February 2024 Newsletter – Tech Skills for Children: The Benefits of Computational Thinking Skills for Younger Children

The Benefits of Computational Thinking Skills for Younger Children

Computational thinking skills are developed through the study of computer science and coding. These important skills can be taught to preschoolers effectively through developmentally appropriate activities providing great benefit to our young learners. But what exactly do we mean when we say computational thinking skills?

Computational thinking is the process of breaking down a problem into simple steps that even a computer can understand. The key skills associated with computational thinking are decomposition, pattern recognition, pattern abstraction, and algorithm design. These may seem too complex for young learners but take a look at the explanations below. You may find these skills are actually more applicable to early childhood than you originally thought.

  • Decomposition is breaking down problems into smaller more manageable pieces. Decomposition allows students to assess the problem and figure out all the steps needed to make the task happen. This skill can be taught by getting the students to teach you how to perform a simple task. For example, ask children to break down the steps of handwashing. encourage them to think about the very specific instructions that are needed to know how to complete each step of the task.
  • Pattern Recognition is simply looking for patterns in problems. We determine if what we have learned in the past can help solve a current problem we are experiencing. Younger students can benefit from exploring patterns using music or multi-color blocks.
  • Pattern Abstraction is learning to identify the details that are relevant to solving the problem and ignoring the details that aren’t relative to the solution. This skill can be taught by a building activity where extra pieces and objects that are not part of the design are given along with the needed pieces. Students will have to identify which pieces are important to the design and which are irrelevant to the design.
  • Algorithm design involves laying out the steps and rules of a task that are needed to achieve the desired outcome every time the task is completed. This builds on the decomposition skills children are learning. Let’s return to the example of handwashing. Ask students to draw the steps in order, then you can perform the steps as a test of their work. Use only the steps that the students have provided to try to complete the task, then discuss which steps are missing, out of order, or not needed to accomplish the task.

Besides being the actual skills needed to code and program computers, computational thinking skills are of great benefit to students. They teach children how to describe a problem, identify the important details needed to solve a problem, break the problem down into detailed steps, put the steps in the correct order, and then evaluate the entire process.

Children develop reasoning, problem-solving skills, and emotional competencies. Computational thinking skills teach children to think logically. These skills are transferable to any curriculum area and are important to all subjects across the curriculum.

 

For the main article Tech Skills for Children, CLICK HERE

For the article The “Unplugged” Approach to Exploring Computer Science, CLICK HERE

For the article Can Preschoolers Learn Coding?, CLICK HERE

For the article Building Computer Science Confidence for Teachers, CLICK HERE