Each reference was assigned a major theme2 and classified accordingly in Zotero. For example, a
reference concerned with the teaching of programming and CT skills using some particular tool or
environment (e.g., Scratch) was categorized as ‘learning tools’, while the description of a course on
some topic strongly focused on the development of CT skills was categorized as 'implementation'. Fig.
5 shows the distribution of the whole body of literature by topic. Such distribution will be subject to
some changes when the whole body of literature will be analyzed in detail.
Fig. 5. Distribution of (grey and academic) references by topic
We detected documents in the year range 2006-2015 plus some papers (N=30) from the beginning of
2016. The distribution of the papers along this time period shows a significant increase in recent years
(see Fig. 6).
2 Theme categories mainly reflect the research questions of the study.
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Fig. 6. Distribution of (grey and academic) references by year of publication
3.2 Analyzing the documents' content
All together, the literature analysed so far reveals a wealth of commitment, initiatives and ideas related
to CT in primary and secondary education. Two trends emerge in particular, namely: the definition and
characterization of CT, which has been evolving after Wing's initial proposal [1] yet preserving initial
nature of this concept; the description of many successful activities which are being designed and
carried out to introduce CT to younger and older students. Many documents also debate the potential
advantages of introducing CT in education, because it can enable children and young people to think
in a different way while solving problems, to analyze everyday issues with a different perspective [11],
to develop the capacity to discover, create and innovate" [12], to understand what technology has to
offer [13]. Acquiring such important skills is expected to have a beneficial influence on economic
recovery and future jobs [14].
A wide variety of skills related to CT acquisition are suggested by different authors, such as: problem
solving, examining data pattern and questioning evidence [15]; collecting, analyzing and representing
data, decomposing problem, using algorithms and procedures, making simulations [16]; using
computer models to simulate scenarios [17]; dealing with open-ended problems and persist in
challenging cases [18]; reasoning about abstract objects [19].
A mutual influence between CT and coding/programming is recognized. The acquisition of CT does
not to necessarily need computer programming [20], being a (conceptual) approach to problem solving
that uses strategies such as algorithms, abstraction and debugging [21]. However, programming
illustrates in concrete terms otherwise-abstract concepts and can therefore be an effective and
practical way to foster the development of CT skills [22].
On the other hand, Digital Literacy, which is usually identified with the ICT school subject, is seen to
differ from CT, even though connected to it [23], [24].
As concerns CT implementation in school, most of the papers analyzed represent serious and
effective attempts to develop practical learning activities apt to foster some of the skills and
competences that characterize CT. Some authors (e.g., [25]) give emphasis to the development of CT
characterizing skills, such as abstraction, yet referring to computer science instead of to CT. As
concerns the kind of activity proposed, most authors refer to programming tasks, yet often carried out
with learning environments/tools (e.g., Scratch) that do not require coding in a textual language. The
objective of the proposed programming activities is mostly the development of games, that are
considered excellent situations in which abstraction (of moves and actions) can be understood and
meaningfully used. Some attention is also given to introduce CT to girls (e.g., [18]), by proposing
activities closer to girls' tastes and hence more motivating to them. As concerns the school levels
considered, most implementations concern high school, but also middle school (e.g., [26]) and primary
school (e.g., [27]) are considered. Teacher preparation and support measures to facilitate CT
implementation in schools are also object of attention by some authors (e.g. [28], [29]), by they are
often neglected in papers focused on implementation proposals or experiences.
A number of methodologies and tools for assessing the acquisition of CT skills in compulsory
education emerged from the literature. Brennan & Resnick [7] describe three approaches to assessing
the development of CT, namely: analyzing a portfolio of projects, artifact-based interviews and
scenario design. Skill transfer to other contexts is another form of assessment currently being
investigated, as, for example, the capability of transferring computational understanding built in a
visual programming environment to a textual one [30]. CT assessment practices, however, appear to
be still under-investigated, in particular as concerns what kind of assessment can elicit students’
problem solving and CT skills in authentic contexts.
The picture that emerges from this analysis shows a dynamic field in which the number of projects and
experiences has been rapidly growing, along with a widespread interest for a more accurate
understanding of the nature of computational thinking and its contribution to 21st century skills [31].
