Short Talk: Computational Thinking for Elementary Teachers

View on Snap!Con

Presented By: Jo Watts, Glen Bull, James Rutter


Computational Thinking – the process of designing a solution to a problem in a form that can be implemented by a computer – is rapidly being incorporated into school standards. The state of Virginia, for example, has adopted standards that require elementary teachers to incorporate computational thinking into their teaching. Many other states are adopting similar standards (, 2018).

At the elementary level, these standards require teachers to incorporate computational thinking concepts into existing subjects, such as science and mathematics. However, the majority of elementary teachers have had little or no preparation for incorporating computational thinking into their instruction. This topic has not previously been addressed in the elementary teacher education curriculum or in licensure standards. Elementary teachers therefore struggle to teach computational thinking concepts (Denning, 2017) and to effectively integrate them with existing subject matter (Jacoby, 2019).

The Make to Learn consortium is a coalition anchored by the Make to Learn Laboratory at the University of Virginia. Other collaborators include Princeton University, Midlands Technical College, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education.

The coalition is currently piloting materials designed to introduce computational thinking to elementary teachers using “Snap!”. The modules developed provide examples in subject areas that include science, mathematics, language arts, and social studies (Bull, Garofalo, & Nguyen, 2019). In mathematics, students can use tools such as inkjet printers and digital die cutters to transform digital patterns into designs for fabrication of cards, ornaments, and jewelry (Figure 1).

Card Fabricated Using a Design Created in Snap!

In social studies, students can model the process of gerrymandering to understand the effect of this process on elections. In language arts, students can combine images, text, and sounds to create interactive multimedia stories. In science, students can model the exponential spread of a disease to explore different outcomes in varying scenarios.

In this session, examples using Snap! for instruction will be demonstrated, and results from teachers participating in the pilot project will be discussed.


Bull, G., Garofalo, J. & Nguyen, N.R. (Eds.) (2019). An Introduction to Computational Thinking Through Art, Music, and Games. Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education. (2018). Annual report: The state of K-12 computer science. Retrieved from

Denning, P. (2017). Remaining trouble spots with computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 60(6), 33–39.

Jacoby, A. (2019) Computational thinking in elementary schools: A case study (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.

What was the url for the paper about Logo, lists and Snap!

Thanks, Tracy Rudzitis

Wasn't there one that Glen shared before me mentioned Cynthia's?

Yes - I provided a link to the following page:

This page includes a link to a chapter from "Exploring Language with Logo" and an accompanying reflection by Paul Goldenberg. The Word Play page also includes an exploration of Paul's "Gossip" activity in Snap!