Trippel Helix Conference on Computational Thinking and Digital Competences in Primary and Secondary Education

The conference focus on how to prepare our students in primary and secondary school for their future. Both national and international speakers present on the theme computational thinking and digital competence.

The background to the conference is the recent revisions to the curriculum for the compulsory school in Sweden where programming is now included from grade 1 and digital competence is emphasized much more.

Keynote speakers:

Jeannette Wing, Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute, Professor of Computer Science, Columbia University – “Computational Thinking”

Riina Vuorikari, Research Fellow, European Commission JRC IPTS – “DigComp: the European framework helping young people to gain digital competence”.

Registration is now open, register for the conference here, lastest August 28th.

Program – Fredag 08 september


Welcome and introduction

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Opening keynote - Computational Thinking - Jeannette Wing, Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute, Professor of Computer Science, Columbia University

Title: Computational Thinking

Abstract: My vision for the 21st Century: Computational thinking will be a fundamental skill used by everyone in the world. To reading, writing, and arithmetic, we should add computational thinking to every child’s analytical ability. Computational thinking involves solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior by drawing on the concepts fundamental to computer science. Thinking like a computer scientist means more than being able to program a computer. It requires the ability to abstract and thus to think at multiple levels of abstraction. In this talk I will give many examples of computational thinking, argue that it has already influenced other disciplines, and promote the idea that teaching computational thinking can not only inspire future generations to enter the field of computer science but benefit people in all fields.

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Session 1

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Computational Thinking Everywhere - Matti Tedre, University of Eastern Finland

Title: Computational Thinking Everywhere

Abstract: Computational thinking (CT) is a popular phrase that refers to computing’s disciplinary ways of thinking and practicing. We acquire those ideas and habits of mind through our work in designing software, simulations, and systems, and they offer powerful mental tools for people who design computations. Although many central ideas of CT are centuries old, a conception of CT as a new way of thinking started to emerge only after the birth of modern computing. CT started to gain wider currency in the academia after the emergence of computational sciences. It also enabled thoroughly empiricist visions for learning and knowledge construction, yet those ideas were not broadly embraced until the 2000s, when a new wave of CT spawned initiatives and educational reforms across the education sector in many countries. This talk presents an overview of the historical currents from which CT has developed as well as some challenges to and misconceptions of CT.

Tedre is a professor at the School of Computing, University of Eastern Finland. He is the author of The Science of Computing: Shaping a Discipline (Taylor and Francis, 2014). He has held various professorships in five countries, and is currently working on the philosophy of computer science, ICT4D, computer science education, and educational technology.

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Teaching Computing - The Good the Bad and the Ugly - Arnold Pears, KTH Royal Institute of Technology/Uppsala University

Title: Teaching Computing – The Good the Bad and the Ugly.

Abstract: Teaching computing computing concepts and computational thinking in schools is a currently a high priority area for research, development and innovation in Swedish schools. The decision to include elements of computing and computational thinking in many areas of the school curriculum mirrors similar efforts in many countries, and poses challenges as well as offering many opportunities. Computing Education Research (CER) has a long tradition of research into learning of computing and computing concepts in tertiary educational settings. What can we learn from this considerable body of research to help us navigate the challenges associated with “computing in schools”? This talk draws on over thirty years of CER scholarship to discuss what research can tell us about what to do, what not to do, and where it can all go horribly wrong.

Speaker: Professor Arnold Pears, KTH, School of Education and Communication in Engineering Sciences and Uppsala University Department of Information Technology.

Bio: Arnold Pears holds joint professorships in Computer Science with specialisation in Computing Education at Uppsala University and Technical Science Education with specialisation in Engineering Education at KTH (The Royal Institute of Technology), both in Sweden.
He received his BSc(Hons) in 1986 and PhD in 1994, both from La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, where he occupied positions as lecturer and senior lecturer between 1991 and 1998. In 1999 he was appointed senior lecturer at Uppsala University, Sweden.

