Capturing the Computational Thinking of Families with Young Children in Out-of-School Environments

June 28th, 2017 | RESEARCH

For the past two decades, researchers and educators have been interested in integrating engineering into K-12 learning experiences. More recently, computational thinking (CT) has gained increased attention in K-12 engineering education. Computational thinking is broader than programming and coding. Some describe computational thinking as crucial to engineering problem solving and critical to engineering habits of mind like systems thinking. However, few studies have explored how computational thinking is exhibited by children, and CT competencies for children have not been consistently defined. Hence developing and implementing effective CT-related activities for children can be difficult. Therefore, exploring what computational thinking looks like for children is critical. Children can engage in, and learn to engage in computational thinking in both formal and informal settings. In this study, we are interested in exploring what computational thinking might look like in settings that approximate children’s everyday experiences. More specifically, in order to investigate what computational thinking looks like when enacted by young children, we are interested in observing children and their family members engaging in open-ended engineering activities that are play-based. To accomplish this, we observed and video-recorded 5-8 year-old children and their families creating different structures together using large foam blocks that are out for free play at a science center. Based on our observations and analysis of the video-recordings, in this paper we report on the computational thinking practices and competencies children and families demonstrated while engaged in engineering play. Our findings can provide information needed to create a framework for promoting computational thinking in young children in informal settings.



Team Members

Hoda Ehsan, Author, Purdue University
Monica Cardella, Principal Investigator, Purdue University


Publication: American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) 2017 Conference


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: STEM+C
Award Number: 1543175

Related URLs

Integrated STEM and Computing Learning in Formal and Informal Settings for Kindergarten to Grade 2


Audience: Elementary School Children (6-10) | Families | Learning Researchers | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers | Pre-K Children (0-5)
Discipline: Computing and information science | Education and learning science
Resource Type: Conference Proceedings | Reference Materials
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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