1 University of Jyväskylä (FINLAND)
2 Ruhr West University of Applied Sciences (GERMANY)
3 Ellinogermaniki Agogi (GREECE)
4 Miksike OU (ESTONIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2021 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 5895-5901
ISBN: 978-84-09-27666-0
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2021.1184
Conference name: 15th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-9 March, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Schools and curricula have been mostly static and constant for the last 100 years. Computers were popularized about 40 years ago in the 80’s and internet 20 years ago in the early 2000’s, but consistent implementation of computer science (CS) is still in early stages in many preliminary and middle schools (Eickelmann, 2017). National curricula have information and communication technology (ICT), but only a few have practical implementation guidelines (Bourgeois, 2019). The digital transformation taking place everywhere and in every area of work requires new competencies for everyone (Sousa, 2019). The sooner schools adapt to the demand of new skills, the better.

For middle school students to understand and learn programming logic, preliminary and elementary schools should first teach computational thinking and other basic skills. National curricula of every country under scope of this research mention ICT, CS and/or computational thinking (CT) (Bourgeois, 2019), but the content and implementation is left for teachers to decide according to the interviewees (Finland, Estonia, Germany and Greece, 10 teachers each). Without unambiguous definition and guidelines, implementation varies a lot between schools and even between teachers. For example, in Estonian curriculum digital competence is one of the mandatory general competencies that schools are required to develop in the pupils (Lauringson, 2017). However, most interviewed Estonian teachers say they’d need more allocated enough time, resources or teacher education to carry this out.

The aim of this study is to understand the most common barriers for teaching computational thinking in Europe. Total of 40 teachers from four different countries were interviewed about teaching of CT and other computer skills. Interview study was a descriptive face to face survey with open questions. Participants were chosen as a convenience sampling and was directed to active CT, ICT and CS teachers. This study concentrates on the difficulties and barriers of teaching basics of computer science to the preliminary and middle school students. Results were tabulated and compared with different countries. Most common barriers found in all countries were lack of time, lack of teacher education, lack of material and lack of resources. The results vary between countries. Interview data show that German and Estonian teachers find the lack of resources as the most common barrier, Greek teachers say lack of time is the most common barrier and Finnish teachers are the only ones finding teacher motivation as a barrier.

Interviewee data show a common need for ICT to be its own subject with allocated time, well made material and enough up-to-date computers to work on. More allocated time or a designated subject would mean major changes in curriculum, but interviewed teachers think it would be necessary. If there would be a designated subject for ICT and CS, publishers would have an incentive to make material to meet the demand. Now it hasn’t happened and material is created on a voluntary basis. By sharing created material and practices, teachers can create an environment for better ICT education. Up-to-date computers are a budget issue and might need a multipronged solution. Some solutions would be leasing the computers or buying them as a service (Devices as a Service, DaaS), which would make the budget easier to estimate.
Computational Thinking, Barriers, Teaching, Curriculum, Competences, computer science, Information and communication technology.