Most of the aspects that are relevant in order to answer to the research questions of our project are
addressed by (at least) some document in either the academic or grey literature, which suggests that
the field is developing in many directions and no aspect of it is completely neglected. Big differences,
however, are evident in the distribution of the documents by topic; two relevant aspects, in particular,
appear under-investigated, namely the development of suitable assessment approaches as well as
the creation of specific teacher training programs and support measures. These on the other hand, are
key points that are crucial for a successful development of CT education. Unless more attention will be
given to these aspects by researchers, policy makers and practitioners, it is very unlike that CT
education will actually be take off, become effectively part of school curricula and contribute to the
innovation of formal education.
Another interesting element that is emerging from our study is the large variety of skills that are seen
by different authors as part of CT. This might represent a critical point for the field development,
leading to a too wide, and therefore vague, characterization of its nature, another potential obstacle to
an effective introduction of CT in education.
Spotting possible inconsistencies and gaps in the literature in this field is one of the major aims of our
project. The above analysis and reflections show that this aim is actually being fulfilled.
The CompuThink study is funded and designed by the JRC-IPTS of the European Commission under
Contract No. 199551-2015 A08 IT. The data presented, the statements made and the views
expressed in this article are purely those of the authors and should not be regarded as the official
position of the European Commission.
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This study aimed to investigate senior high school students’ computational thinking skills after implementing the Bioinformatics Module on molecular genetics concepts. The instructional approach used in the module is Computational Inquiry-based Teaching (CIbT). This study used a quasi-experiment method with a pretest-posttest control group design. The subjects in this study consist of 24 students in the control group and 38 students in the experimental group from a senior high school in Indonesia. The instrument used in this study is six items of computational thinking test. This module had four themes; Genetics Disease, Cancer, Forensic Science, and Evolution, conducted in 8 sessions. Each session lasted 90 minutes. The Bioinformatics Module consists of programming and databases, including unplugged computational activities and unplugged activities including coding using Python, searching in Uniprot, and using BLAST in NCBI. The CIbT has five steps: orientation, conceptualization, investigation, conclusion, and discussion. The Mann-Whitney test results showed that the p-value from N-Gain data is < 0.01. So, Bioinformatics Module on molecular genetics concepts using CIbT can improve computational thinking skills of senior high school students. For further implementation, biology teachers must prepare to use the Bioinformatics Module, including biology teachers’ understanding of molecular genetics and bioinformatics practices to enrich the learning experience in the Bioinformatics Module.
... Computational thinking (CT) as a general problem-solving skill, along with others like communication, digital literacy, critical thinking, and creativity, has been coined an essential element of the so-called 21st-century skills (Barr, Harrison, & Conery, 2011;Bocconi et al., 2016;Voogt, Erstad, Dede, & Mishra, 2013). The relevance of CT seems considerable, given the highly computerized world we live in. ...
There is increasing effort to integrate Computational Thinking (CT) curricula across all education levels. Therefore, research on CT assessment has lately progressed towards developing and validating reliable CT assessment tools, which are crucial for evaluating students' potential learning progress and thus the effectiveness of suggested curricular programs. Several CT assessment tools were developed for elementary, high-school, and university students over the last years. Moreover, associations between CT scores and other cognitive abilities were unraveled. However, studies on the topic in primary school level are scarce. Like the general concept of intelligence, CT remains broadly defined as the ability to combine algorithmic operations to form complex solutions in order to solve problems effectively, utilizing concepts of computer science with or without the use of computers. In this study, we aimed at specifying a cognitive definition of CT, focusing on the under-investigated population of primary school children. Since validated assessment tools for this age group were not available, we adapted a validated CT test, which was initially designed for middle school students. In our study participated 192 third and fourth graders. The analyses revealed promising results on the reliability of the adapted CT assessment for primary school students. Moreover, findings indicated CT's positive associations with i. complex numerical abilities, ii. Verbal reasoning abilities, and iii. Non-verbal visuospatial abilities. Our results indicate similarities but also differences in associations of CT with other cognitive abilities in primary school children compared to other age groups. In summary: i. Numerical abilities seem to associate with CT at the primary school level, whereas this seems not the case later on in education, ii. Verbal abilities seem to associate with CT both along primary and secondary education levels, and iii. Non-verbal reasoning abilities seem to associate with CT from primary education level to the university level and beyond. These differences imply that several basic cognitive abilities support CT abilities and CT development differentially across ages.
