Computational Thinking for All: An Experience Report on Scaling up Teaching Computational Thinking to All
Students in a Major City in Sweden
classroom. The later project, built on the previous one, now involving a larger group of teachers, who were not only to implement the ideas in their own classroom, but also to spread it to
other teachers at their schools.
Both projects took place in Sweden’s fifth largest city,
Linköping, as a collaborative effort between the Computer Science Department at Linköping University and Linköping Municipality. The university was responsible for the project and all
the project activities, while the municipality took care of the administration at the city level and the contact with the teachers.
The rest of the paper is structured as follows. We start in
Section 2 with a background on digital competence, programming and computational thinking in Swedish education. In Section 3, we present the first part of our project, the pilot study. In
Section 4, the second and larger part of the project is presented.
In Section 5, we discuss the lessons learned from the projects
and in Section 6, we draw conclusions and give some recommendations for the future.
DIGITAL COMPETENCE IN SWEDISH
K- 9 EDUCATION
The role of computer science and IT in Swedish schools has
varied throughout the years [ 10]. In fall 2015, the Swedish government gave the National Agency for Education (Skolverket)
the task of preparing a proposal for K- 12 education on how to
better address the competences required in a digitalized society. In June 2016, Skolverket submitted a proposal putting a
much stronger emphasis on digital competence and introducing both digital competence and programming as interdisciplinary traits. It also provides explicit formulations in subjects
such as mathematics (programming, algorithmic thinking, and
problem solving), technology (controlling physical artifacts)
and social sciences (fostering aware and critical citizens in a
digital society). In March 2017, the government accepted the
proposal, which has to be implemented by fall 2018 at the latest.
In October 2017, the government also decided on a National
IT Strategy which was notably weaker than the one Skolverket
proposed in June 2016.
The Swedish school debate has in recent years circled around
poor PISA results, difficulties in providing all children and youth
with equal opportunities, and about modernizing the curricu-
lum in order to meet future job market requirements. As “pro-
grammer” is the most common job in the capital Stockholm,
Based on our experience we draw some general conclusions
and make suggestions for how to scale up the teaching of pro-
gramming and computational thinking to all.
The increased exposure to technology raises a need for understanding how the digital world works, in the same manner as
we get to know the physical world. Consequently, during recent
years, we have witnessed an active discussion surrounding the
role of programming and computer science (CS) for everyone
(see e.g. [ 6, 9, 13]). As a result, an increasing number of countries have introduced or are in the process of introducing CS in
their school curriculum. For instance in Europe, the majority
of countries ( 17 out of 21) taking part in a survey conducted by
the European Schoolnet in 2015 reported doing so [ 1]. The way
in which this is accomplished varies. Some countries focus on
K- 12 as a whole, whereas others primarily address either K- 9 or
grades 10-12. Some countries have introduced CS as a subject
of its own (e.g. Computing in England [ 3]) while others have
decided to integrate it with other subjects, by for instance making programming an interdisciplinary element throughout the
curriculum (e.g. Finland [ 5]). The role of CS and information
technology in school curricula has – in general – varied over
the years, placing focus on different areas, ranging from using
technology as a tool to learning how the computer works and
how to use it to create programs. This has also been the case in
Introducing new content in curricula affects many teachers. When the content is new, such as programming and digital
competence, most of the teachers affected have no prior experience in teaching the content. Consequently there is a large need
for professional development and training initiatives. In this
paper we present our experience from a three year long project,
aiming at training Swedish teachers (grades 1-9) in teaching
programming and computational thinking.
Although the Swedish government decided on including
programming in the curriculum as late as in March 2017, the
discussion on this had already been vivid since around 2014.
To those involved it was more a question of when this would
happen, rather than if. As a result, many projects focusing on
programming and digital competence at primary and lower
secondary school were initiated already several years ago. For
instance, Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova funded several such projects already in 2014. One of these projects was “A
model for computational thinking in Swedish primary school”,
which received renewed funding under the new project name
“Computational thinking for all” in 2016. Both are lead by the
authors of this paper.
The first project aimed at introducing programming and
computational thinking to a small group of teachers, who then
were to implement the ideas and plans created in their own