Computing Education Research is an area of teaching and research, which deals with questions around teaching and learning of computing concepts on all levels of education (from primary to higher education). The term Computing Education is currently favoured in international discussions when it comes to teaching and learning fundamental concepts of the so-called digital world, such as algorithms, formal languages, data, computing systems. Worldwide, the field is described with a variety of terms (for an overview, see ), two other prominent terms are Computer Science Education and Informatics Education. Since the term Computer Science is more narrowly focused in American usage than internationally, and the term Informatics is more likely to be found in the European environment, the term Computing is becoming increasingly preferred in the international educational field, not least because of the introduction of a compulsory subject in schools in the United Kingdom with the name Computing .
Typical tasks of the discipline are for example the definition of objectives of corresponding instruction in schools and universities, the development of corresponding curricula, the didactical reconstruction of computing concepts and topics for learners of different target groups, the development and testing of learning aids and teaching methods, the description and investigation of computing education using empirical research methods, and much more. The area has connections to many other disciplines, for example, to pedagogy, psychology, but also to media education, namely wherever analogue or digital learning aids are used to teach or learn concepts of the field. It should be noted here that, especially in the context of educational politics, the terms Computer Science/Informatics Education and Digital Media Education are occasionally used interchangeably  – using application software, such as word processors, is then equated with competencies in the area of Computer Science/ Informatics.
Beyond other aspects, this shows that there is a societal need for a stronger anchoring of computing education in secondary schools. Research within the field of Computing Education is highly relevant for the ongoing public debate on how the education system in schools and universities must evolve to adequately address the challenges of digitalization shaping our everyday lives and work environments. While in Germany, for example, the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs recently emphasized in this context that teaching and learning in all disciplines must be further developed using digital media , the UK has ended a before-existing, subject-integrated approach and shifted to compulsory computing education in a separate subject for all learners starting from primary level. In Germany, compulsory computing education can yet only be found in some school types of a few of Germany’s federal countries (e. g. Bavaria and Saxony).
It has to be regarded as most remarkable that in view of the continually-increasing digitalization in all areas Computing (or: Computer Science, Informatics) in many countries is still a second-rate school subject and is not yet taught as naturally as mathematics, physics or art. Today, so-called Digital Education has become just as relevant as traditional school subjects, as a learning area in which comprehensive media skills are developed, the complex effects between computer science, individual and society are reflected, and digital world phenomena are understood through analysis of the underlying principles of computing systems and through active developing of solutions to a wide range of everyday problems . More and more countries therefore have introduced or are planning to introduce a separate computing subject in their secondary schools .
The aim of this special issue on Computing Education Research is to give a brief insight into this field of research, which I assume most readers of the IT journal will not be familiar with. In order to provide an exemplary insight into different areas of the field in a few contributions, I oriented the invitation of authors for this issue on the categories of the so-called Berlin model for planning instruction.1 This model distinguishes between conditional and decisional factors of instruction. Conditional factors relate, for example, to socio-cultural and personal prerequisites, which a learning group contributes to the classroom and which are taken up as part of a conditional analysis for planning instruction. In addition, there are decisional factors. These include objectives, contents, methods, and media of instruction, with which specific subject-specific lessons can be designed in the light of the prerequisites and specific curricula of the respective subject.
Therefore, the paper of Webb et al. initially addresses objectives of computing education. Different country perspectives are taken into account. The article by Berges takes from the choice of potential contents one that is of particular relevance both in secondary schools and in higher education: the introduction to object-oriented programming. In his contribution he gives an overview of relevant literature and didactic approaches. Teaching methods describe a coordinated sequence of actions of a teacher and one or more learners with which particular educational objectives are pursued. Such methods exist in large numbers for a wide range of purposes, from the design of short teaching situations to complex several weeks-long projects. Zendler’s paper describes research he has undertaken to assess the appropriateness of general teaching methods for computing education based on given criteria. Pryzbylla and Romeike give an overview of secondary school-related media for teaching computing and subdivide their considerations into soft- and hardware-based ones. Since these authors’ research focusses on physical computing, they also provide own results regarding this specific category of media. The contribution of Sentence and Waite cannot be clearly assigned to one of the categories of the Berlin model, because it includes elements of different ones. It gives a wide range of lessons learned from the introduction of the subject Computing in the UK.
I hope that this issue will give you an inspiring and informative insight into the field of computing education research. Readers, who would like to learn even more about this field are kindly referred to the journal TOCE (ACM Transactions on Computing Education) as well as to the conference series Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education – WiPSCE (German Informatics Association in cooperation with ACM), Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education – ITiCSE, and International Computing Education Research – ICER (both ACM), whose papers can be found in the ACM Digital Library (http://dl.acm.org), moreover to the conference series International Conference on Informatics in Schools: Situation, Evolution and Perspectives – ISSEP and the annual conferences of IFIP TC3. For German-speaking readers, a valuable resource is also the computing education research wiki2 of the German Informatics association (GI) and, in particular, the conference series “Informatics and School (Informatik und Schule – INFOS)”, which offers a very practice-oriented insight into the field and whose proceedings can be found within the wiki.
Enjoy reading this special issue.
P. Hubwieser, M. Armoni, T. Brinda, V. Dagiene, I. Diethelm, M. N. Giannakos, M. Knobelsdorf, J. Magenheim, R. Mittermeir, and S. Schubert. Computer science/informatics in secondary education. Proceedings of the 16th annual conference reports on Innovation and technology in computer science education – working group reports. ACM Press, New York 2011, pp. 19–38. Google Scholar
The Royal Society. After the reboot: computing education in UK schools. Retrieved from: https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/projects/computing-education/computing-education-report-summary.pdf, 2017. Google Scholar
Institut für Bildung in der Informationsgesellschaft. Stakeholder-Studie zum Bundestagsbeschluss “Durch Stärkung der Digitalen Bildung Medienkompetenz fördern und digitale Spaltung überwinden” (in German). Retrieved from: http://www.ibi.tu-berlin.de/images/161013_IBI-Studie_Digitale_Bildung_BT-Beschluss_Langfassung.pdf, 2016. Google Scholar
The Standing Conference of the German Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs. Bildung in der digitalen Welt. Strategic concept (in German, English summary available). Retrieved from: https://www.kmk.org/themen/bildung-in-der-digitalen-welt/strategie-bildung-in-der-digitalen-welt.html, 2016. Google Scholar
T. Brinda and I. Diethelm. Education in the Digital Networked World. Proceedings of the World Conference on Computers in Education (WCCE 2017, Dublin/Ireland, July 2–6, 2017). Springer, Cham, Switzerland 2018. Google Scholar
About the article
Prof. Dr. Torsten Brinda studied Computer Science at the University of Dortmund (Diploma 1998). He started his scientific career in the Computing Education Research Groups at the universities of Dortmund (until 2002) and Siegen (until 2005), where he 2004 received his doctoral degree. From 2005 to 2012 he worked as a full professor for computing education research at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, since then in the same position at the University of Duisburg-Essen. He is an active member of ACM SIGCSE, IFIP TC3 and the German Informatics association (GI), where he is the current chairman of the technical committee for “Computing Education Research/Computing and Education”.
Published Online: 2018-03-22
Published in Print: 2018-04-25