Teaching children to work with information, to structure and analyze it
– Alexander Vladimirovich, digital skills are essential nowadays. What is more, Belarus is eager to become IT-country. So what do you think, what age is the most appropriate for starting to form digital skills in the rising generation?
Deputy Minister of Education of the Republic of Belarus
– It is true that the world is changing rapidly and information technologies are becoming an inherent part of our lives. These changes are mostly affecting our children as they are going to live in this new world. Naturally, education can not remain the same either. What, how and when to teach is a very uneasy question. We should take into account the features of the age-related intellectual, psychological development of children and their ability to perceive certain information, including that related to information technologies.
Various approaches are created in the sphere and various experimental steps are taken worldwide. The important thing is that there is no common generally approved approach. Information technologies have created too rapid changes in the society. The educational systems of all countries just can’t react that fast.
Children’s skills should be developed one by one. In terms of information technologies, it was previously assumed that in Belarus they are mostly developed in school. But even before children go to school, they develop behavioral patterns, cognitive thinking and problem-solving skills. Today, information technologies enter the life of the younger generation at very early stages –before they even get to school. Look around and you will see that parents give their children smartphones while they are still wearing diapers.
A modern child faces an avalanche of information every day. The child should not "drown" in it, but, on the contrary, should benefit from it, learn to work with it, structure it and analyze it. Naturally, in today's world it is important to start developing logical thinking in children as early as possible. I believe that the basics of logical thinking and algorithmization can be taught to children as early as in preschool age. In other words, this should be done starting from preschool education institutions.
In doing so, educational process should not be chaotic, but rather well-organized. There should be continuity in what is taught in kindergarten and at school afterwards.
– As in any other field, there are consumers and manufacturers in the field of information technology. Being a PC literate user has now become almost obligatory – practically any job, as well as effectively acquiring information and communicating with other people requires the ability to use a computer, tablet, smartphone and various software. In your opinion, how can we build the right balance between consumption and development in the IT sphere among the younger generation? What can you say about the "Computer Science Unplugged" project?
– Computer Science is a school subject that traditionally involves the use of a computer. However, we must clearly understand that it is not only about the ability to use computers, but also, first of all, a set of certain knowledge, understanding of the functioning principles of similar devices and the essence of information processing.
Within the framework of learning the basics of computer science, a competent teacher can build the educational process even without a personal computer. Taking into account the rules of using computer equipment and existing restrictions in accordance with sanitary standards for minors, it would even be useful for their health. However, I do not call for it as it is equally necessary to know how to confidently use modern computing tools.
I feel a bit upset that students perceive information technologies through the prism of entertainment. For many young people today the computer plays the same role as TV for the previous generation. Probably, it is wrong when such a wonderful and powerful tool as a computer becomes just a toy. Unlike TV, it allows not only to consume content but also to create new useful things. I guess the goal of the educational system is to help students learn about this tool in full, to demonstrate all its creative possibilities and to teach how to code.
As for preschoolers, I consider the approach to studying computer science without a computer quite promising. That is why I have a very positive attitude towards the educational project “Computer Science Unplugged”.
– How do you see the development prospects of the "Computer Science Unplugged" project? How will further interaction and cooperation between the Ministry of Education and Hi-Tech Park in the field of preschool education be structured?
– Now this project, which is being implemented jointly by the Hi-Tech Park and the Ministry of Education, is at the pilot stage. I am sure that the results will be good and I believe the experience gained in the course of its implementation can be successfully scaled up in the future. I hope that the results obtained in the course of the project will not only be widely shared but, most importantly, will be recognized by teachers. We are all focused on our children's active development and success in the future – this is the result that will please us as both professionals and humans.
– In your opinion, what is the role of a preschool teacher in the formation of the country’s younger generation and what changes should be made in this sphere?
– If anyone sometimes underestimates the role of kindergarten teachers, I want to tell them that in reality their role is pretty significant. Teachers working with preschoolers shape children's personality together with their parents. Together they lay the foundation for future achievements of schoolchildren.
In the course of preschool education, a certain attitude to work and study is being shaped. At the same time, pedagogical influences are effective if the educator is able to find the necessary methods and techniques, taking into account the child's personality.
Today and in the future, the educator should develop children's attention, mindset and memory. He or she must solve educational tasks, including: teaching to find the right solution in different situations, developing the ability to analyze and draw conclusions, logical thinking. And, of course, they should educate children to help each other during teamwork.
Preschool education is gradually changing. Preschoolers are more and involved not only in entertainment but also in experimenting on the computer. Being guided by an adult, they make assumptions, plan their activities, use special devices and materials to test hypotheses and formulate conclusions. All this allows for their effective learning about the surrounding world, supports and develops their interest in research as well as discoveries.
In some way, we can call the "Computer Science Unplugged" project something like children's experimenting aimed at developing logical thinking and mathematical abilities as during the project children actively participate in the learning process and form common approaches to solving various practical issues.