Computational Thinking for All: An Experience Report on Scaling up Teaching Computational Thinking to All
Students in a Major City in Sweden
The municipality has 50 schools and about 14000 students in
comprehensive education (grade 1-9) organized in 5 school districts. Due to the hierarchical organization, the communication
from the central municipal administration is always through
the school district, which can decide whether to forward information to the principals, or not. Each principal decides whether information should be forwarded to the teachers and, if so,
whom to inform. All communication from the project to the
teachers were taken care of by the project’s municipality representative, who is also a teacher.
The original plan was to build an organization with one
teacher from each school and a support group within the central administration consisting of one representative from each
of the school districts and one representative from the central
education development office (who would also be responsible
for the whole project). We as the university representatives
were outside the organization as our role was to bootstrap the
change. Our responsibility was to provide teacher training,
expert advice and to study the introduction of computational
thinking in the schools.
Even though the central municipal administration has been
very supportive and positive we have not managed to form a
central support group and the representative from the municipality has been replaced three times during the project period
of three years. Based on this experience, the school organization appears to be rather volatile with people constantly changing positions, but it could also be a coincidence that the municipality was in a shift of staff.
Luckily, we have managed to get representatives from more
than 40 out of the 50 schools, which means that we actually reach at least 80% of the schools. Initially we got about 30
teachers in the spring of 2016, which was increased to about 70
teachers from the fall of 2016 after the head of education had
sent out a request to all the schools. The group was mostly unchanged during fall 2016 and spring 2017, but the engagement
and activity of these teachers varied substantially. Normally
about 40 of the teachers showed up to the workshops. Finding
suitable workshop times and getting teachers to commit is both
hard and important.
WORKSHOPS AND ACTIVITIES
The workshops have been the backbone of the project. We have
arranged three half-day workshops per semester at the university, resulting in a total of 12 workshops during 2016 and 2017.
Each workshop has had a theme and a program including both
information or new material from us and discussions to activate
the teachers. We have also given the teachers assignments to do
between the workshops.
In addition to the workshops we have also encouraged participation in events such as Bebras and Hour of Code. We have
also developed a handbook with computational thinking activities and an introductory material for teaching computational
thinking. This material is freely available in Swedish as it is designed for Swedish teachers.
tion about 17 activities. One example of an activity that a teacher developed introduced a treasure hunt covering angles and
fractions in mathematics. The students were given a grid map
of the school yard and a sequence of instructions on the form
“walk 1 3/4 squares forward”, “turn 270 degrees to the right”,
etc. They then had to calculate where the treasure was hidden
before actually executing the program to see if they could find
the treasure. This is a good example of combining developing
computational thinking skills with outdoor activities.
The final review of the pilot study revealed four major lessons learned:
1. The teachers were in general positive and felt that the
training made it possible for them to adapt the material
provided and run an activity as part of their own teaching.
Nevertheless, they only did this once and as far as we know
the teachers did not continue to develop more activities
after the pilot study was over.
2. The teachers reported that other students than the usual
suspects did best on the activities. Students that were
usually quiet and low key were more excited and engaged
in the activities than normally.
3. According to teacher’s experience, Scratch and ScratchJr
worked well at lower grade levels, while students in grade
7-9 were not motivated by the cute graphics and cartoons.
One teacher used Code Combat ( http://codecombat.com/)
instead together with grade 9 students, which he reported
4. The students were in general positive towards the activities
and engaged in them.
The conclusions from the pilot study are that it was definitely possible to get teachers to introduce computational thinking
in their teaching with a limited amount of professional development, as long as it was directly connected to their subject.
However, it did not seem to get a lasting effect. This seems to
be a general observation, it is relatively easy to do one or a few
activities, but it is much harder to make it part of the standard
practice and integrate it into everyday teaching.
CT FOR ALL
As the conclusions from the pilot study were positive, while it
was clear that this only affected a small number of students,
the continuation project focused on addressing the question on
scaling up. The basic question is: Now that we know how to get
individual teachers to start including computational thinking
in their classes, how can we scale this up in both the number
of teachers/students and also in the regularity/longevity of the
activities. The general plan for the project was to provide professional competence development to at least one teacher at
each school and to build up a central support function within
the municipal administration to support the teachers. The goal
of the project was that 80% of all students in the municipality
should have at least one activity per month related to computational thinking.