By Ann Gadzikowski, CTD Early Childhood Coordinator
"Computer science is well-suited for early childhood education as it offers a learning environment where young children can ‘play to learn while learning to play." – Marina Umaschi Bers, Tufts University, 2014
When it comes to technology and young children, parents and educators may feel they are caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, most children are eager to learn about computer science topics and most adults recognize the need to prepare children for a technologically sophisticated future. On the other hand, concerns about the harmful effects of screen time are growing as new research demonstrates children are spending more time with devices each day and less time engaging in traditional methods of play and learning, such as building with blocks or reading a book.
Fortunately, the foundational concepts of computer science can be taught with a balanced variety of both virtual and tangible tools, by using apps and devices to introduce core concepts such as patterns and sequencing while limiting screen time to short lessons. The curriculum for CTD’s Leapfrog Coding Constructions courses provides a variety of collaborative and creative construction projects that invite young students to expand upon what they learned on the screen and bring those ideas into the real world using blocks, clay, LEGO bricks, cardboard, and other three-dimensional tangible tools. When children are challenged to take what they learned in one domain and represent those concepts in another domain using new tools and language, their work becomes more complex, detailed, and creative.
The varied instructional methods employed in the Leapfrog Coding Constructions courses are informed by the constructionist framework developed by Seymour Papert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Papert’s groundbreaking work emphasizes children’s active engagement in knowledge building through the construction of physical objects.
In the summer of 2016, a team of Northwestern University researchers studied the Leapfrog coding courses and the results demonstrated the success of a constructionist approach that incorporates both virtual and tangible learning tools. To learn more about the study and research on coding in the classroom, check out the resources below!