ALGORITHMIC THINKING IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION: OPPORTUNITIES AND SUPPORTS IN THE PORTUGUESE CONTEXT
1 Polytechnic of Viseu, School of Education and CI&DEI (PORTUGAL)
2 School of Technology and Management of Viseu and CI&DEI, Polytechnic of Viseu (PORTUGAL)
3 School of Education, Polytechnic of Viseu, and CIDMA, University of Aveiro (PORTUGAL)
4 School of Technology and Management of Viseu and CISeD, Polytechnic of Viseu (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Conference name: 13th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-6 July, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:ALGO-LITTLE is an EU-funded project, with partners from Portugal, Italy, Turkey and Slovenia, in search of ways to integrate Algorithmic Thinking skills into preschool education for the purpose of growing future code literates starting from the earliest ages. Algorithmic Thinking stems from the concept of an algorithm, which refers to solving a problem by developing a set of steps taken in a sequence to achieve the desired outcome (Katai, 2014). The concept can be traced to the work of Papert (1980, 1991) and is connected to the seminal article by Wing (2006) that introduced Computational Thinking. Barretal (2011) concluded that in K-12, Algorithmic Thinking involves problem-solving skills and particular dispositions, such as confidence and persistence when confronting particular problems. Early Childhood Education algorithmic skills include abilities to learn and work according to the rules or models since children are capable to understand, use, apply and develop simple algorithms. Children are also capable of analyzing and correcting the sequence of actions to reach results, transferring known methods of actions to new situations, and describing their activities to others in a clear way (Voronina et al., 2016; Games for learning algorithmic thinking, 2017).
The paper analyses initiatives, studies, and projects that are connected to Algorithmic Thinking in Early Childhood Education in Portugal. A review of literature was developed, starting with curricular documents for Preschool Education (3 to 6 years old) and other documents from the ICT Educational Policy in the country. The second step was a search in databases for studies and projects that looked into Algorithmic Thinking and Computational Thinking in Early Childhood Education in Portugal.
The analyses looked into the following themes:
a) what definition and elements of Algorithmic Thinking are present?,
b) to which concepts and curricular areas is it connected to?,
c) what is expected that children in Early Childhood Education learn in relation to Algorithmic Thinking?,
d) to what pedagogical elements is Algorithmic Thinking related to?.
In terms of curricular documents, it was found that code has been relevant for Portuguese Early Childhood Education (at least) since 1997. In their first edition, the Portuguese Curricular Guidelines for Pre-School Education (Ministério da Educação, 1997) included computer code as one of the codes children should get acquainted with. This meant its inclusion under the domain “Spoken Language and Introductory Writing”. It was stated that “code” was present and would be necessary in children’s lives and could be used in arts, music, mathematic, or writing (Portuguese) (p. 72). This approach was positively singled out by the OECD report: addressing the topic of ICT in the guidelines interconnected with other forms of communication and information learning (Taguma et al., 2012). In 2016, the Portuguese Curricular Guidelines for Pre-School Education (PCGPSE) were reviewed and this second version amplifies the mentions to technology. The findings include an analysis for each of the six curricular areas and domains. In terms of studies and projects, the “Kids Media Lab Project II” stood out as the only systematic initiative for promoting Computational Thinking in Preschool Education (Pinto, Fernandes & Osório, 2021). In the findings, the main elements of the project are discussed.
Keywords: Early childhood education, algorithmic thinking, algo-little, curricular guidelines, preschool education, computational thinking, Portugal.