Computational Thinking and Multifaceted Skills: A Qualitative Study in Primary Schools

Computational Thinking and Multifaceted Skills: A Qualitative Study in Primary Schools

Gary Wong (University of Hong Kong, China), Shan Jiang (University of Hong Kong, China) and Runzhi Kong (University of Hong Kong, China)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3200-2.ch005


Computational thinking allows us to solve complex problem in a certain way, which has been taught in traditional computer science program in university. With the advanced digital computing technology, new visual programming tools have been developed to allow children at early age to explore the concept and practices of computational thinking, which could develop their multifaceted skills. In this study, it aims to report an exploratory study of two pioneer primary schools in Hong Kong on introducing computational thinking through coding. This study uses qualitative approach with classroom observations, field notes and group interviews (n = 14). We also develop a child-centered interview protocol to find out the perception of children in learning how to code. The results show that children are generally engaging in computational thinking activities and believe that this learning context can develop their multifaceted skills such as problem solving skills and creativity.
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In the current software-driven society, with the awareness of the importance of digital literary skills, several initiatives worldwide have revisited the importance of computer programming (or coding) and the impact on integrating computational thinking with coding in K-12 curriculum, particularly in primary or elementary schools (Wong et al., 2015; Barr and Stephenson, 2011). Wing (2006) revisited the ideas of computational thinking from Papert (1980), which suggests the unique methods of reformulating complicated problems into one we can solve more effectively through the concepts such as decomposition, abstraction, pattern recognition and algorithms. It explains how computational thinking as a thinking skill becomes an innovative way for solving not only programming but also real world problems. Computational thinking is applicable to helping people to think abstractly and pulling a problem apart into smaller pieces in different context for everyone, not only for computer scientist, which may have a longer-term impact on children’s learning (Wing, 2006; Lye and Koh, 2014; Wong et al., 2015).

Since 1998, the Education Bureau (EDB) in Hong Kong has conducted four consultation seminars to seek opinions from stakeholders on how to formulate strategies to take advantage of information technology in education. To respond to global economic demand for computing skills, the EDB has suggested that the curricula of junior and senior secondary schools be expanded to include training that would equip students with programming-related capabilities similar to other countries, e.g. computational thinking, and logical analyzing (EDB, 2015). Recently, a large-scale quantitative questionnaire has been done to survey 42 primary school and secondary school in Hong Kong, which shows the trend in the local schools to promote coding education with positive perception on teaching and learning (Wong et al., 2015). However, the current educational context in Hong Kong as well as other countries requires more in-depth research concerning computational thinking to understand the impact of implementation in school curriculum through the perception of children and their perceived impact on the development of their multifaceted skills such as problem solving skill, creativity and critical thinking.

One of the approaches to understand this situation is to conduct an exploratory study to understand the perception of children in computational thinking and impact on development of multifaceted skills. To the best of our knowledge, however, there are limited studies related to the elementary students’ perception. In this study, it aims to:

  • 1.

    Investigate the impact of computational thinking on children’s perception in primary education;

  • 2.

    Examine the possibility of wide implementation as an education policy under the Hong Kong;

  • 3.

    Identify the student’s perception about their self-development with multifaceted skills, such as creativity and problem solving.

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