Module 5: Computational Thinking in the Primary School Classroom

Home Forums STEM Starters July 1-2 Module 5: Computational Thinking in the Primary School Classroom

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    • #209803
      Profile photo ofpbrennan_jy7f6fe0Pat Brennan
      Course Facilitator

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        Part 1

        • Create one prompt for a Computational Thinking activity suitable for a class of your choice from Junior-Infants to second class.
        • You can use a book, story or movie as part of the prompt.
        • Make sure to include a list of resources needed.
        • Use slide 9 and 10 in the module presentation as a guide to help you with your prompt.

        Part 2

        • Read Review “The state of the field of computational thinking in early childhood education” pages 18-45 (Bers, M., A. Strawhacker and A. Sullivan, 2022)
        • Write a reflective piece (minimum 100 words).
        • Summarise the key findings and insights from the article, highlighting the importance of computational thinking in early childhood education.
        • Share your thoughts on how early childhood educators can effectively integrate computational thinking into their teaching practice.
      • #211366
        yvonne Boylan

          Part 1: Prompt
          Lesson idea prompt : Senior infants


          Paper cups


          Blocks (wooded cuboid shapes)

          Barbie doll


          Story: Little Red Riding Hood

          Little Red Riding Hood has just discovered her Grandma is a witch, she needs to get out of the forest as quickly as possible. The problem is, the forest has a river that has flooded, and Little Red Little Riding Hood needs to get past the river using a bridge. The bridge needs to be tall enough to make sure that the water doesn’t touch it, so at least two blocks high,(show blocks)  and strong enough for Red Riding Hood to walk across. Can you design the bridge in less than 10 minutes using card, blocks and cups?

          The test will be that the bridge has to hold a doll the size of a Barbie up for 30 seconds

          Final question: Can you help Little Red Riding Hood get across?

          The children will be asked to build their bridges but will not be able to test them until the end.

          Part 2 

          The article highlights the important skills that developed through teaching coding in the early years. Noticeably, a lot of the skills mentioned are significant problem solving skills which can be used in other subjects, particularly Maths in future years. It is very important that children are taught how to use these skills from an early age, as they are transferable skills which will make them more independent learners that can adapt what they know and apply it in other settings. These skills are extremely useful for students, particularly the problem solving, puzzle solving types of activities. Many students can learn how to apply things they learn in certain contexts however they can lose confidence quickly when asked questions in slightly different ways, particularly in like Maths. I agree that these are complementary skills which work well alongside each other. Additionally, students may not find maths easy, but may thrive with these more digital activities. I would predict that for students who struggle with maths but enjoy these computational thinking tasks, their confidence may improve with other similar Maths activities, when they’ve experienced some success. Coding skills also integrate will with topics like shape, angles, algebra and with activities like mapping in SESE.  Computational thinking overall is a very important skill for children to continually develop, and the resources like bee bots, codebot, lightbot etc all offer a way to make these activities fun and interactive.  Overall  the article highlights the importance of these computational thinking tasks, particularly in the younger years. It’s also important to make coding less daunting and more accessible to students, and these types of activities manage to make coding tasks fun and engaging for students in the early years. The article also mentions the importance of family engagement and I agree that it would also be nice to demonstrate activities like the bee bots and similar robotic kits like sphere Indi to parents and caregivers, so that they could see and experience coding activities themselves. Coding is something that many people have no real understanding of and so this could be a very enjoyable and interesting activity for parents and caregivers to participate in.







          • #213125
            Michael Coughlan
            TeachNet Moderator

              Great lesson plan and reflections. The Little Red Riding Hood bridge-building activity sounds like a fantastic way to engage senior infants in problem-solving and teamwork. Teaching these skills early on helps students become independent learners and adaptable problem solvers. I also agree that involving parents in these activities can promote coding and make it a shared, enjoyable experience.

          • #211481
            Suzanne Behan

              Part 1

              For all the children who did not win a golden ticket, use the materials provided to design your  favourite scene and character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Resources: card board, glitter, scissors, glue, twistable’s, googly eyes, recyclable materials such as bottle tops, string, old clothes

              Part 2

              The research has demonstrated that computational thinking is an essential skill needed in the 21st century. The skills include recognition of patterns, conceptualisation, planning, and problem solving as well as abstract thinking to find a solution to a problem. This article highlights the importance of introducing these skills in early childhood to ensure they are developed thorough out the formative years.

