Basic assumptions of algorithmic and programming in school teaching

Modern school should, among other things, prepare a young person for life in a changing technological world, at the same time in a world based on the unchanging laws of nature. The ability to function in society is also important. In connection with the above, it will be necessary to be able to communicate, cooperate in a team, as well as the ability to describe phenomena, the ability to solve problems, including through the creation and use of models.

Today it is not a problem to get to the information. The ubiquitous technology gives you the opportunity to search information quickly and effectively. The problem is its creative use, the ability to build knowledge, and thus the ability to use it in solving problems, including atypical ones, deviating from standards.

An extremely important task of the school is to develop students’ learning skills, creative thinking skills, overcoming the barrier of “intellectual laziness”.

New technologies enable the use of new means of describing reality, and IT provides tools for computer modelling of reality and for solving problems. Knowledge of algorithms, basics of programming, programming language has become almost as important as knowledge of a foreign language.

In the current teaching model, two main trends clash: behaviourism and constructivism.

The creator of behaviourism was John B. Watson. This trend has dominated the pedagogical sciences. Many behaviourist views deviate far from the requirements of today’s school, today’s education. However, this trend cannot be completely ignored because some of its assumptions are still effective, of course often in a modified form, adequate to today’s reality. Above all, the question is raised by the fact that behaviourism treats the student as a blank sheet of paper, on which the teacher writes down, in order that he has planned, content. Through appropriate selection of the consequences of behaviour, i.e. rewards and punishments, strengthens or weakens the student’s behaviour. As a result, this approach leads to programmed teaching (based on an unchanging, rigid curriculum) and directive (frequent use of the method of giving, criticizing student’s failures, appealing to authorities, giving guidance).

The basic assumption of constructivism is to treat the student as an active person who is the creator of his own knowledge. Knowledge cannot be passed on to the student (information can be provided), the student must build his / her own knowledge. The student’s activity in the process of building one’s own knowledge is important. Constructivism indicates that a student is not an empty vessel, which is filled by a teacher, but a person actively constructing his knowledge.

Constructionism is one of the trends of constructivism (it is a learning strategy as well as an educational strategy). Constructionism assumes that in the learning process, students actively engage in creating their own objects, events, ideas, ideas, which within the content they teach can be shared with others for the purpose of joint analysis and reflection. For constructionism, the social aspect is not insignificant – learning through team cooperation, discussion, exchange of views. As constructionism envisages the construction of material, external (existing outside of reason) representation of abstraction, it is particularly important that the external form of knowledge representation, proof of understanding issues and phenomena, is a computer program, and in principle an algorithm. In addition, by including the above in the reverse cause-and-effect hierarchy, the very process of creating an algorithm (computer program) requires deepening and understanding the problem (phenomenon). The process of creating an algorithm (program) is a process in which a person who creates an algorithm also creates his / her knowledge of the analysed problem (phenomenon), so we can talk about learning by creating algorithms, learning through programming.

Eight great ideas of constructionism according to Seymour Papert, South African mathematician and computer scientist, among others author of the LOGO programming language:

“The first great idea is learning through creation. We learn better when learning is part of doing something that really interests us. We learn the most effectively when we can use what we have learned to satisfy our needs or desires.

The second big idea is technology as a material. With technology you can create much more interesting things and create them you can learn a lot more. This particularly applies to digital technology.

The third idea is the idea of a lot of fun. We learn and work best when we enjoy it. But “we are happy”, it does not mean “it is easy”. The hardest fun gives you the most satisfaction. Our sport heroes work very hard to be the best in their discipline. The best carpenter finds joy in carpentry. The most effective businessman enjoys the difficult whipping of business.

The fourth big idea is the idea of learning how to learn. Many students believe that the only way to learn is that someone has to teach you. This is the reason for failures at school and in life. No one can teach you everything you need to know. You must take responsibility for your learning yourself.

The fifth great idea – give yourself time to do the job. Many students get the habit out of school that someone speaks every five minutes or every hour: do it, do that and now. If someone does not dictate to them what to do, they start to get bored. In life, it is completely different to create something really important; you have to learn how to manage your own time. This is the most difficult lesson for many students.

The sixth idea is the most important of all: there is no success without failures. Nothing really important works right away. The only way to success is to carefully analyse what and why it does not work properly. To succeed, you must free yourself from the fear of mistakes.

The seventh great idea – practice it yourself, what you recommend to students. We’ve been learning all our lives. Although we have extensive experience of working on projects, everyone is different and usually realizing the next one we cannot predict with all details in advance how it will work. We enjoy what we do, but we know that hard work awaits us. Every difficulty is an opportunity to learn. The best lesson we can give to our students is to teach them how we learn.

The eighth great idea: we are entering a digital world in which knowledge of digital technology is as important as reading and writing. So learning about computers is crucial for the future of our students. But the most important goal is to use them NOW to learn other things.” (Walat, 2007b)

The use of algorithms in teaching undoubtedly fits in with the constructionist educational strategy. The algorithm itself is inextricably linked with technology, as well as stimulates creative thinking and the need to search for optimal solutions.