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Socks THEN Shoes...Computational Thinking with Little Learners... It's All Around You!

Participate and share

Participate and share : Interactive lecture

Tuesday, June 25, 4:15–5:15 pm
Location: Liberty Ballroom, Marriott

Gail Lovely  
Together we will explore Computational Thinking in early learning settings. What might it look like? How does it fit with other curriculum? How can it be developmentally appropriate? You will leave with specific activities and strategies for a more intentional approach to computational thinking and computer science.

Audience: Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty, Library media specialists
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: A QR Code scanner and internet access could be useful.

A healthy eagerness to learn, share and explore the ideas of others.

Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Early childhood/elementary
Grade level: PK-2
Subject area: STEM/STEAM, Computer science
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Computational Thinker
  • Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.
For Educators:
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
  • Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

The importance of being a problem solving, lifelong learner is brought home to most adults quite often. Get a new washing machine and you have to transfer some of what you knew about the old washing machine, and perhaps forget much of what you knew, to be able to get clean clothes from the new one. An impossible load you need to pack into your suitcase on your way home from a conference and still keep it under 50 pounds is a real-world problem to solve, and some computer games seem to require thinking ahead further than a chess master must think ahead.

The curricular load in the early years (3 to 8 year olds) has grown incredibly since the famous “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum was published in 1986. And NOW we are learning that Computational Thinking and Computer Science belongs in these early years too!?

This session will provide insight into how this may actually be a great fit in early education and how the things we already do in the early years fit very well with computational thinking. Sequencing, patterns, problem solving, breaking down tasks into smaller steps, generalizing… all are important parts of CT and will be explored in this session. It will become easier to see the “fit” of CT and CS with young learners as ideas, models and examples are shared and participants actually participate in some of these sorts of activities.

This session will have been successful if participants leave thinking that they can be more overt and conscious of the many places CT or CS can be easily integrated into learning in their classroom and are still thinking of the session the very next day. The presenter will be providing some online support and collaboration/sharing tools for continued discussion after the session ends.


Welcome and Introductions (10 min.)
Participants will share via an online tool their comfort and knowledge about CT and CS. This will serve as a starting point (formative assessment) for the session and a place for starting with some shared vocabulary.

What is CT? What does it look like? (30 min)
Overview and examples of the Major Components of CT in the context of the Developmental needs of young learners
After an overview of the major components of CT we will explore some classroom activities and label parts of the activities with the components of CT that may be included.
Through participation in a couple of quick demonstrations and discussion the participants will begin to see how CT can be a natural fit in their classrooms.

Children’s Literature with Excellent Connections to CT – an exploration and sharing (10 min)
The facilitator will share a few children’s books which are either designed to provide CT connections in early learning or could be easily adapted for this use. Then the entire group will brainstorm and share out additional books which could be used for this purpose.

A Call to Action and Closing (5 min)
A quick overview of lessons learned during the session and a reminder of the importance of the thinking behind CT and the future of our children.

Supporting research

Bers, M. U. (2008). Blocks to robots: Learning with technology in the early childhood classroom. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Donohue, C. (Ed.) (2015). Technology and digital media in the early years: Tools for teaching and learning. New York: Routledge & Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children

Papert, Seymour. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas. New York: Basic Books.

Takeuchi, L. M., & Vaala, S. (2014). Level up learning: A national survey on teaching with digital games. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

Wing, Jeannette M. (2006). Computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 49(3), 33-35. from

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Gail Lovely, Suddenly It Clicks!

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