THE INTEGRATION OF ALGORITHMIC THINKING INTO PRESCHOOL EDUCATION

.J. Mezak, P. Pejić Papak, L. Vujičić 

University of Rijeka, Faculty of Teacher Education (CROATIA)
Algorithmic thinking involves the ability to think so that the problem to be solved is interpreted as a series of simple and small tasks that lead to a solution. An algorithm is a set of simple instructions that lead to the solution of a task. Instructions should be specified in a way that anyone can solve the problem. Algorithmic thinking skills are not just related to computer science and programming. These skills are used in all areas of activity when solving problems. Integrating problem-solving processes can increase teachers’ skills and improve their practices. Furthermore, this method can contribute to the development of creativity and logical thinking in children, which they can apply in future similar situations. First the problem must be understood, while it is necessary to assess how it can be solved and how to choose the best strategies. Thereafter the problem is broken into smaller sub-problems which are solved step by step. In this way algorithmic thinking skills can be used and taught in early and preschool education, with children encountering a new problem or situation every time. The role of educators is to guide children and help them to understand, assess and recognize the problem themselves and to help them handle the steps of solving the problem whether they are right or not. Children can easily learn about the concept of algorithms using examples from their everyday life. By learning algorithmic thinking skills, children can more easily interpret data and develop thinking strategies to understand and solve problems at a very early age.

The ongoing Erasmus+ project “Algolittle- Algorithmic Thinking Skills through Play-Based Learning for Future’s Code Literates” involved 46 educators from kindergartens in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar and Istria counties in the Republic of Croatia within the Workshop for the Integration of Algorithmic Thinking Skills into Preschool Education. The participants were introduced to algorithmic thinking skills through play-based activities for stimulating algorithmic thinking of their children in everyday situations. Discussions followed about algorithms, algorithmic thinking skills and integration activities. After the workshop, a qualitative analysis of the educators´ opinions of the integration of algorithmic thinking skills into preschool practice was carried out. The educators expressed satisfaction with the educational program because they realized that they had already partially applied algorithmic thinking skills in practice. However, through the workshop, they adopted strategies for applying the integration of algorithmic thinking skills in everyday activities that they realize with children.