16 SES 07 A, A European Perspective on Researching Computational Thinking as a Key Competence for 21st Century Learners
Influenced by increased worldwide discussions on the importance to teach computational thinking skills in general education, the Danish Ministry of Education has requested schools to offer a new optional subject named Teknologiforståelse (Technology Understanding) into the Danish national curriculum from August 2017 (EMU, 2017). Subsequently, the ministry recently expressed their ambitions of establishing it as a compulsory subject for K-9 students. Arguments include the importance of all students to learn computer science concepts in order for them to participate in a computational world with equal opportunities, concerning both everyday life and career. Computational thinking skills encompass working out patterns and detailed elements of problems, and working on solutions designed as algorithms (Wing, 2006), and as such they are central in programming practices; however, they apply to problem solving practices in all subject areas and do not even necessarily involve computers. Indeed, Danish researchers on computer science have been discussing the power of these wide-ranging mental skills since the middle of 1950s stressing their place and value in general education from early primary school to enhance communication and problem-solving skills as well as the importance of educating pre-service and in-service teachers to teach computer science concepts in education (Naur, 1992; Undervisningsministeriet, 1972). The goal of this paper is to report on results from a survey conducted in 2018 in schools which did also participate in the International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS 2018). To measure the extent to which Danish schools focus on computational thinking, we asked principals in 150 schools about current and planned learning activities on educating students to think computationally and to what extent their teachers are professionally skilled to teach computational thinking concepts, e.g. through educational computer science courses. In addition, we wanted to capture diverse ideas of the potential of computational thinking and different arguments for embedding it into curriculum. Thus we examined participants’ conceptions of what computational thinking involves and why these mental skills are important for students to learn. The survey was analyzed using the Rasch model, in this paper we report on frequencies and correlations. The survey is part of an ongoing mixed-method study, which combines a survey with classroom observations, and it will relate to the forthcoming Danish results of a new computational thinking strand in ICILS 2018 (ACER, 2017).
ACER (2017). ICILS. IEA International Computer and Information Literacy Study. https://icils.acer.org/ EMU (2017). Teknologiforståelse valgfag (forsøg) – Fælles Mål og læseplan. https://www.emu.dk/modul/teknologiforst%C3%A5else-valgfag-fors%C3%B8g-%E2%80%93-f%C3%A6lles-m%C3%A5l-og-l%C3%A6seplan Naur, P. (1992). Computing: A Human Activity. New York: ACM Press. Undervisningsministeriet (1972). Betænkning om EBD-undervisning i det offentlige uddannelsessystem. København: Undervisningsministeriet. Wing, J.M. (2006). Computational Thinking. Communications of the ACM, 49(3): 33-35. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/usr/wing/www/publications/Wing06.pdf
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