Using Children’s Picture Books as a Context for the Development of Computational Thinking Skills

Rationale

It is fundamental to the delivery of this content that professional development is aligned with the significant aspects of learning framework. Our programme is structured around the theory that underpins progression across the three organisers to assist our student teachers in recognising key developmental stages in learning about computing concepts. 

Computing Science is one of the six themes identified within the National Framework for Digital Literacies. It is important to emphasise the inter-related nature of these themes and that the process of developing competence in the planning and delivery of relevant and engaging Computing Science content, will inevitably lead be developing skills in digital creation, collaboration and presenting.  

Cross-Curricular Links

From the outset, we make explicit links to skills, knowledge and attitudes developed across the curriculum. For many, skills and knowledge shared between Computing Science and Maths are obvious. Perhaps less so, the links to Literacy, Social Studies, Art and Design and Music. We also make clear links between coding and the 4 C’s of the 21st Century learning framework. As well as critical thinking, communication and creativity, there is a strong focus on collaboration. This links to skills and knowledge development in Theme 3 (Computing Science) of the National Framework for Digital Literacies in ITE.

To evidence the relevance of computational thinking skills across learning and to highlight examples of cross-curricular links, we introduce our students to computational thinking and basic computing concepts through Literacy and storytelling. These link to First Level Computing Science Experiences and Outcomes: I can comment on processes in the world around me making use of core computational thinking concepts and can organise information in a logical way TCH 1-13a.

Within the The National Framework for Digital Literacies this addresses the requirement for ITE staff, student teachers, and their learners in classrooms should become familiar with the first of three interrelated aspects of computing science, as detailed in the Curriculum for Excellence Technologies Curriculum: Understanding the world through computational thinking (e.g. being able to spot where information processing is used in everyday life)

We address Theme 5 of The National Framework (Research Informed Practice) by ensuring that our student teachers are engaging with relevant theoretical perspectives and research to inform their planning. Our programme has been informed by the ongoing research being conducted by Sarah Twigg, Lynne Blair and Emily Winter at Lancaster University into how popular children’s picture books such as “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” can be used to teach computing concepts like sequencing, repetition and selection. https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3361721.3362116

Inspired by their ‘read, act, model and program’ approach, our students work collaboratively to select a text and develop planners for a short sequence of lessons that include unplugged sequencing and repetition activities, culminating in the use of a simple block programming application such as Scratch Junior to produce the program that had been designed though the unplugged activities. 

Through this literacy context, students are engaging with and analysing a series of unplugged computational thinking activities. The learning objective for them (as it will be for their future pupils) is to be able to identify steps and patterns in a process, classify and categorise information and recognise that computational thinking has multiple real-world applications.