... It is the new literacy of the twenty-first century and is considered an essential skill for everyone, not just computer scientists. It's a thinking process involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solution is effectively presented that can be implemented by an information processing agent [6][7][8]. It is prepared as a set of cognitive processes such as abstraction, decomposition, generalization, mathematical reasoning, and evaluation [9,10]. ...
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Computational Thinking (CT) is very useful in the process of solving everyday problems for undergraduates. In terms of content, computational thinking involves solving problems, studying data patterns, deconstructing problems using algorithms and procedures, doing simulations, computer modeling, and reasoning about abstract things. However, there is a lack of studies dealing with it and its skills that can be developed and utilized in the field of information and technology used in learning and teaching. The descriptive research method was used, and a test research tool was prepared to measure the level of (CT) consisting of (24) items of the type of multiple-choice to measure the level of "CT". The research study group consists of (100) third-year students studying at the University of Baghdad in Computer Science within the scope of (2020-2021). The results are detailed.
Underpinning the teaching of coding with Computational Thinking has proved relevant for diverse learners, particularly given the increasing demand in upskilling for today’s labour market. While literature on computing education is vast, it remains unexplored how existing CT conceptualisations relate to the learning opportunities needed for a meaningful application of coding in non-Computer Scientists’ lives and careers. In order to identify and organise the learning opportunities in the literature about CT, we conducted a configurative literature review of studies published on Web of Science, between 2006 and 2021. Our sample gathers 34 papers and was analysed on NVivo to find key themes. We were able to organise framings of CT and related learning opportunities into three dimensions: functional, collaborative, and critical and creative. These dimensions make visible learning opportunities that range from individual cognitive development to interdisciplinary working with others, and to active participation in a technologically evolving society. By comparing and contrasting frameworks, we identify and explain different perspectives on skills. Furthermore, the three-dimensional model can guide pedagogical design and practice in coding courses.
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For the 21st century learners, Millennials and Gen-Z students, the concept of Computational Thinking (CT) has been inclusively affirmed in higher education with different teaching methods and strategies. However, it has been almost a decade that Generation Z students form the main bulk of students in classrooms. And their distinct characteristics from the Millennials have necessitated rethinking educational practices, pedagogies and teaching approach to provide an optimal and holistic learning environment that meets their learning needs. In this regard, by scrutinizing the contemporary approach to the concept of Computational Thinking, this article discusses the pedagogical alignment of CT in architecture education by addressing its cognitive contributions as a mental tool for the 21st century learners. It highlights the challenges of teaching computational thinking within the current pedagogical framework in architecture education by regarding the learning preferences and attributes of Generation-Z.
While the shift to emergency remote teaching was sudden and caught many off-guard, the reality exists that we need to better prepare faculty to utilize technology in a meaningful way and integrate it into lessons. This chapter provides an overview of two aspects: 1) preparing faculty for use of technology through a modified transitional learning model so that they are supported with just-in-time professional learning and 2) introducing them to the PICRAT technology framework to assist them in the design of their lessons. Both the model and the framework are constructivist in nature and align with transformative learning theory. Examples of what each of these structures look like are provided within the narrative.
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The technology revolution has changed the way many of us work and interact, it has generated new industries and new businesses, and it is natural that we now look to schools, teachers and the education system to help us to understand how we might prepare our children to live, work and make effective use of what computer technology offers. But how best can we do this?
