The Computing curriculum aims to equip young people with the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to thrive in the digital world of today and the future. The curriculum can be broken down into 3 strands: computer science, information technology and digital literacy, with the aims of the curriculum reflecting this distinction.
The national curriculum for computing aims to ensure all pupils:
- can understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation (Computer science)
- can analyse problems in computational terms, and have repeated practical experience of writing computer programs in order to solve such problems (Computer science)
- can evaluate and apply information technology, including new or unfamiliar technologies, analytically to solve problems (Information technology)
- are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology (Digital literacy)
Below is a condensed article written by Berry (2016) which breaks down the importance of computational thinking and how this stems from learning and play in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and develops throughout KS1 leading to KS2. The article summarises what computational thinking is, how it links to the Statutory Framework and gives clear examples of how computational thinking is taught discretely. Berry (2016) understands that computational thinking does not necessarily require the persistent use of technology, particularly in the early years and that planning and logical thinking plays a large part in the problem solving process.
Laying the foundations for computing in the early years – Miles Berry (2016)
In the Statutory Framework for EYFS, the early learning goal from the ‘technology’ strand in the ‘understanding the world’ area of learning, requires that, ‘children recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as homes and schools’.
This is the start of ‘digital literacy’ and it extends into Key Stage 1, where children are taught to ‘recognise common uses of information technology beyond school’.
Computational thinking, understood, after Jeanette Wing, as “taking an approach to solving problems, designing systems and understanding human behaviour that draws on concepts fundamental to computing”, is the golden thread running through the computing curriculum.
There are many opportunities to introduce the building blocks of computational thinking. For example, pupils can think about the steps involved in getting dressed for winter, decomposing the overall task into constituent tasks and then sequencing the instructions (writing an algorithm).
The technology early learning goal states that children should ‘select and use technology for particular purposes’. There are a wide range of digital technologies that young children can use playfully and collaboratively, such as digital cameras, audio recorders, tablet computers, phones (smart or otherwise) and simple, programmable robots such as Bee-Bot. As they play with these devices, children will form their own mental model (schema) of how these work, sometimes through chatting to one another, or asking a grown-up, but more often just through play.
The use of technology can support children across other areas of learning, providing children with new ways to communicate and share their ideas. In the ‘being imaginative’ strand of the ‘expressive arts and design’ area of learning, the early learning goal states the expectation that children ‘use what they have learnt about media and materials in original ways, thinking about uses and purposes. Alongside working with crayons, pencils, paints and craft materials, there’s ample opportunity for children to use photography, record music they make, video one another and paint with fingers, trackpad or mouse on screen
When children are faced with these problems, the questions that Early Years practitioners would naturally be posing can encourage computational thinking. Here’s some examples:
- Logical reasoning What will happen if I do this? How do you know?
- Algorithms What do I need to do to solve this? Is there a better way?
- Decomposition Can we break this problem up? Could we each do different jobs to solve the problem?
- Patterns Have you solved something like this before? What did you do then? What’s changed?
- Abstraction What’s the most important thing here? Maybe we can draw a picture of this?
- Evaluation What went well? Which way worked best? What would you do differently next time?
The Statutory Framework expects practitioners to consider how children learn and develop in relation to three ‘characteristics of effective learning’:
- playing and exploring – investigate, experience things, and ‘have a go’;
- active learning – concentrate, keep on trying if encountering difficulties, and enjoy achievements; and
- creating and thinking critically – have their own ideas, make links between them, and develop strategies for doing things.