Computational thinking in early years: the Danish way

Early years computing isn’t all about devices and screen time – and encouraging computational thinking doesn’t always involve computers at all, writes Sarah Horrocks, Connected Learning Centre director.

We’ve seen this really clearly in the Co-Make project. It’s an Erasmus+ project bringing together educators and children from the UK, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. The Connected Learning Centre is one of the partners and we’re working with Stockwell, Hitherfield and Essex primary schools as the UK participants in the project.

As a group we’re looking at how we can build what is already existing good practice in early years foundation stage (EYFS) or early childhood education (ECE) to support the development of computational thinking: pattern, sequencing, instructions, problem-solving, planning. It’s most definitely not about imposing technology or attempting any kind of formal computing curriculum activity. Instead, this project is all about enhancing digital competence through inclusive, collaborative computational thinking.

The last time we met with teachers from our Erasmus+ Co-Make project we were all online. We made the best of taking laptops on virtual tours around the pre-schools, kindergartens and EYFS settings involved. The children sang to each other and teachers met in breakout groups to discuss the learning which had been going on with their children in Learnathon 2, which had the analogue computational thinking theme ‘pattern’ (pattern recognition and pattern making in a computational thinking context) and involved children spotting patterns in nature and making patterns in the playground and classroom with natural objects, toys and art materials and in all sorts of ways. 

Inspired by Linda Liukas

But last week we were finally able to meet face to face in Denmark hosted by the municipality of Middelfart. We started by revisiting the concepts of computational thinking, such as algorithms and pattern making, prompted by Linda Liukas's very helpful poster (above. For more on Linda Liukas's work, why not check out our podcast with her, or  Why educators need to know about Linda Liukas).

This Barefoot Computing computational thinking poster also offers a helpful reminder and it ties in well with many of the things teachers do anyway with young children, such as thinking about pattern and instruction, sequencing, logic and problem solving.

Symbols and simple code with ScratchJnr

In cross-country groups we evaluated Learnathon 3, which had been about movement, dance and the instruction of algorithms. We also discussed when children may be ready for screen-based programming, following a session about the symbols and very simple code in ScratchJnr.

Båring school with Børneunivers

A day at the Båring school with Børneunivers opened our eyes to more possibilities of screen-free computational thinking. The school is set in a truly glorious outdoor space and also benefits from equipment on loan from the Fablab Middelfart. Fablabs are small-scale workshops equipped for digital fabrication (you might also know them as Maker Spaces) and the Middelfart fablab runs a programme that supports pairs of teachers in the municipal school to be champions.

Fablab design thinking

The teachers spend one day a week at the fablab over a year-long coaching programme with a design thinking methodology and then have a responsibility to support others in their school and use the design process – ’challenge, investigate, get ideas create share reflect’ – to help with critical thinking, teamwork, collaboration and design thinking.

Computational thinking in action!

There was lots of computational thinking in evidence at Båring school. Younger children played a game with a set of cards where they had instructions with symbols to move around the cards, not unlike Twister. It offered a nice bridge between the moving our bodies and symbols. Older children used mousebots and Osmo, which is physical and screen-based programming: when you touch the tiles there are actions on the screen, such as tangrams where are both physical shapes and  screen-based shapes. Older children also used Ozobots, where they drew with felt tips and the little robots moved based on the colour eg red to turn left and blue to turn right, showing input-process-output.

Can the mouse get to the cheese?

Janteloven

What was evident throughout the Middelfart research trip was that there is a strong municipal vision based on the Danish design tradition. Design, design thinking, a design cycle methodology and a technical tradition were evident in every part of our programme, from the functional aesthetic of classroom furniture to the focus on design thinking in the fablab teacher CPD. There was also a strong relationship between space, nature, technology and the body and senses. At the heart of it all is a concept which the Danes manage to sum up in just one word janteloven: we’re all valued, equal and accepted.

Book now

New to subject leadership in primary school computing session 1, 2 and 3

23/11/21,
15:45
- 17:15

This programme is designed for primary teachers who have recently taken on responsibilities and leadership for technology and computing. It will cover curriculum planning, tools and resources, methods for supporting colleagues and progression and assessment. Colleagues will be expected to attend all three sessions. The third session will be held in a school and will include classroom visits.

Further details for sessions 2 and 3 to follow:

Session 2: 9.30-11.30am Thursday 27 January (virtual)

Session 3: TBC (in person)

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Upcoming CPD

New to subject leadership in primary school computing session 1, 2 and 3
New to subject leadership in primary school computing session 1, 2 and 3

This programme is designed for primary teachers who have recently taken on responsibilities and leadership for technology and computing. It will cover curriculum planning, tools and resources, methods for supporting colleagues and progression and assessment. Colleagues will be expected to attend all three sessions. The third session will be held in a school and will include classroom visits.

Further details for sessions 2 and 3 to follow:

Session 2: 9.30-11.30am Thursday 27 January (virtual)

Session 3: TBC (in person)

23/11/21,
15:45
- 17:15
KS1, KS2
Computing subject leaders, Headteachers...
Computing and Online safety conference for primary schools
Computing and Online safety conference for primary schools

Diving deep into all things computing, this conference will consist of two sessions. Participants can choose to join us for the full day, or book for just the morning or afternoon separately.

Online Safety & Data Security (am)
This session is for computing subject leaders, senior leaders, safeguarding leads and other relevant school staff. Falling in the lead up to Safer Internet Day 2022 (Tuesday 8 February), the morning of the conference will have a particular focus on online safety, bringing together a variety of external resources with expertise from within the CLC team to help schools get to grips with the complexities of online safety and data security.

Leading Computing in the Classroom (pm)
This portion of the day is for computing subject leaders and teachers interested in the use of technologies across the curriculum. It will include policy and curriculum updates as well as practical workshops and opportunities to hear from colleagues in other schools.

01/02/22,
09:15
- 15:30
EYFS, KS1, KS2
Business leaders, Computing subject leaders...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
25/11/21,
09:30
- 14:25
KS2

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum
21/02/22,
-
KS1

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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