Mega-mind Mondays: Computational Thinking At Home

Welcome to Mega-Mind Mondays! This series feature both students and parents who have embarked on this fruitful journey of Computational Thinking. Over here, inclusivity is our mission. Expect to hear stories from different backgrounds and walks of life, like a special needs child who found his passion in programming and a parent of a 4 year-old Computational Thinker who is also a coding teacher. After all, this is what we believe in - that Computational Thinking is for anyone and everyone, without discrimination.

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Trixie is only four years old this year, but she is able to help the older kids in her class with their homework in Computational Thinking classes. All thanks to her mother, Joy, who is also a coding tutor, she is exposed early to Computational Thinking and this has done her lots of good. Let’s hear it from the coding tutor herself, about how she introduces Computational Thinking to her little one and her experiences watching other kids grow on this journey.

“As a tutor, you must know the importance of Computational Thinking and its benefits, even though sometimes they are not tangible or observable. What are some of the changes you have seen in your child after she started learning Computational Thinking?”

I noticed that Trixie started to have a better understanding of how things come about. Sometimes, she will tell my husband or me that things must done in a sequence. She is able to explore different ways to complete a task eg. different ways to wear her socks, button or unbutton her clothes... Overall, she is more receptive to explore and try out new ways and methods to complete a single task.

In the recent preschool Computational Thinking class, despite being the youngest, she was able to help some older students with sequential phrases like: “First you need a “Green Flag”, then go to the blue “Motion” blocks to select the “Up” and “Down” blocks.

What amazed me was that, these were the things I taught her during my free time. By allowing her to explore on her own, she is now able to replicate it to help others.

We are what we observe and are exposed to. It is the same for adults as it is for children.

Editor’s note: Kudos to Trixie! At such a tender age of 4, she is already able to pick up the concepts of Computational Thinking and apply it. While research has shown that it is appropriate for children aged between 4 to 7 to start learning Computational Thinking, each child is unique and it is never too early to let your child have a go at some of our games!

“Why do you think it’s important for parents to show support for their child’s learning in Computational Thinking?”

In this fast evolving technological age, everything comes ready-made. Most children do not have an idea of the process involved in creating something. Simple things like making “jump”. To them a “jump” is a “jump”. From a CT point of view, it involves an upward action followed by a downward motion. Each jump is different, depending on the individual’s motion dynamics.

When we introduce children to the concept of learning through observation, their brains get stimulated and they begin to become aware of their surroundings. This sparks an entire new level of thinking. They start to be more appreciative of things as they are no longer just a receiver but also a contributor of great ideas.

The brain of a child is much more interesting and amazing than we can comprehend. They just need their parents to introduce them to the right channel. We ought to guide them along, show them the support and they will fly.

In class, I had a 6 year old student who came to a class meant for 7 years old and above. Whilst one might say that a 1 year different is not that much, but the gap was actually rather noticeable. In fact, he was faster than the other children and was able to explain what I just taught in class to other older classmates in his own words. Towards the end of the lesson, he created a two-player treasure hunt project that was beyond my expectations for the class. During his presentation, he was confident in his sharing and told the class that his project was still a work in progress as he had much more ideas brewing in his head. I was blown away. I had a chat with his mum after the class and I found that he has been exposed to computers at a young age with a given time limit (controlled screen-time). Within the time limit, he was able to explore different aspects of the computer/program. After which, his mother would encourage him to share about the interesting things he had discovered.

Children need their parent’s time and involvement in their lives. They will be encouraged by to know that their parents are learning with them and to know that their parents are interested in what they are doing or learning through the whole learning process. Give them the space to explore and the room to make mistakes. Guide them through their mistakes, reinforce what they had learnt and laugh with them through the whole learning process. It makes learning more interesting and enjoyable for them.

Sometimes, I learn things from my 4 year old and through the students I taught. They are amazing individuals who have a lot of interesting thoughts. If we take the time to observe, support, guide and encourage them to share confidently (be it right or wrong), they will achieve so much more.

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“How do you encourage and support your child’s interest in Computational Thinking and reinforce her learnings?”

I will take the time to share with her how things come about. We are always introducing her to coding programs and will do it together. We also bring her to classes at Coding Lab.

At home, my husband and I will share with Trixie about certain sequences on daily happenings or actions and how it came about. We give her space to share her opinions and try out her ideas together.

When she was given a chance to do coding on the iPad, we were able to use real-life incidents as examples that related to her. These gave her a better understanding, which she could then apply to her project.

“What do you think are some misconceptions that parents have about Computational Thinking?”

CT is to train a child to be literate in computer IT

This is not true at all. In fact, computational thinking is about developing the skill of logic thinking and learning to break down a big problem into smaller ones to solve it one by one. Confidence is built through this process and it can be applied to every aspect of their lives.

The child will be computer-savvy after one lesson

Practice makes permanent. Parents should encourage their child to keep on practising what they had learnt in class and get them to explore further. This will help them to progress in great lengths and the progress will be noticeable during the next stage of the course.

Too much screen time for the children

Set a time limit and stick to it. This will help create a healthy habit of working within given time. For example, set a duration and a theme to work on. Within that time limit, ask them what they have done or discovered.

Editor’s note: If you are still uncomfortable with screen time, Tiny Thinkers has a wide array of offline activities that can help develop your child’s Computational Thinking skill as well!