Computational thinking means 'thinking like a computer' and in fact, it is a set of problem-solving skills that can be used in order to solve problems in ways that a computer does (Wing, 2014) by using methods such as decomposition, pattern recognition, data representation, generalization/abstraction, and algorithms. Computational thinking is rather the thought process involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent, such as a computer (Cuny, Snyder and Wing, 2010 in Depryck, 2016). Thinking computationally is known for its efficiency and should be a fundamental skill for everyone, not just for computer scientists. It is of great importance to integrate computational thinking into other disciplines (Wing, 2006) and introducing computational thinking in the curriculum at an early age. This is necessary in order to bridge the skills gap between the technology demands of our society and the availability of people to fill them (Depryck, 2016). In many European countries, computing is an element within the curriculum. The details of the curricula are sometimes different in each country but there is also a substantial overlap. Most curricula include coding/programming and computational thinking. Coding can be seen as a possible setting for developing the capacity for computational thinking (Brennan & Resnick, 2012), but computational thinking is more than coding.
This project wants to build further upon insights already created during former Erasmus projects such as STEM4MATH (https://www.stem4math.eu/) and TACCLE (http://www.taccle3.eu/en/) and wants to focus on strengthening the teacher's capacity in teaching STEM and computational thinking. One of the things that was learnt from these projects was that learning more difficult and abstract concepts by children (e.g. in math, science, coding,...) improved when they were integrated into meaningful contexts for children and for teachers. It is important that teachers and children feel comfortable when carrying out STEM projects and understand why they are carrying out these kind of projects (Boaler, J., 1994). Meaningful contexts are especially important to stimulate children, in particular girls, their motivation and attitude towards STEM-disciplines including computer sciences (Van Houte, et al., 2013). Therefore, we will also broaden STEM to STEAM in this proposal, as the STEM4MATH-project indicates that arts is a very important discipline to add because it stimulates teachers as well as children to engage in problem-solving tasks. This is very significant, as we want to open up computational thinking skills to all teachers and children. This also means that there is a need to focus on the process of coaching children through STEAM-CT- projects. The teacher plays a crucial role in order to stimulate the computational thinking skills of children, but also their metacognitive skills by asking the right kind of questions.
This proposal, STEAM-CT, will help teachers by giving them tools to teach computational skills. We will provide them with a clear didactic model, which will focus on integration of computational thinking in STEAM contexts and the process of problem solving. The proposal wants to make this concrete with examples of projects (= activities for children that are longer than one lesson) in which relevant and meaningful STEAM contexts are used in order to learn computational thinking skills. We also will disseminate to teachers, teacher trainers and STEAM educators all over Europe.
This proposal is a cooperation between universities, primary and secondary schools whose participation we have balanced in order to obtain the rigour and latest research and the in-class daily experience. A lot of teachers will be involved in order to develop and test the products of this proposal. Because there will be a lot of teachers involved, they will also be involved in the dissemination of the insights and products in their region by coaching other teachers (see E1-E7). University participants are also expected to participate in specialized conferences and seminars throughout the duration of the project.