              It is vital that countries introduce CT experiences into the classroom so that children are ready for active participation in the digital jobs market.  It is highlighted that there are barriers in translating these skills in the classroom setting, including but not limited to the budget required, instructional time as well as teachers not being trained in the area. This needs to be addressed to ensure educators better understand the classroom of today. Despite studies claiming far reaching benefits of integrating CT skills into the classroom, the research is in its infancy.  As technology becomes a reality of society today, it is important that the mathematics curriculum encompasses the CT skills too. The article discussed the idea that children learn best through the medium of play to the point where if the lessons are creative they won’t even know that they are learning. When programming is taught with a playful approach, children are not afraid to make mistakes.

              The article illustrated that you should get children to create something easily, then over time the project can become more difficult with a variety of learning styles this will broaden and develop their skills. Within this article many types of programmes are mentioned but there may be a cost associated with them. Not all schools will have the funding to invest large amounts of money in these items. Teachers can use lunch breaks to put the likes of Numberbots on for children as they eat which are especially designed media tv to promote computational thinking.

              Programmable robotics kits allow young children to explore the foundations of computer science in a hands-on way. If your school does not have the funding for expensive resources unplugged activities can be an excellent way to acquire the computational skills.  These can include engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around. The idea of a ‘makerspace’ is becoming more common place in school settings with children learning perseverance, creativity and persistence through a dedicated space.  It is important to invest in CT tools that support children as creators with technology rather than as consumers of technology.

              Findings from a recent study of 21 countries in Europe reported that coding is already part of the curriculum at a national, regional, or local level in 16 countries. In the Asia-Pacific region, countries such as Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China have all launched national curricular reforms to address the current movement in CT education with Australia and New Zealand working on changing their curricula to include computer science and digital technologies. Findings from the article discussed the idea of linking with parents to explore ways in which parents can help foster CT skills through every day play. In the younger years it is vital to select tools for children who are unable to read and write.

              In conclusion, the theories and research reviewed and analysed point towards childhood as being a critical time in developing natural curiosity and fostering CT skills and there is a growing demand on curriculum developers to incorporate these skills in the schools.


              • #213110
                Michael Coughlan
                TeachNet Moderator

                  The creative activity based on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a great way to engage children in a fun and imaginative project. I agree with the importance of computational thinking (CT) skills in early childhood. linking CT into the curriculum is essential for preparing students for the digital age, and overcoming barriers such as budget constraints and teacher training is in my opinion very important. Placing emphasis on play-based learning and accessible activities can make CT more approachable and enjoyable for young learners.

              • #212162
                Áine Madden

                  Part 1:

                  Create a raft so the billy goats can avoid the troll under the bridge.

                  Resources: goat figure, basin of water, lollipop sticks, tape, tinfoil, cardboard, pipe cleaners, blue tack, card, paper straws,

                  Part 2:

                  Key Findings and Insights
                  Definition and Importance of CT: The authors define CT as a set of problem-solving skills that involve understanding and using computational concepts. They emphasize that CT is not just about coding but also about thinking in a structured way to solve problems.

                  CT and Early Learning: The review reveals that integrating CT in early childhood can lead to significant cognitive and social benefits. Young children develop persistence, collaboration, and critical thinking skills, which are transferable to other areas of learning and life.

                  Pedagogical Approaches: Various pedagogical strategies are discussed, such as the use of tangible programming tools, robotics, and age-appropriate software. These tools help make abstract CT concepts concrete and accessible for young children.

                  Challenges and Barriers: The article identifies several challenges, including a lack of teacher training, insufficient resources, and the misconception that CT is too complex for young children. These barriers need to be addressed to effectively integrate CT into early childhood education.

                  Research and Evidence: Empirical studies cited in the article demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of introducing CT at a young age. Evidence shows that children as young as four can grasp basic CT concepts and enjoy engaging in CT-related activities.

                  Integration of CT in Early Childhood Education
                  To effectively integrate CT into early childhood education, educators can:

                  Professional Development: Invest in comprehensive training programs to equip teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to teach CT. Workshops, online courses, and collaborative learning communities can be effective.

                  Curriculum Design: Develop and implement a curriculum that includes CT concepts aligned with developmental stages. Integrating CT with other subjects, such as math and literacy, can create a holistic learning experience.

                  Use of Technology: Incorporate age-appropriate technological tools, such as programmable robots and interactive apps, to make learning CT engaging and hands-on. Ensure that these tools are accessible and user-friendly.

                  Play-Based Learning: Leverage the natural inclination of young children towards play. Designing CT activities that are fun and playful can foster a positive attitude towards learning and exploration.

                  Parental Involvement: Encourage parents to participate in their children’s CT education. Providing resources and organizing family coding events can help reinforce learning at home.

                  Reflecting on the insights from the article, it is evident that CT holds immense potential for early childhood education. By fostering an environment that encourages exploration, creativity, and problem-solving, educators can lay a strong foundation for lifelong learning. Overcoming the challenges will require a concerted effort from educators, policymakers, and the community. However, the benefits of equipping young learners with CT skills far outweigh the difficulties, making it a worthwhile investment in their future.

