- Computational thinking can be introduced to preschool-age children within storytelling lessons, helping them understand the structure around stories, how they’re crafted and how to build their own, Heather Lavigne, a research scientist at the Educational Development Center, and Marisa Wolsky, an executive producer in public broadcasting station GBH’s children’s media department, writes for Edutopia.
- With funding from the National Science Foundation, their organizations studied how computational thinking could be employed in both school and at home, with teams creating a five-step model for educators to help children discover patterns within stories. The tales selected for use have a “predictable pattern,” the two wrote, and children are tasked with uncovering how stories repeat and developing their own using new details.
- Educators can also put computational thinking to use by asking students to identify key elements in a story, such as the main character and what they’re doing. Students can then act stories out through play to help them embed their understanding, and educators can support structure by highlighting ordinal words in a story, like first or next, to help children learn about sequences.
Although the name coveys the concept of computers and technology, computational thinking can actually be woven into all areas of curriculum and across all grade levels. Certainly, preschool educators can employ this method while working with children in helping them identifying and analyze stories. But so too can the method be used in a music course, helping students discover patterns in a composition, or in an art class where students examine ideas of proportion.
Computational thinking is a method that employs “the power of computing to innovate and solve problems,” notes the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The society outlines ways educators can professionally strengthen their understanding of computational thinking through CT Competencies, which can teach them how to bring this method into a history or an economics class, for example, to find patterns in the way labor trends intersect with the economy.
These methods are being used across entire schools and even districts, such as the Los Angeles Unified School District, which began weaving the concept into all disciplines and grade levels prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, even with elementary students. There, computational thinking skills were used to help math classes learn how to break down and reduce fractions, and even to support the youngest of pupils in mastering how to brush their teeth and tie their shoelaces.
The method is one students can take into any subject, giving them the tools to approach and then break down any problem they want to solve and ideally master.