ECDL Foundation Report: Computing and Digital Literacy - Call for a Holistic Approach

1 - Executive Summary

Political  momentum  around  coding  skills  development  is  becoming  increasingly  strong  in  Europe  and  worldwide. Numerous initiatives to promote and teach coding are led by national governments, private and non-governmental stakeholders and academia; the European Commission also takes an active role in these endeavours. In order to ensure that these skills are developed in a consistent and high-quality manner, a standardised approach is needed. This  paper  consists  of  three  key  parts:  first,  it clarifies the terminology  around  coding,  programming,  computer 
science,  computing  and  digital  literacy;  second,  it provides an overview of  various  approaches  to  coding  skills development in different countries; third, it suggests that every child should have an opportunity to learn the essentials of computing and that coding should be taught as part of computing. This paper calls for a unified approach to digital
skills development that would encompass digital literacy as well as computing.

2 Defining the Terms

Coding, programming, computer science, computing and computational thinking: all of these terms are often used interchangeably to discuss digital skills development. In order to clarify these terms, we
will use the existing working definitions provided below.

Computer programming is the process of developing and implementing various sets of instructions to enable a computer to perform a certain task, solve problems, and provide human interactivity. These instructions (source codes which are written in a programming language) are considered computer programs and help the computer to operate smoothly.

Coding on a technical level is a type of computer programming that closely represents what happens at the lowest (machine) level. However, when most people talk about coding, they usually mean something at a higher, more human-readable level. The terms programming and coding are usually used interchangeably (they are also used as synonyms in this paper).

Informatics is defined as the study of the representation, processing and communication of information in natural and engineered systems. It has computational, cognitive and social aspects. Informatics encompasses a number of existing academic disciplines including artificial intelligence, cognitive science and computer science. Thus, in English-language texts, informatics is a broader concept than computer science. However, in other languages the term informatics is used interchangeably with computer science: in German, Informatik; in French, informatique; and in Italian, informatica.

Computer   science is an academic   discipline   covering   principles   such   as   algorithms,   data   structures,  programming, systems architecture, design, problem solving, etc. Computer science encompasses foundational principles  (such  as  a  theory  of  computation)  and  widely  applicable  ideas  and  concepts  (such  as  the  use  of  relational models to capture structure in data).

Computing is the term which in digital skills debate is often used interchangeably with the term ‘computer science’. In   this   paper,   we   also   use   these   terms   as   synonyms:   Defining   the  terms,   computer   science/computing and digital literacy). In the UK, computing is defined as a broad subject area that encompasses both computer science and digital literacy.

Computational thinking is a problem solving process which lies at the heart of computer science. Computational thinking  involves  formulating  problems  in  a  way  that  enables  the  use  of  a  computer  to  solve  them;  logically  organising and analysing data, representing data through abstractions, automating solutions through algorithmic thinking; identifying, analysing, and implementing possible solutions with the goal of achieving the most efficient and effective combination of steps and resources; generalising and transferring this problem solving process to a wide variety of problems, etc.

Digital  literacy –  basic  set  of  skills  required  to  participate  in  essential  ICT  user  activities.  Typical  skills  would include the ability to work with numbers and documents (software such as word processors and spreadsheets) and the ability to use a web browser, e-mail and internet search engines securely and effectively.

These definitions outline two different digital skills areas – computing/computer science and digital literacy. Both of them should be developed in formal education. Digital literacy skills are as important as reading and writing — it is necessary to possess them in order to access all the subjects taught across the curriculum. Programming/coding is among the key elements such as algorithms and systems architecture that together form the academic discipline of computer science.


You can read the rest of the report here.


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