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Computational thinking – probably not as tricky as it sounds! (Day 3)

Barefoot Computing poster

Computational thinking is something I’ve heard about before from Tom Crick and others, but often struggled to get my head around. With a growing number of primary schools in Wales looking at using J2Code through Hwb as a way of delivering some kind of computing to their pupils while we wait to see what our new curriculum will hold, it’s an area I’m aware could easily be overlooked. While pupils can still get lots of enjoyment and doubtless a better understanding of some elements of programing and computing, it strikes me as something that can be made something much richer, deeper and more worthwhile if underpinned by an understanding of computational thinking.

One of the sessions I attended at this year’s TLAB was from Jane Waite from Barefoot Computing. This group is run under the Computing At School umbrella and provides training and resources to schools in England, but also to anyone who chooses to sign up to the site. I came away from the session with a much deeper understanding of the kind of things we mean by Computational Thinking, and the fact that many teachers are already doing many of these kinds of activities without knowing how they fit into this particular bracket. The image in the header of this post is of a picture I took of one of their posters.

Jane described Computational Thinking as being made up of six concepts and five approaches. These being:

Concepts:

Logic (predicting and analysing)
Algorithms (making steps and rules)
Decomposition (breaking down into parts)
Patterns (spotting and using similarities)
Abstraction (removing unnecessary detail)
Evaluation (making judgements)

Approaches:

Tinkering (experimenting and playing)
Creating (designing and making)
Debugging (finding and fixing errors)
Persevering (keeping going)
Collaborating (working together)

If you’re looking at developing computing at any level, then I’d strongly recommend giving some thought as to how you’re underpinning it with computational thinking. It’s certainly an area I wish I’d made much more explicit in my teaching as KS3 classes explored programs like Scratch. And if I were you I’d head over to Barefoot computing, sign up and have a look at what they have to offer.

Dave Stacey