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The focus of this research was to create and test an introductory computer science course for middle school. Titled “Foundations for Advancing Computational Thinking” (FACT), the course aims to prepare and motivate middle school learners for future engagement with algorithmic problem solving. FACT was also piloted as a seven-week course on Stanford’s OpenEdX MOOC platform for blended in-class learning. Unique aspects of FACT include balanced pedagogical designs that address the cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal aspects of “deeper learning”; a focus on pedagogical strategies for mediating and assessing for transfer from block-based to text-based programming; curricular materials for remedying misperceptions of computing; and “systems of assessments” (including formative and summative quizzes and tests, directed as well as open-ended programming assignments, and a transfer test) to get a comprehensive picture of students’ deeper computational learning. Empirical investigations, accomplished over two iterations of a design-based research effort with students (aged 11–14 years) in a public school, sought to examine student understanding of algorithmic constructs, and how well students transferred this learning from Scratch to text-based languages. Changes in student perceptions of computing as a discipline were measured. Results and mixed-method analyses revealed that students in both studies (1) achieved substantial learning gains in algorithmic thinking skills, (2) were able to transfer their learning from Scratch to a text-based programming context, and (3) achieved significant growth toward a more mature understanding of computing as a discipline. Factor analyses of prior computing experience, multivariate regression analyses, and qualitative analyses of student projects and artifact-based interviews were conducted to better understand the factors affecting learning outcomes. Prior computing experiences (as measured by a pretest) and math ability were found to be strong predictors of learning outcomes.
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Various aspects of computational thinking, which builds on the power and limits of computing processes, whether they are executed by a human or by a machine, are discussed. Computational methods and models are helping to solve problems, design systems, and understand human behavior, by drawing on concepts fundamental to computer science (CS). Computational thinking (CT) is using abstraction and decomposition when attacking a large complex task or designing a large complex systems. CT is the way of thinking in terms of prevention, protection, and recovery from worst-case scenarios through redundancy, damage containment, and error correction. CT is using heuristic reasoning to discover a solution and using massive amount of data to speed up computation. CT is a futuristic vision to guide computer science educators, researchers, and practitioners to change society's image of the computer science field.
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The Computer Science Unplugged project provides ways to expose students to ideas from Computer Science without having to use computers. This has a number of applications, including outreach, school curriculum support, and clubs. The "Unplugged" project, based at Canterbury University, uses activities, games, magic tricks and competitions to show children the kind of thinking that is expected of a computer scientist. All of the activities are available free of charge at The project has recently enjoyed widespread adoption internationally, and substantial industry support. It is recommended in the ACM K-12 curriculum, and has been translated into 12 languages. As well as simply providing teaching resources, there is a very active program developing and evaluating new formats and activities. This includes adaptations of the kinaesthetic activities in virtual worlds; integration with other outreach tools such as the Alice language, adaptation for use by students in large classrooms, and videos to help teachers and presenters understand how to use the material. This paper will explore why this approach has become popular, and describe developments and adaptations that are being used for outreach and teaching around New Zealand, as well as internationally. Authors Tim Bell is Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury, where he has been for 20 years. He is the recipient of several teaching awards, including an inaugural NZ TTEA in 2002. In the past his main research has been in text compression, and he is the co-author of three books and many papers on this topic. Jason Alexander is a Ph.D. student in the Human-Computer Interaction lab in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury. He has presented many Unplugged shows over the last three years. He is currently in the concluding stages of his thesis entitled Understanding and Improving Electronic Document Navigation. Isaac Freeman has a Graduate Diploma in Computer Science, a Diploma in Teaching, and a Masters in Mathematics. He has worked as a classroom teacher, and is now a fulltime web designer and developer. Mick Grimley is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Educational Studies and Human Development at the University of Canterbury. Mick is interested in the enhancement of learning, and in particular as it relates to cognition, motivation, interest, interactivity, new technologies and e-learning. These interests have led him into the study of how technology can be leveraged to improve learning.
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Computing in schools has gained momentum in the last two years resulting in GCSEs in Computing and teachers looking to up skill from Digital Literacy (ICT). For many students the subject of computer science concerns software code but writing code can be challenging, due to specific requirements on syntax and spelling with new ways of thinking required. Not only do many undergraduate students lack these ways of thinking, but there is a general misrepresentation of computing in education. Were computing taught as a more serious subject like science and mathematics, public understanding of the complexities of computer systems would increase, enabling those not directly involved with IT make better informed decisions and avoid incidents such as over budget and underperforming systems. We present our exploration into teaching a variety of computing skills, most significantly 'computational thinking', to secondary-school age children through three very different engagements. First, we discuss Print craft, in which participants learn about computer-aided design and additive manufacturing by designing and building a miniature world from scratch using the popular open-world game Mine craft and 3D printers. Second, we look at how students can get a new perspective on familiar technology with a workshop using App Inventor, a graphical Android programming environment. Finally, we look at an ongoing after school robotics club where participants face a number of challenges of their own making as they design and create a variety of robots using a number of common tools such as Scratch and Arduino.
