Computational thinking and collaboration

We began today by looking at SAMR and TPCK and how these frameworks help teachers to make informed decisions about how to use and teach technology in the classroom.  The aim is to move beyond lower order thinking skills, such as remembering and understanding, to higher order skills such as analysing, evaluating and creating.  Often, computers are only used in classrooms to carry out research, or to present work on a Power Point, but the potential uses are far greater, and teachers need to know how to use technology more effectively.

Alan Carrington has developed a pedagogy tool, to help visualise the SAMR model, and to give practical examples of programmes that teachers can use to help to move towards the Modification and Redefinition aspects of using technology.

TPCK works in a similar way, where the teacher needs to have solid content knowledge, and the pedagogical approach in their planning, and then the knowledge of how technology can enhance the learning.  An in-depth explanation of this approach is given here.

The main point is that teachers should not just be inserting technology into a lesson just to tick a box.  They should have built up their own knowledge of technology to the point that it is integrated into learning in a useful, relevant way, and indeed can change what is being taught as well as how it is being taught.

For the rest of the session, we were guided through apps such as OneNote, Yammer, Glow Blogs and Skype in the classroom, and then were to focus on modules in the Microsoft Educator programme which were relevant to us personally.

I chose to focus on teaching computational thinking, especially without computers, as on placement, there are two computers for 26 children, with no ICT suite.  While I can very much see the potential for using OneNote for setting work which the children can then access at appropriate times, the issue of equity (which was touched upon but not expanded on in our session) is very much at the forefront of my mind.  I don’t believe in having a defeatist attitude, but at the same time, it would be nigh on impossible to plan a day where each child got decent access to a computer to work on a task, while still completing all the other work in the day (e.g. without missing teacher input in other lessons).  I am therefore keen, for the moment, to focus on computational thinking which can be taught without equipment as this is very much accessible to all children in my placement class.  There is also an equity issue for working on computers at home.  It was mentioned that OneNote can be accessed on most devices, and so accessing it on a phone may make it more accessible to more children, but this would need to be investigated before I could consider using it in my class.  I can much more immediately see the use amongst teachers to share ideas, work and to have the same access to information following meetings etc, and so I will investigate OneNote further in my own time.

The computational thinking model raised several points for me.  The most useful part was watching a film of a teacher using computational thinking to show children how a seemingly impossible problem can be solved by breaking it down into smaller parts, and putting it back together, seeing where patterns emerge and where things can be predictable, and where more information is needed.  I think that even bringing the computational thinking language into the classroom would be an easy first step, and the exercises that were shown in the film could work really well within my placement class.

One issue that crops up is with a lack of desire and ability to work collaboratively amongst children in the class, however this will need to be developed as it is an essential 21st century skill for the children, and so introducing problem solving with computational thinking could be an engaging way to do this.


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