Chiara Montuori

Ritratto Chiara Montuori

Neuroscience, Technology and Society, XXXVI series
Grant sponsor

Università degli Studi di Padova
Barbara Arfè
Tullio Vardanega

Project description
The digital revolution involved a new way of relating and communicating with others, changing the rhythm of life, the ways of acting, the habits of all of us, and above all the system of thought. The rapid increase in modern technologies has exposed the new generations to the risk of relating to technological tools in a passive rather than active way. Nowadays, most children from preschool age can use digital tools but learn their operating procedures mechanically and passively (Kabali et al., 2015). Therefore, besides reading, writing, and mathematics, computational thinking has become the fourth literacy skill that children should learn to master at school (Wing, 2006). Computational thinking (CT) is a problem-solving process that involves executive functions. Although the research on the implementation of CT and coding in preschool and primary school is growing in these years (Bers, Flannery, Kazakoff, & Sullivan, 2014; Chen et al., 2017; Ferrer-Mico, Prats-Fernàndez, Redo-Sanchez, 2012; Kalelioglu, 2015; Rijke, Bollen, Eysink, & Tolboom, 2018; Saez-Lopez, Roman-Gonzalez, & Vazquez-Cano, 2016; Strawhacker, Lee, & Bers, 2018; Wyeth, 2008), the benefits of these activities in terms of cognitive skills development have been partially explored. Several findings indicate the association between coding and the development of executive functions in young children (Di Lieto, 2017; Arfè et al, 2019). My research project aims at advancing knowledge on the effectiveness of computational thinking in boosting children's executive functions. Therefore, to verify whether the exercise of analytical skills and algorithmic thinking, through coding activities, can encourage the development of executive functions in children with low socioeconomic status and, if the effects are generalized to verbal problem-solving tasks. Moreover, my project aims at developing a digital tool, useful to both measures and improve a child's computational thinking abilities. Literature suggests a link between socioeconomic status and the development of executive functions (Holochwost et al., 2016; Lawson & Farah, 2017; Allhusen et al., 2005; Blair, 2016; Noble, Norman & Farah, 2005). Children in high poverty homes are at risk for school difficulty not only from reduced language stimulation and reduced opportunities for learning but also from injurious effects of stress on executive functions and the regulation of emotion and behavior (Blair & Raver, 2016; Noble, McCandliss & Farah, 2007; Raviv, Kessenich & Morrison, 2004; Blums, Belsky, Grimm & Chen, 2017; Holochwost et al., 2016). Demonstrating the importance of exposing children with low socioeconomic status to computational thinking could have a positive impact on their life quality. Coding activities could promote the development of awareness of being capable of problem-solving tasks, inducing the child's awareness of being able to use not only the technological tool but also algorithmic reasoning. The experience with computational thinking represents preparing the citizens of the future to face the challenges of society not as passive and unaware consumers of technological changes, but as individuals aware of the surrounding reality and active in solving problems.