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Mitchel Resnick ( MIT Media Lab Brennan, K., & Resnick, M. (2012). Using artifact-based interviews to study the development of computational thinking in interactive media design. Paper presented at annual American Educational Research Association meeting, Abstract Computational thinking is a phrase that has received considerable attention over the past several years – but there is little agreement about what computational thinking encompasses, and even less agreement about strategies for assessing the development of computational thinking in young people. We are interested in the ways that design-based learning activities – in particular, programming interactive media – support the development of computational thinking in young people. Over the past several years, we have developed a computational thinking framework that emerged from our studies of the activities of interactive media designers. Our context is Scratch – a programming environment that enables young people to create their own interactive stories, games, and simulations, and then share those creations in an online community with other young programmers from around the world. The first part of the paper describes the key dimensions of our computational thinking framework: computational concepts (the concepts designers engage with as they program, such as iteration, parallelism, etc.), computational practices (the practices designers develop as they engage with the concepts, such as debugging projects or remixing others' work), and computational perspectives (the perspectives designers form about the world around them and about themselves). The second part of the paper describes our evolving approach to assessing these dimensions, including project portfolio analysis, artifact-based interviews, and design scenarios. We end with a set of suggestions for assessing the learning that takes place when young people engage in programming.
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There is concern amongst teachers about how to support all pupils in making the transition from popular graphical languages like Scratch to text-based languages like Python. In a new subject, not taught widely before at both primary and secondary education in England, there is inevitably a lack of tuned-in pedagogical expertise. In this paper, the authors address the transition process by exploring established pedagogy in Computer Science, and other subjects including Mathematics, Science and Languages, and by sharing and testing their findings with pupils and teachers in the classroom. Teaching the fundamentals of programming is well served by applying sequential solutions in both graphical and text-based languages. This practitioner action research paper focuses on scaffolding support for pupils when making the transition from graphical to text-based languages. In an approach which uses graphical languages in conjunction with, not in place of, text-based programming languages, the authors discuss ways to tackle the difficulties presented to pupils by text-based languages, and propose a tested strategy for teachers to enable pupils to undertake the transition successfully.
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After a period of intense activity in preparation for the transition, Computing has been implemented in the curriculum in England for all children from ages 5-16. In this paper we investigate the aspects of professional development that Computing teachers are utilising. We conducted a survey of over 900 Computing teachers in England and use the results to reflect on the benefits of face-to-face vs online communities to support teachers. Our results show that teachers find the face-to-face events and training to be useful, and that teachers in our community are participating in many hours of professional development in order to address their needs in content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge in Computing. Furthermore an online community is valuable in supporting teachers who require resources, access to expertise and guidance on curriculum issues in addition to face-to-face training, networking and support.
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The release of a brand new curriculum containing, for the first time, a subject dedicated to Digital Technologies, provided the impetus for a small project that investigated school and teacher readiness for such a new initiative and the capacity of schools and teachers to understand and implement this curriculum. Through this project three approaches to curriculum implementation were identified and are presented in this paper. The project showed that when supported by a critical friend, teachers developed units of work that are appropriate and, at times, innovative responses to the curriculum and its intentions.
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Abstraction is a fundamental concept in computer-science (CS) and other scientific disciplines. This paper examines the ways CS thinking patterns can contribute to achieving high levels of abstraction in physics. We examined the work of high school students taking a computational science course, where they designed computational models (simulations) of physics phenomena. We examined the evolution of their use of levels of abstraction in physics, using the framework of Epistemic Games [14]. Findings revealed that moving between levels of abstraction in CS enabled the students to move between levels of abstraction in physics. In particular, in CS the students moved from the high level of what the simulation should do to the low level of how it is done. At the same time, in physics they moved from the low level of thinking on a concrete physics phenomenon to the high level of formulating mathematical equations.