Guidelines for the analysis of pedagogical resources that can be used to teach “Computational Thinking” in fundamental schools

There are many pedagogical resources on the market that can be used to teach “computational thinking”, but it is not always easy to know which ones to choose. Obviously, teachers want to use resources that they (and their students) master (enough) to use and that fit their learning objectives. It might also seem obvious to some that pedagogical resources themselves rarely or even never do the teaching themselves. Teachers need to design and enact pedagogical scenarios around such resources and are free to decide what functions and roles the resources play in the learning and teaching process. The same resources could thus be used in rather different ways depending on the pedagogical scenario designed by the teacher. However, pedagogical resources have certain (material and pedagogical) affordances and constraints and thus suggest certain uses more than others.

The following guidelines meant to help teachers

  1. to think about the embedded affordances and inherent characteristics of pedagogical resources in a structured way,
  2. to decide how valuable and useful they find these pedagogical resources, and
  3. to decide how they want to use them when designing (and implementing) pedagogical scenarios to teach “computational thinking”.

These guidelines have been designed and experimented with during the PIAF project to analyse available pedagogical resources. We have used them to structure various analyses of pedagogical resources available on the market and published them in a repository here on our project’s website (LINK).

The guidelines use the TPACK model as a guiding principle. It first proposes to look at the material and technical aspects of the resource, then it proposes to look at the content embedded in the pedagogical resource and finally it proposes to look at the resource from a pedagogical point of view. The questions are meant to guide you in your analysis, you do not have to find an answer to each question to nevertheless get a better insight into the affordances of the pedagogical resource you are analysing. Feel free to add other relevant dimensions to your own analysis.

A good starting point can be to briefly describe the pedagogical resource and then to more systematically analyse it.

Short description of the pedagogical resource

 

Analysis of the material and technical aspects of the pedagogical resource

A good first step might be to consider the material and technical aspects of a pedagogical resource before planning to use it in our teaching activities. Here are some guiding questions that you can use to structure this part of your analysis.

  • Is the resource open-source (free to copy, edit, distribute)?
  • What is the price of the resource and/or its use (if any)? Can I afford to buy/use it?
  • Does the resource require specific hardware? In particular does this hardware require access to an electric plug or batteries?
  • Does the resource require specific software? In particular, is the resource compatible with various environments (operating systems, such as Windows 7, MacOS, Android, IOs, etc.)?
  • Do we need access to the Internet to use the resource (online vs. offline resource)?
  • How fragile are the teaching materials?
  • Does the resource provide printable learning materials (e.g. exercise sheets, handouts)?
  • Does the resource collect personal data about its users? How does it handle privacy rights?

Analysis of the content of the pedagogical resource

Whenever we want to use a pedagogical resource in a teaching activity, we should have a look at its content. Here are some guiding questions that you can use to structure this part of your analysis.

  • Is all the information contained in the resource correct and reliable? Are there references to verifiable sources?
  • Which Computational Thinking concepts (e.g. conditions, loops, variables, constants, functions, identifiers, inputs, outcomes, iterations, parameters) are covered?
  • Which CT competences can be addressed with the help of the resource?
  • In what language(s) is the resource available?
  • In how far does the resource propose authentic links to real-world computational problems?

Analysis of the pedagogical aspects of the pedagogical resource

Pedagogical resources are based on implicit or explicit assumptions about learning and teaching processes. Of course, we can always decide to use a resource according to our own teaching approach, but we need to think about this in advance. In order to be more aware of the affordances of such resources and to see if they are aligned with our own teaching philosophy, we should have a look at the embedded pedagogical aspects. Here are some guiding questions that you can use to structure this part of your analysis.

  • What are the (explicit or implicit) assumptions about learning and teaching processes embedded into the resource?
  • Which teaching approach is the resource most suited for? Does it lend itself for direct instruction or can it be used for inquiry-based learning?
  • What is/are the most likely role(s) of the learners when confronted with this resource? Are they supposed to passively consume information? Are they supposed to interact with the resource to get information of their choice? Are they supposed to interact with the resource to solve a given problem? Are they supposed to interact with the resource to create and produce something new and original?
  • Which of the 8 Learning & Teaching Events can the resource be used for?
  • Does the resource allow the learner(s) to work autonomously, or does it require the presence of a teacher? Does the resource provide feedback to learners?
  • Which level of cognitive learning objectives, according to Bloom’s taxonomy, does the resources allow us to aim at?
  • For what age group is the resource most suited for?

Conclusion about the analysed pedagogical resource

Download our template to write up your own analyses of existing pedagogical resources.