1 School of Education and CI&DEI, Polytechnic of Viseu (PORTUGAL)
2 School of Education, Polytechnic Institute of Viseu (PORTUGAL)
3 School of Technology and Management of Viseu and CISeD, Polytechnic Institute of Viseu (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN23 Proceedings
Publication year: 2023
Page: 5700 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-09-52151-7
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2023.1490
Conference name: 15th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2023
Location: Palma, Spain
A study was developed in the context of a Master's Degree in Early Childhood and Primary Education about the dimensions of algorithmic thinking used by children in the context of a set of guided play sessions with a deck of cards. The study was connected to a project on Algorithmic Thinking (AT) in Early Childhood Education (ECE), ALGO-LITTLE, an EU-funded project, with partners from Portugal, Italy, Turkey, and Slovenia, searching for ways to integrate Algorithmic Thinking skills into preschool education for the purpose of preparing future code literates starting from an early age. The study focuses on how guided play can contribute to the development of AT by children, and on the evaluation of a deck of cards created to support creative collaborative drawing and the development of algorithmic thinking. Algorithmic thinking has been considered as part of curricula for Early Childhood Education, on its own or in connection to computational thinking. 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. The articulation with play or play-based approaches requires further research since both free play and guided play can contribute to AT learning. In free play, the child initiates and directs the play. In guided play, an adult chooses or arranges a context for learning, and the child directs the play within that context. Research has highlighted that guided play, with its adult support and focus on a particular learning goal, may offer an optimal pedagogical approach in specific domains (like STEM or literacy) in which children perform better in guided play than in free play and equal to or better than in direct instruction. The reviewed studies suggested that guided play would be more suitable for a particular concept like AT. The study was also inspired by research on pedagogical approaches that connect the curriculum as lived experiences and as planned experiences. It was an interpretative study, following a design-based research approach. The data was produced through participant observation of the teacher-researcher in the 14 sessions developed with four 5-year-old children in the ECE setting using the deck. The researcher conducted individual and group interviews with the children. The content analysis drew all the data together and was cross-checked with two researchers. The children were invited to participate in the study one by one, after an adequate explanation of what was involved and required. All four accepted to participate. The invitation was repeated for each session. Parents were informed and signed informed consent. Children used and explored different dimensions of AT in their activities and were able to discuss concepts involved in AT. The results organize the children’s experiences and actions under five categories: sequence, cycle, condition, step, and creation. All five are part of algorithmic thinking and were present in the deck of cards. The discussion of the results with the literature on AT and play concludes that free and guided play need to be highlighted in the discussion of concepts like AT in ECE.
Algorithmic thinking, early childhood education, deck of cards, guided play, creativity.