EU Code Week: Workshop “Computational thinking without computers”
Publication date: October 19, 2023
EU Code Week represents an initiative that promotes programming and digital literacy across Europe. In fact, its activities during the week, as well as throughout the year, aim to encourage people of all age groups to explore the world of programming and technology and also to develop an awareness of the applicability of computational thinking in various aspects of life. Events and activities such as workshops, lectures, courses, and online resources are usually free and available to anyone interested in participating, regardless of their prior programming experience.
The goals of EU Code Week include: increasing awareness of the importance of digital literacy and programming, fostering the spread of programming knowledge among youth, teachers, parents, and the general public, promoting creativity and innovation through programming, and connecting and encouraging collaboration between organizations, schools, government bodies, and other stakeholders in the fields of education and technology.
Gymnasium Vukovar consistently participates in EU Code Week and conducts various activities to promote digital literacy, computational thinking, and programming among children and youth. For instance, this year, students and teachers from Gymnasium Vukovar, organized a workshop titled “Computational Thinking Without Computers.”
The workshop took place at Studium, an institution for adult education in Vukovar, on October 11, 2023. Certainly, the event has been a unique opportunity for children and youth to dive into the world of computational thinking, even without using actual computers.
The workshop featured four diverse activities, each with its own special emphasis on the development of computational thinking:
Cat Origami Assembly:
The first activity involved origami, a Japanese technique of folding and shaping paper. Participants were given cards with steps for assembling a cat: their task was to assemble the cards in the correct order and carefully follow the steps to create the cat. Subsequently, through this activity, children and young people could see and understand how algorithms are used to achieve specific goals and also how the sequence of actions affects the final result.
2. Networking Challenge:
The second activity prompted participants to think about networking, a fundamental concept in the world of computer science.
Hence, they were presented with a challenge to connect all the buildings in a city with minimal space (resources) consumption. Further, this game encouraged them to consider efficient solutions and optimization, exploring how computer logic is applied in everyday life.
3. Coding Emojis:
The third activity aimed at understanding pixels and their role in displaying images on computers. Here, participants were introduced to the concept of pixels and how different colors and their positions create images on the screen. Through this activity, students learned how computers “see” images and how information about the color of each pixel serves to describe images.
4. Encryption using the Caesar cipher:
The last activity involved encryption: an important aspect of the computer world. Participants were introduced to the Caesar cipher, an ancient encryption technique. It involves shifting letters of the alphabet by a certain number of positions, known as the “key.” The activity contributed to understanding the basics of encryption, and deciphering secret messages highlighted the importance of the “key” and its essential role in uncovering hidden messages.
These engaging activities provided participants with the opportunity to become aware of and develop their own computational thinking and problem-solving skills, even without the use of computers. In fact, by solving the carefully designed challenges, participants acquired numerous valuable learning outcomes.
For example: understanding the fundamentals of algorithms and how algorithms are used to solve problems, realizing the importance of the sequence of steps and its impact on the final result, developing logical thinking and enhancing the ability to plan steps to achieve a goal.
The workshop directly influenced the development of computational thinking by encouraging abstract thinking and problem solving in a computer context, even without the use of actual computers. Indeed, through practical experience, participants gained a fundamental understanding of network connectivity. They also recognized the importance of resource optimization for effective networking.
This knowledge is invaluable for understanding networking in the world of technology. Participants certainly mastered the basics of pixels and graphical representation and became more proficient in understanding image display using pixels, which is directly applicable in game development, web design, and various other aspects of digital art. By creating and applying the Caesar cipher, they acquired fundamental knowledge of encryption and understood the reasons for and the importance of data protection through encryption. In addition to the above, the workshop emphasized the importance of teamwork, and participants actively collaborated and communicated with each other, sharing their knowledge and insights during the activities. They improved their teamwork skills, which are crucial for effective problem-solving and future collaborative endeavors.
Numerous achieved learning outcomes significantly contributed to the development of each individual participant in the field of not only computational thinking but also logical thinking and problem-solving. The acquired skills will enable participants to confidently apply them in various situations in the future, whether they choose a career in computer science or other fields. The workshop has been a great success and has provided participants with inspiration to continue exploring and studying the fascinating world of technology and computer science.
Author: Sanja Pavlović Šijanović, Leading Teacher Croatia and Davor Šijanović, Gymnasium Vukovar