Teaching Programming towards the Early Development of Analytical Structural and Critical Thinking
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cMinds aims to deploy information technology, and specifically visual programming concepts, as an avenue for developing analytical, structural, and creative thinking among elementary school children through blended learning activities that can be integrated into existing school curricula as complementary educational tools.
Analytical thinking is a transversal learning skill that can help an individual develop experience and excel in wide areas, academic, social, civic, and professional. It facilitates skilled reading, writing, reasoning independently of the thematic area, problem solving, evaluation of values, and informed decision-making. It helps individuals set goals, develop alternatives, and identify sound courses of implementation.
Despite the applicability of analytical thinking throughout an individual’s lifetime, development of the skill in early life in the context of school curricula in primary schools is not representative of its importance. Current teaching avenues mainly deploy math, which provides a general theoretical background. However, the interest of children in math education may lag behind other subjects as children do not see direct links to everyday life. Interestingly enough analytical thinking is missing from early formal technology education. This is predominantly a result of teaching approaches that follow dry presentations and exercises. Current teaching practices fail to leverage the inherent link between technology education and creativity, which emerges when children are encouraged to find innovative solutions through brainstorming and problem solving sessions.
nformation technology provides a new medium for developing analytical thinking through programming concepts: it is precise, structured, step-wise, and requires the setting of goals, exploration of alternatives, and evaluation of implementation approaches in a typical problem solving, project-based methodological structure. Learning activities that explore programming concepts may serve as complementary tools for developing critical thinking in the context of science education curricula. Finally, the technology offers additional advantages, such as the option of visual solutions that can be tailored to inspire children’s curiosity, promote creativity, and increase motivation.
Activities will encourage children to analytically break down selected themes and visually demonstrate solutions that are the result of collective, creative problem solving and will take into account computer literacy levels in the selected age group. The objectives more specifically are:
- To develop age-appropriate inquiry and project-based didactical methodologies promoting analytical and structural thinking and the development of independent minds in wider inclusive, collaborative educational environments
- To develop proof of concept learning activities on the deployment of programming as an educational tool that motivates analytical thinking. The activities will encourage children to set goals, explore alternatives, evaluate solutions, and iterate for optimization. Learning design will ensure quick early results instilling a sense of success and encouraging further engagement. Individual work and class collaboration will demonstrate how different solutions may work better for different individuals
- To build a collaborative school network through which children and teachers can share ideas, findings, know-how, and good practice recommendations
- To validate methodologies and learning activities through their deployment in real life educational settings in several countries, including Greece, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Sweden
- Finally, to reach a wide range of stakeholders and to promote the integration of proposed methodologies and learning design into school curricula through targeted dissemination and adoption strategies
DIsclaimer: This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.