According to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals education has a central role and progress has been made to offer a quality educational lifelong learning path to all. Unfortunately, recent crises, namely the pandemic and wars, have hampered progress and a prompt recovery is mandatory. Similarly, OECD recommendations on creating better opportunities for young people1 addressing key areas such as: ensuring relevant knowledge and allowing to develop appropriate skills and competencies; supporting youth in the transition to the labor market; promoting social inclusion. In this regard computing is considered important with a central role both as a discipline “per se” and as a supporting cognitive tool for all knowledge domains. The informatics reference framework for schools (Caspersen, 2022) offers a solid foundation, as does the STEM teaching framework (Tasiopoulou, 2022). Considering the current shortage in computing and information technology professionals and the projected need of a highly skilled workforce with increasing cognitive competencies, the importance of a quality lifelong education, including computing, is considered mandatory. An alliance between the educational system, from school to universities both formal and informal, and the Information Technology (IT) sectors has the potential for a win-win collaboration offering a more focused education with the right mix of foundational competencies and cutting-edge technical skills. Supporting all learners in improving their education by offering both quality content, pedagogies, technologies, and financial support is of highest importance and should be considered central to any organization’s corporate social responsibility agenda. In this respect the guest editors would like to rise a call for action for an even greater collaboration between the whole educational system and etenterprises with the ultimate goal of reducing the number of young people who are neither employed nor in education and training. The work for this special issue has been embraced with the aim to contributing with a grain of sand in this direction.
This special issue offers a variegated view of collaborations between academia and the commercial sector. The first group of papers deals with live educational experiences designed and developed with industries.
In computer science education at school, computational thinking has been an emerging topic over the last decade. Even though, computational thinking is interpreted and integrated in classrooms in different ways, an identification process about what computational thinking is about has been in progress among computer science school-teachers and computer science education researchers since Wing's initial paper on the characteristics of computational thinking. On the other hand, the constructionist learning theory by Papert, based on constructivism and Piaget, has a long tradition in computer science education for describing the students' learning process by hands-on activities. Our contribution, in this paper, is to present a new mapping tool which can be used to review classroom activities in terms of both computational thinking and constructionist learning. For the tool, we have reused existing definitions of computer science concepts and computational thinking concepts and combined these with our new constructionism matrix. The matrix's most notable feature is its scale of learners' autonomy. This scale represents the degree of choices learners have at each stage of development of their artefact. To develop the scale definitions, we trialed the mapping tool, coding twenty-one popular international computing activities for pupils aged 5 to 11 (K-5). From our trial, we have shown that we can use the mapping tool, with a moderate to high degree of reliability across coders, to analyse classroom activities with regard to computational thinking and constructionism, however, further validation is needed to establish its usefulness. Despite a small number of activities (n = 21) being analysed with our mapping tool, our preliminary results showed several interesting findings. Firstly, that learner autonomy was low for defining the problem and developing their own design. Secondly that the activity type (such as lesson plan rather than online activity) or artefact created (such as physical artefact rather than onscreen activity or unplugged activity), rather than the computational thinking or computer science concept being taught was related to learner autonomy. This provides some tentative evidence, which may seem obvious, that the learning context rather than the learning content is related to degree of constructionism of an activity and that computational thinking per se may not be related to constructionism. However, further work is needed on a larger number of activities to verify and validate this suggestion.