We're running a course about computational thinking for primary teachers in Edinburgh! I'm excited about this - it's going to be so much fun. For the last year or so I've been yakking on about why we should be focussing on teaching computational thinking (rather than just how to use computers). This is our chance to discuss how best to do this.
In a world over-flowing with technology, the ability to use digital technology is insufficient: education for the digital age needs to be broadened to encompass computational thinking and to enable learners to understand and critique the effects of technology on society and individuals. Children need to learn more than simply how to use software packages, as previously taught in subjects such as Information and Communications Technology. They also need help to learn how to use technology in pursuit of their studies, for example using search tools appropriately to capitalize on the vast sea of information on the Internet. But as educators, we can and should do more. Children need our help in understanding how the technology they encounter in the world around them works and the ways in which it impacts on society. Further, they need a deep conceptual understanding of the information and processes underlying software so that they have the ability to shape technologies of the future.
Computational thinking is an approach to solving problems which has been incredibly useful within computer science. It includes programming (aka coding) but there's more to it than that. It's a way of thinking which enables us to tame huge, complex problems into more easily solvable parts. This is going to be a key skill for children growing up in our digitally driven society.
During the course, teachers will work with computer science students and industry mentors to develop hands-on games and activities to teach computational thinking without even going near a computer. (You'll be surprised how much of an overlap there is with familiar classroom activities). They'll also learn the basics of programming a simple blocks language like Scratch or Hopscotch. We'll focus on how to make computational thinking inclusive and approachable by all learners. I've been working with Education Scotland and academic colleagues on re-designing the computing part of the Technologies curriculum, so the course will help you get to grips with the upcoming changes.
So, if you're an Edinburgh primary teacher, please apply to join the course! You can get the application form and find out practical information here. This is a pilot year; in future we will consider extending it more widely.