Primary teachers learn about computational thinking

Twelve Edinburgh primary teachers recently attended the first day of a course on computational thinking at Moray House, led by Judy Robertson and Holly Linklater.  As the curriculum for computing at primary schools in Scotland is changing (click here to see Education Scotland's computing curriculum), we wanted to work with teachers to help them understand what is required and gather examples of how they put the new guidelines into practice.

Computational thinking is an approach to solving problems, which is useful when programming computers but also tackling problems in the real world. This is how Jeanette Wing defined it when she coined the term in 2006: “Computational thinking is the thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form which can be effectively carried out by an information processing agent [e.g a computer or another person]”.  At the course we discussed how examples of computational thinking crop up in lots of places in school – in the library, in the lunch queue, in the PE cupboard and –weirdly- in the use of toilet passes in infant classes! We spent a happy morning playing snakes and ladders and redesigning the rules. This activity can be done with classes the help them think about the properties of process – do they terminate? Are they deterministic?  We also sorted trading cards according to their attributes, a task with which computer scientists and primary school children are both very familiar. The last activity of the day was learning how to use Ozobot, which is a tiny line following robot. The best feature of Ozobot is that you can draw lines on paper for it, using colour codes to control its speed. It is a very interesting form for a programming language.

The teachers were very enthusiastic during the activities and were full of great ideas about what computational thinking activities they would try with their class. We’re looking forward to hear how they got on at the next day of the course.


by Judy Robertson


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