New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Pre-College Engineering Education Division
Complementing science and mathematics, computational thinking and engineering are increasingly integrated into K-12 classrooms as well as K-12 out-of-school environments. In the United States, these efforts are motivated by the Computer Science Teaching Association’s 2011 K-12 standards, the inclusion of engineering in the Next Generation Science Standards as well as state standards. However, there are few clear examples of what engineering thinking and computational thinking looks like when enacted by young students. Computational thinking at young ages is broader than simply programming and early experience with computational thinking can shape student attitudes towards math and technology for years to come. Collecting and sharing pre-college students’ thinking in these areas is important for researchers as we develop a shared research agenda; important for teachers in knowing how to guide their students and knowing what to look for amongst their students; and important for helping parents also understand how to support engineering thinking and computational thinking. The recognition of this need was a major outcome of the recent “Engineering Design and Practices Roundtable: Working Together to Advance Pre K-12 Engineering Design” convened by the Museum of Science in Boston in January 2015.
The project reported in this paper aims to integrate computational thinking into the existing integrated STEM curriculum. In order to develop computational thinking supplements appropriate for young children, the team analyzed videotaped observations of student-teams participating in the current integrated STEM curriculum to identify the nascent engineering and computational thinking students exhibited. These qualitative examples serve to both inform the larger research community what engineering and computational thinking can look like among 5-8 year olds, and provide baselines for further development of engineering and computational thinking curriculum and assessment.
The team followed an interaction analysis approach for analyzing the videorecorded observations to identify rich examples the team could richly describe in terms of engineering and computational thinking. The findings from our analysis of these videotaped observations demonstrate that students as young as 5 years old are able to identify and define the problem, evaluate designs when given criteria, balance tradeoffs, and iterate toward a better solution using mathematical relationships. Furthermore, students used computational thinking practices, such as problem decomposition, algorithm generation, logical reasoning and system integration of multiple components during activities. For example, in the first lesson of the curriculum, the students were introduced to the design challenge. Through their problem scoping, students helped the teacher break down the problem into smaller parts (problem decomposition). The students also participated in simulation, another aspect of computational thinking, by acting out the treasure map story presented in the lesson. Participation in the simulation helped students to develop algorithms for helping children at a party find a buried treasure. These examples of computational thinking were found among K-2 students and helped students make connections to the engineering design work that they were doing. This paper will explore these connections between engineering and computational thinking and their relationship to student learning.
Hynes, M. M., & Moore, T. J., & Cardella, M. E., & Tank, K. M., & Purzer, S., & Menekse, M., & Brophy, S. P. (2016, June), Inspiring Computational Thinking in Young Children's Engineering Design Activities (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25732
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