MODELING – A COMPUTATIONAL THINKING CONCEPT AND TOOL FOR CROSS-CURRICULAR TEACHING

C. Salbrechter, I. Kölblinger, B. Sabitzer

Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt (AUSTRIA)
The importance and application of computational thinking, a problem solving process of computing science, has grown in the last years. This results from its major impact on a variety of fields of knowledge due to the thinking and problem solving competences included, e.g. modeling. In the educational area, the concept of modeling can be used by teachers of any subject in order to provide a new and innovative access to visualize states, processes, relationships, vocabulary etc. There is an essential reason for why this concept should be used in teaching especially foreign languages.

Pisa studies have shown that students nowadays lack the skills to understand the main messages of written texts. They struggle with basic structures, and therefore, are not able to select between major and minor arguments in a text. The idea of modeling opens a new way of understanding to them. But how exactly can this concept help teachers to convey their knowledge as well as support students to gain knew information?

Modeling is a process that filters essential information from a text (the thinking process behind is abstraction) and afterwards, it presents and visualizes them in different forms of diagrams. By doing that, this computer science concept offers students a visual input that supports recognizing and identifying structures as well as relations between words and sentences. In this paper we concentrate on two types of diagrams: entity-relationship diagrams, that originally visualize the structure of databases, and class diagrams, the basis for object oriented programming. We demonstrate how the concept of modeling can be introduced in English as a foreign language in order to support students of lower secondary schools in text comprehension. It is of paramount importance for these young students to understand the basics of how the English language is structured. As a result, we assume that using modelling techniques may raise the awareness for textual relationships and students will be more successful in text comprehension as well as text writing. This hypothesis will be tested in a workshop at the University of Klagenfurt and a school lesson at the Ingeborg-Bachmann Gymnasium in Klagenfurt where students are supposed to work independently. The paper reports on the workshops as well as on the students’ and teachers’ experiences and feedback.