                  • #213113
                    Michael Coughlan
                    TeachNet Moderator

                      Thank you for your post. I certainly agree with your emphasis on the importance of computational thinking (CT) beyond just coding. It’s reassuring to see the focus on teacher training and parental participation. Despite current challenges, the long-term benefits for young learners make this a worthwhile investment.

                  • #212994
                    Fiona Nally

                      Part 1.
                      Prompt – Little Bow Peep has lost her sheep..or has she? She has spotted three of her sheep but they are the other side of a river. They aren’t brave enough to swim back so Boo Peep needs to build a raft that will carry her over and back with her lost sheep.
                      They have a large blue square as the river. The sheep are 3 Harribo fried eggs, Boo Peep is a lolly pop. They have blue tak, lolly pop sticks, card, markers and scissors. They need to work as a team to design a raft big enough for all of them and stable enough to move across the card to the other side!

                      Part 2.
                      This article looks at the importance of introducing computational thinking into early childhood education. It looks at the benefits of computational thinking, how it can be integrated into the curriculum, the challenges it might pose and suggests some of the ways those obstacles may be overcome. The benefits are many; including peer to peer learning, problem solving, collaboration and fostering a Learn by doing approach.
                      In terms of integrating in ECE, CT goes beyond specific computer science fields. While there is a considerable overlap between CT and mathematical thinking in activities engaged in by the children, there are also opportunities for linking with literacy skills and STEAM where arts is included opens this up to allow for an integration of arts and crafts, literacy, music, and more with engineering and robotics.
                      The article also speaks to the importance of meaningful activities highlighting that research has shown that many of children’s best learning experiences come when they are engaged not simply in interacting with materials but in designing, creating, and inventing with them. This underlines the importance of inspiring children to become producers of their own creative, playful, and functional artefacts, rather than simply consumers of other people’s work.
                      Some of the challenges include gaps in teacher knowledge and the important of Initial teacher teaching plus CPD as professional development can help teachers better understand CT and how CT could be helpful in their classroom. It also talked of the ‘digital divide’ with prohibitive costs of some technology and lack of access with families from lower socio-economic backgrounds. They suggest a focus on unplugged CT curriculum in areas where the cost of other technologies is not feasible.
                      This is relevant in our school where access to technology is more limited for many families. However, CT can be integrated in many ways from basic robotics such as BeeBots or Sphero-Indy to Lego We do through to the many unplugged constructor challenges available as teaching resources. As play is fundamental to ECE, using CT fits within this with the emphasis on creating, communicating and collaborating.

                    • #213118
                      Michael Coughlan
                      TeachNet Moderator

                        I love the creative plan you’ve designed for Little Bow Peep – it’s such a fun way to get kids working together and thinking critically.  Highlighting the overlap with other subjects and the benefits of hands-on learning is super. It is of course important to address issues like teacher training and access to technology, and I really like the way you introduced low-cost alternatives!!! Well done.

                      • #213814
                        Barra Cronin

                          Part 1: 

                          After reading the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to an infant class, the class could firstly complete a STEM challenge building the three houses from various materials (e.g. straw, lollipop sticks & lego blocks). Then using beebots, complete the route of the wolf visiting the various houses.


                          • Houses completed from STEM challenge
                          • Beebots
                          • Direction cards
                          • Grid
                          • Costume of wolf for beebot


                          Part 2:

                          This research paper underscores the vital role of computational thinking (CT) in early childhood education. The key findings reveal that CT promotes critical skills such as problem-solving, logical reasoning, and creativity, laying a foundation for future academic success and adaptability in an increasingly digital world. CT in early education helps children develop a mindset conducive to understanding complex systems and tackling challenges methodically including algorithms, modularity, control structures, representation, hardware/software, the design process and debugging

                          To effectively integrate CT, early childhood educators should incorporate age-appropriate, engaging activities like interactive storytelling, hands-on building projects, and introductory coding games. Emphasising play-based and inquiry-driven approaches ensures that CT concepts are accessible and enjoyable. Additionally, providing educators with ongoing professional development and sufficient resources is crucial for building their confidence and competence in teaching CT, ultimately enriching the learning experiences of young children

                          • #213896
                            Michael Coughlan
                            TeachNet Moderator

                              The combination of a STEM challenge and using beebots to navigate the wolf’s route is a fantastic way to make learning interactive and fun for the infants. Bringing together CT through play-based and inquiry-driven activities, as well as providing ongoing professional development for educators, are necessary steps to ensure these skills are accessible and enjoyable for young children.

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