Computational thinking (CT) is increasingly important for learning and success in the workforce. CT skills allow children to think creatively and solve problems in systematic ways. However, little is known about how parents can facilitate children’s CT learning. Furthermore, families living in rural areas may have limited access to CT learning opportunities.
EDC is partnering with GBH as they iteratively develop a program to support rural families of preschoolers to engage in CT learning at home and in the library. This program uses media from Work it Out Wombats!, a new CT-focused PBS KIDS series. In a downloadable app, families access videos, corresponding hands-on activities, and tools for reflecting on their learning. Librarians support families as they engage together in CT.
The project is carrying out the following activities:
- Developing a family-facing app that includes animated stories and songs, hands-on activities to support CT, and a music-video feature to aid in reflection
- Designing a library model for introducing CT and the Wombats! app and for supporting parents in using effective strategies for engaging in CT
- Developing surveys for parents and librarians to assess CT-related attitudes, self-efficacy, and children’s use of CT skills
- Conducting a formative study of a two-week pilot version of the Work it Out @ Your Library program in three rural communities
- Based on results from the formative study, revising and augmenting the Wombats! app and library implementation model for an eight-week program
- Conducting an impact study with 125 families in rural communities, with some families participating in the full library program and some using the app alone
- Findings from this work will provide new insights into the effectiveness of using media to support CT in young children.
- Our preliminary findings showed that this program increased parents’ self-efficacy and use of effective strategies in supporting their children’s CT.
- The study advances knowledge of successes and challenges in partnering with rural libraries to implement media-based early education initiatives.