Cheerful confusion and a thirst for knowledge: tales from the primary school computing classrooms
Judy Robertson, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh
Abstract: I have spent many years designing projects and software which I, as a computer scientist, thought would help school children learn about computing. Last year, with an experienced and imaginative teacher educator as my guide, I went on a journey to learn what children and teachers already know about computing and discover what they would like to learn more about. Over the course of ten months, we worked with fourteen primary school teachers who wanted to develop computational thinking in their classrooms. The teachers learned about basic ideas in computational thinking, and developed and adapted interdisciplinary activities to teach these to their learners. Through professional dialogue with their peers, they reflected on, and shared the challenges of using these activities in their classrooms. We visited the classrooms of these teachers to explore the children’s views about the activities and to gauge the children’s knowledge and interest in computing. This was a humbling experience for me as I learned how skilled the teachers were in teaching computational concepts in a way which all their learners could understand, by integrating computational thinking with other curricular activities. I was heartened by the children’s interest and curiosity about computing in their everyday lives, even as I noted their confusion and puzzlement about the interface between hardware and software. As a result of these experiences, I believe that CS educators and researchers should increase our efforts to understand the existing computing knowledge base of children and teachers.
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Judy Robertson is Professor of Digital Learning in the Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. She taught undergraduate computer science courses for fifteen years, and has led computer science education research projects in primary and secondary schools. Her current role in initial teacher education enables her to focus on strategies for increasing teachers’ competence and confidence in teaching computing to young people. She is particularly interested in improving gender equality in Computer Science.