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On computational thinking as a universal skill: A review of the latest research on this ability

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In recent years we are witnessing movements around the world to bring computer programming to schools. Lots of these initiatives, however, have been conceived to address the shortage of professionals in the technology sector, an approach that is encouraged by the software industry. On the contrary, this article argues that the focus should swift towards computational thinking, an ability that goes far beyond computer science or technology, fostering fundamental skills for the citizens of the twenty-first century. In this paper we summarize the findings of recent investigations that study computational thinking from different perspectives, explaining what this new skill is made of, presenting outcomes of school interventions showing relationships between the development of this ability and improvements in different subjects and soft skills, presenting technologies to foster its development, and reviewing tools that support educators in the assessment of this skill.
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... community has not come up with a precise definition and what exactly it means (Moreno-León, Román-González, & Robles, 2018). Thus, several definitions besides the one of Wing (2006) can be found. ...
... Computer programming is considered by many researchers as an effective way to develop high level skills, such as problem solving, logical thinking, critical thinking, and CT (Combéfis, Beresnevičius, & Dagienė, 2016). Although CT can be applied to various subjects such as mathematics or biology , most researchers agree that the most effective way to promote CT to the early ages is through teaching programming activities (Moreno-León et al., 2018). ...
Chapter
In recent years, several educational games for learning programming have been developed with promising results. The main purpose of this chapter is to present 22 educational games or platforms that aim to cultivate computational thinking through teaching computer programming concepts to primary school students. A short description of each game followed by a comparative analysis of both their game mechanics and their educational aspects is presented. Additionally, less typical functionalities such as online classrooms, the support for learning analytics, and the creation of new levels are analyzed. This chapter could be useful for game designers and IT teachers who would like to use a game-based approach in the teaching process.
... Importantly, this definition portrays CT as a broader cognitive construct and not just a practical skill that is relevant for specific computing-related contexts (Armoni, 2016). It essentially emphasizes CT's broad applicability as a universal problem-solving approach (Moreno-Leon et al., 2018). ...
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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.
... Although multiple definitions of CT have been suggested during these years of academic dialogue, it is widely agreed that CT is ‗the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing its solution(s) in such a way that a computer-human or machine-can effectively carry out (Wing, 2017, p. 8), across various disciplines. According to Denning (2017), Wing's article created the New CT, in which learning certain concepts leads to programming ability, whereas, in traditional CT programming ability produces CT; however, programming is regarded as the dominant approach for the exposure of students to CT (Flórez et al., 2017;Moreno-León et al., 2018). ...
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Computational thinking (CT) is broadly recognised as a set of problem-solving methods that involve expressing problems and their solutions in ways that enable their computer-mediated representation across a variety of fields. Nowadays, it is argued that CT needs to be expanded towards new pathways that establish a less individualistic and more social CT. One of these pathways consists of modifying and sharing versions of projects that other members of the community have created, but few researchers have investigated how it might be applied to primary school pupils. In this study we aimed to address the effect of a CT course on (a) primary school students’ reusing and remixing proficiency level and (b) the CT concepts they modify while they engage in reusing and remixing Scratch projects. Forty pairs of participants worked with Scratch, a block-based visual programming language, remixing projects related to stories and games. Data collection involved semi-structured interviews, a rubric, and an online analytical tool, Dr. Scratch. The results of the analysis suggest that our instructional intervention, and especially game remixing activities, can improve students’ reusing and remixing proficiency; however, students modify different CT concepts when they remix stories and games.
... However, there is no agreed or universal definition of this term in the literature (Lockwood & Mooney, 2017;Moreno-León et al., 2018). The definition presented by Cuny et al. (2010), that updated Wing's definitions, states "Computational Thinking is the thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent" (p. ...
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The adoption of computational thinking in the classroom has been growing in the last years. Its use needs to be supported by the correct digital technologies and teaching methods, and for this, is required, capable teachers. This work aims to understand how computational thinking is addressed by Computer Science Teacher Education courses in Brazil, and which digital technologies and teaching methods are used to foster it. A survey was conducted, and a roadmap was built. Main obtained results are: Common and accessible technologies, used in everyday life, can help promote computational thinking; Researchers and teachers can explore the list of technologies surveyed and categorized to promote computational thinking; Teachers can analyze the teaching methods used and understand how these methods are applied in the teaching process; The teachers and researchers can use and explore the best technologies identified in the paper, to foster each computational thinking characteristic. Moreover, it is essential to enhance the knowledge about computational thinking, to apply the correct digital technologies and teaching methods in its promotion.
... Second, computer programming is the dominant tool of CT education (Kite et al., 2018;Moreno-León et al., 2018). However, multiple scholars identify restricted access to technology, teacher discomfort with technology, and teachers' lack of programming experience as barriers to CT/content integration (Kite et al., accepted;Bower et al., 2017;Israel et al., 2015). ...
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Chapter
Programming is considered by many a core skill of the 21st century. Learning the fundamentals of coding or programming encourages children to acquire new skills, such as problem solving, logical thinking, critical thinking, and Computational Thinking (CT), and moreover to be active creators of tomorrow. There are various platforms for learning coding and programming, and in particular game-based ones, which, through the gamification process, focus on increasing learners’ motivation and engagement. Most existing games are nowadays distributed through web platforms or mobile applications. Most suffer from major drawbacks, which make them difficult to use in a classroom environment, and there lack of an administrative platform does not allow the educator to assign tasks to students when at home. This paper proposes the design of an educational platform for teaching programming to primary school children. It has been designed and is to be developed on the CMX framework. The educational platform includes a web-based game for in classroom teaching, a mobile application game for outside of the classroom, and an administrative module for the teacher to organize the educational process and monitor pupils’ performance. Through specific learning analytics the instructor will be able to draw conclusions on whether the students achieved the specific learning objectives, as well as understanding the educational impact that these types of games actually have on students.
Chapter
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