His awards include the Uppsala University Pedagogy Prize (2008), Uppsala University Excellent Teacher at Uppsala University (2012). He has served as a member of the Uppsala University Academic Senate, Programme Director for the IT Engineering programme, member of the selection committee for the Uppsala University Pedgogy prize and educational advisory board of the Faculty of Technology and Natural Sciences.

Professor Pears has a strong interest in teaching and learning research in computer science and engineering. He is Head of the Department of Learning at KTH, and leads the UpCERG research group in computing and engineering education research at Uppsala University. He has published more than 40 articles in the area internationally, and is well known as a computing and engineering education researcher through his professional activities in the ACM, and IEEE, where he has served as a member of the Board of Governors of the IEEE Computer Society, the steering committee of the Frontiers in Education Conference, and as Chair of the IEEE Computer Society Special Technical Community (STC) for Education. He is a Director of CeTUSS (The Swedish National Center for Pedagogical Development of Technology Education in a Societal and Student Oriented Context, and the IEEE Education Society Nordic Chapter.

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A research perspective: Young children's learning and digital competence with tablets - Susanne Kjällander, Stockholm University

Title: A research perspective: Young children’s learning and digital competence with tablets

Abstract: Susanne Kjällander, PhD, Post Doc and senior lecturer on the Department of Child- and Youth Studies at Stockholm University has been doing research on children’s learning in digital learning environments for more than a decade. Her research shows how digital tablets open for new possibilities for our youngest children, enabling them to express themselves multimodally with for example sound, image, symbols and film – even before they can walk and talk. They position themselves as producers rather than consumers, communicating and cooperating in the digital interface – often on their own terms. There is a shift of power where children are transforming and forming the information they meet in the digital interface, a transformation that often questions the teacher’s, or app designer’s, didactic design. Digitalisation is not only a question of equity and democracy, but also about children becoming digitally competent, acting with knowledge and respect already at a young age. With many empirical examples from three Swedish research projects on tablets in preschool, the lecture illustrates what digital competence can be, how complex it is and how computational thinking can be practiced with young children.

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The potential of digital tools for enabling the observation of comprehension in the secondary classroom - Lisbeth M Brevik, University of Oslo

Title: The potential of digital tools for enabling the observation of comprehension in the secondary classroom

Abstract: This presentation examines findings about the role of digital tools in supporting teachers in the challenging task of observing student comprehension in upper secondary school. These findings indicate that digital tools can provide
valuable information to teachers about students’ uses of comprehension strategies, as well as enabling the students to demonstrate or reflect on their own uses of these strategies. Based on interviews, narratives, and observations in four classrooms, these findings suggest that digital tools potentially afford rich information about student processes of learning, in the course of being used for a variety of specific pedagogical purposes in the classroom.

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Panel discussion

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Session 2

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Hands-on in computer programming education: educational effects and brain processes - Anna Eckerdal and Kristina von Hausswolff, Uppsala University

Title: Hands-on in computer programming education: educational effects and brain processes

Abstract: Computer programming is being introduced in curricula in many countries including Sweden. There is consequently a need for basic research on how beginners learn programming. In computer programing as in other laboratory subjects, the student’s active learning in the form of physical motor movements is important. By now, a body of research supports the claim that hands-on activities facilitate learning, not only of practical skills but also of declarative (conceptual) knowledge. However, the scientific basis for this and other proven pedagogical “truths” are surprisingly weak. There are gaps in understanding how, when, and why practical hands-on learning has these positive effects.

In this project, researchers from education and neuroscience jointly engage in the exploration of the conditions of learning from hands-on experiences in upper secondary schools and universities. We focus on computer programming to build a model of hands-on learning based on neural processes and behavioural mechanisms, in parallel with the authentic classroom experience. To this end we will study novice students’ learning to program in three different research settings: through experiments in a computer lab, through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and in an authentic programming course. In this way we will explore attentional, emotional and motivational aspects of hands-on learning with controlled brain imaging and behavioural experiments. In addition, we will study how students in an authentic classroom setting experience hands–on learning.

