Page: 292-300 Author: BRESNIHAN, N., MILLWOOD, R., OLDHAM, E., STRONG, G., WILSON, D. Key words: computational thinking, ICT, United Kingdom, Ireland, historical development of computing in education, curriculum, education policy
Computing is experiencing a resurgence of interest in schools, and this has led to the emergence of computational thinking as a key 21st century skill forming part of the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) agenda. In England, Ireland and many other countries, industry demands better prepared graduates to develop solutions using technology. In practice, this has led to expecting children as young as five to begin to learn to program computers in England and in Ireland to the establishment of computer clubs. The sceptic would warn that we have been here before. Computing courses were first introduced in the late 1970s and early 1980s only to see their decline as the study of office applications, multimedia and online communications technology took over, offering a broader information technology, digital literacy and creative opportunity to all learners. The recent re-introduction of computing may be critiqued as an ill-considered knee jerk reaction. It may be that the call for more computing in schools is simply capital seeking cheaper labour rather than empowerment of learners’ creative and curiosity. This discussion paper argues that we should properly invest in pedagogical research, continuing professional development and curriculum development to ensure that the proposed benefits to learners do accrue and better understand their nature.