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.
On this special edition, expect to hear valuable advice from the mama that does it all- Candice, and her adorable 6-year old daughter! As the co-founder of Coding Lab, Candice juggles between her passion for Computational Thinking and her two lovely children, Audrey and Mitchell. Instead of struggling to find a balance between work and home, she has successfully integrated Computational Thinking into her children’s everyday lives. What better way to learn about this subject than hearing it from this power mother-daughter duo themselves?
“Why do you think Computational Thinking is important in the Smart Nation?”
A Smart Nation is developed based on 3 key areas; Infrastructure, Technology, and People. These 3 areas must work closely to improve the quality of lives, and the implementation is based on the adoption of effective technology to improve the quality of living.
Whilst we can be sure that the technology aspect is developed by an increasingly larger group of professionals who apply Computational Thinking to develop and deploy new technologies in various aspects to the public, it is also critical for the community as a whole to develop the mindset of and basic understanding of this skill, in order to challenge and spark new ideas.
For example, apps such as Parking.sg, and myEnv have radically transformed the way we do things. Such an endeavour would only have been possible when you apply Computational Thinking to an everyday activity (tearing coupons for parking time) and gain valuable feedback from the user community. Additionally, a stronger understanding of it would also lead to safer cyber-security practises (In the home and at work), which is applicable to everyday life given the fast-moving pace of technology in today's digital society.
“How would Computational Thinking benefit a learner, even if they are not intending to go into the ICT field?”
We study Mathematics, Music and Languages when we are young at school, but not everyone of us will grow up to be in these fields. However, we apply what we have learned in our everyday lives, to communicate with one another at the office or at work. With ICT becoming increasingly pervasive in our daily lives, it makes sense to learn to understand it and use it, instead of merely consuming it.
“For young children, what are some instances that Computational Thinking can be applied in their lives?”
Computational Thinking need not involve the use of digital devices or gadgets. Simply put, Computational Thinking is the process of applying logical thinking to break down (decompose) a complex problem, in order to develop a step-by-step solution (that may be executed by a computer) to solve the problem. This is extremely applicable in everyday life.
For my kids, day to day activities such as building a sandcastle (where they have to first figure out how the final structure should look, and then break it down into the various required buildings, then finally preparing the materials they need to build it step by step is a way of training them up. Similarly after they have read their favourite stories or watched their favourite cartoons, I would ask them to distill the key scenes and plot and try to recreate their favourite scenes using Scratch JR and giving their characters the right instructions (code) to do certain actions. That is when they realise that a simple action that takes 1 second in a movie, (eg. the fairy flies right to left) can take a good amount of planning (how far will the fairy go on this screen)? What are the blocks required and do they repeat? This teaches them critical thinking, and builds their confidence in active participation and understanding the things that happen around them.
Editor's note: Who knew we could learn a new skill while building a sandcastle on the beach or watching cartoon? This shows how Computational Thinking is really a mindset and way of thinking, and a valuable skill that is applicable in everything that we do!
"What kind of barriers do you think are are preventing parents from letting their children pick up CT?"
There is often the misconception that CT = screentime, which is not true!
Editor's note: Tiny Thinkers has a wide array of unplugged, offline activities that you can carry out with your child to develop their Computational Thinking skills!
In fact in our preschool coding classes at Coding Lab, screen time takes only up to 30% of the total class time. Activities such as acting out the code / robo-programming their friends or giving clear instructions to the instructor work hand in hand CT is a mindset; a way of thinking that can be developed, and screens and devices are but 1 way to assist with the development.
“Can you share with us some success stories of your students?”
We have had a primary school student who loved to play games. After learning to code, he decided to create a game for his brother to play. He now plays the games that he creates himself. For the younger kids, being able to guide them from simply saying 'It's there" to "It is 5 squares to the right of the cat" is a huge milestone. They learn to give specific instructions for each activity, which they apply at home. For example, being able to describe where the moon is relative to where daddy is standing or telling mummy where to retrieve their toy which they might have hidden somewhere secret.
Editor's note: Let's speak with Audrey!
"Why do you enjoy CT?"
Audrey: I made a card for mummy on Mother's Day last year. In my card, I drew mummy having golden hair, like a princess and then I recorded myself telling mummy that I love her. My card was pink, my favourite colour. I always like to make Papa Hare jump up and down with Baby Hare (Candice: Reference to "Guess How Much I Love You" - a book used in our preschool curriculum).
When mummy brings home the Photon or mBot, I will take turns with my brother to play with it. We can make the mBot collect balls, and Photon can change colour and eat fruits just like the Hungry Caterpillar (Reference: Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar). For my birthday, my friends and I played with play doh and my friends played a "Happy Birthday" song to me with the computer that mummy brought to the party. It was very fun.
"How do you think CT has helped you in overcoming failures?"
Audrey: Sometimes I find it difficult to direct Photon to the treasure. My teacher will help me and teach me how to give him the right (coding) card and say out the direction "Right/ Left". When I want my brother to help me to pick up my colour pencils which he dropped on the floor, I will use the same directions so that he will know where to find them.
"What are some words of encouragement you will give to parents and children who are thinking of learning CT?"
Audrey: Try it! It is very fun.
"Why should your friends learn CT?"
Audrey: My friends said that they liked my party even though the games played were coding games. We had a lot of fun hitting the instruments loudly (Ref: We hooked Makey Makey to the computer, and kids who touched the play doh would create percussion sounds in Scratch) to my birthday song.
Editor’s note: Sounds like a really fun birthday party, Audrey! Coding games can be fun and educational too :)