This research aims at getting insights that could inform teachers in the programming classroom in making appropriate didactical decisions. Another more general aim is to understand the reasons for why hands-on is beneficial for learning.
For more information, see

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Digital Competencies From a School Technology Subject Perspective - More Than Programming - Claes Klasander, Linköping University

Title: Digital Competencies From a School Technology Subject Perspective – More Than Programming

  • Abstract: Developing children’s digital competencies are important parts of technology education. It is so now, but this has also been the case for decades!
    In my presentation I will focus more on the concept of Digital Competence, than on the concept of Programming. The reason for this can be found in research, evaluation results and experiences from the last decades of changes regarding the ambitions with the Swedish school subject Technology and its national curriculae.
    From this position I will discuss three things:
    Technology Education and its relation to Educational Technology,
    Some differences between Swedish compulsory technology education and other countries comparable subjects,
    aims and content,
    The balancing acts between developing computational thinking and coding skills versus teaching for digital competencies – and other competencies. With merely 200 hours of scheduled technology teaching from year 1-9, this balance needs consideration and moderation.

Bio: Claes Klasander is since 2014 director of the Swedish National Centre for School Technology Education, situated at Linköping University.
As a former teacher in Science, Mathematics and Technology for twelve years in lower secondary school, as well as teacher educator at Linköping University for the last 20 years he has rich insights in the pedagogy of technology education and the history of the school subject.
He was in the group who wrote the national curriculum for the Technology subject in 2011 and he has been active in the process with the recent curricular change in 2016-2017.
His PhD thesis in 2010 concerned analysis of teaching technological systems from perspectives of curriculum change, systems thinking and didactical implementation on three arenas – the formulation arena, the mediation arena and the realisation arena.

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Making room for pedagogical innovation: digital competence in teaching practice - Sylvana Sofkova Hashemi, University of Gothenburg

Title: Making room for pedagogical innovation: digital competence in teaching practice

Abstract: The changed conditions for making meaning and organize ideas in a networked and digitally mediated society challenge established teaching and assessment practices as well as teachers’ professional knowing. The complexity in the educational transformation implementing digital technology in instruction needs to be acknowledged in the contextual conditions and relational aspects of classroom work and how they affect what we teach and how we make room for digital encounters. Based on empirical research findings, the role of digital media and technology use shifting between skill-oriented, functional and critical classroom practices will be demonstrated. The notion of digital competence will be here discussed with the intention to highlight teachers’ professional development and a need to provide room for action and address issues of purpose, pedagogy and organisation around technology.

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Panel discussion

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Closing keynote - DigComp: the European framework helping young people to gain digital competence - Riina Vuorikari, Research fellow, Joint Research Center - European Commission

Title: DigComp: the European framework helping young people to gain digital competence

Abstract: The Digital Competence Framework for Citizens, produced by the European Commission, outlines five key component areas of digital competence that citizens need for work and employability, learning, leisure, consumption and participation in society.

First published in 2013, the DigComp framework defines digital competence as being a combination of: (1) Information and data literacy, (2) Communication and collaboration, (3) Digital content creation, (4) Safety, and (5) Problem solving. The intention was to offer European Union Member States a shared definition and understanding of what digital competence is in order to deliver digital skills for all, not only to tackle unemployment and the changing nature of work, but also to make sure that all citizens have equal basis for participation in society.

In this closing keynote of the conference, we first look briefly at digital competence acquisition in Europe and elsewhere (e.g. what do we know about how very young children use digital technologies?), and then talk about the most novel part of DigComp, is its focus on problem solving. This competence area embraces both technical and generic problem solving in a technology-rich environment, namely any type of identification of a need and the capacity to think of a technological response to it. Moreover, the emphasis is also on resolving conceptual problems and
problem situations in digital environments, either individually or collectively, as well as on using technologies creatively to innovate processes and products. We finish by looking at various ways in which the DigComp framework is being used to support digital competence acquisition in Europe.

Find out more about DigComp at:

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