• Anna Sikora

Algorithmic Thinking towards Sustainable Curricula

Algorithmic Thinking in Science
Algorithmic Thinking in Science

This article presents a concise rationale for algorithmic thinking as a core literacy across the curriculum. It presents a European perspective, namely that of UNESCO's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals for Education, the 2020 goals of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, and the Computational Thinking paradigms that have become core competencies in Nordic countries. Furthermore, the theory and tasks presented here are a culmination of 20+ years of algorithmic thinking practice and experience working with primary, secondary and tertiary learners in the classroom. Resources for all the tasks mentioned below are available. Contact me for further information.

The following will be presented at the Edu Tech Conference 2018 at Haut Lac, Saint-Légier on 23 May, 2018. Bookings can be made here.


Education for Sustainable Development Goals 2030

4. Quality Education – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

  • What ESD requires is a shift from teaching to learning. It asks for an action-oriented, transformative pedagogy, which supports self-directed learning, participation and collaboration, problem-orientation, inter- and transdisciplinarity and the linking of formal and informal learning.

  • Learning should focus not only on the content and outcome of what is learned, but also on the process;

  • Mainstreaming ESD requires integrating sustainability topics into the curricula, but also sustainability-related intended learning outcomes;

  • Foster skills for collaboration, communication, creative and critical thinking for future-focused action.

European Commission and JRC for 2020

  • Computational Thinking (CT) and programming are as fundamental as numeracy and literacy;

  • Subject interdependence helps build a curriculum for sustainability;

  • Develop relevant digital competences and skills for the digital transformation;

  • improve education through better data analysis and foresight;

  • Bring coding classes to all schools in Europe.

What is Computational Thinking?

  • In general terms, computational thinking is regarded as a thought process entailed in designing solutions that can be executed by a computer, a human, or a combination of both and the ability to deal with open-ended problems;

  • Knowledge, understandings and processes which develop problem-solving, critical thinking, logical thinking and creative thinking skills;

  • It is a literacy more than programming- it’s a thought process independent of technology

What are the aims for interdisciplinary Computational Thinking in education?

  • As experiences become increasingly infused with digital interfaces, understanding algorithmic thinking can lend us the freedom to control our lives.

  • To boost individuals’ capacities and address societal challenges for a just, equitable and peaceful society in the 4IR;

  • To boost employment opportunities for all individuals regardless of career paths or choices.

Core Competencies

Decomposition, Abstraction, Algorithmic Thinking, Automation

Core Attitudes & Practices

Creating digital artifacts, collaboration, communication and creativity, open-ended problem-solving

Core Values

Legal, ethical, social impact on humanity

Blooms' Core Values

A sustainable curricula can draw knowledge and practice from Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy and the subsequent work of Anderson and Krathwohl. I have combined the three domains of learning - the Affective, Psychomotor and Cognitive theories into one and redeveloped the pyramidal structures into concentric circles. Note that the core of this structure centres around the cognitive and psychomotor processes of the act of creation, with the affective core embracing the internalisation of values.

This should have a profound effect on learning and teaching in the classroom today. Learners need to be channelled into an exploratory world of learning where they are given opportunities to create meaning, create hypotheses, creatie artefacts and create value across all their subject areas.

Revised Blooms Taxonomy
Affective, Psychomotor and Cognitive Domains of Learning

As our experience becomes increasingly infused with digital interfaces, understanding algorithmic thinking can lend us the freedom to control our lives and to make informed decisions for the benefit of all.

Sustainability issues facing humanity can be understood by providing the analytical, predictive, creative and persuasive skills needed to advocate effectively for sustainability.

Applying computational thinking (which is a study of humans and computers) across subject disciplines helps us to:-

  • understand the ways social, economic and environmental systems interact to support and maintain human life;

  • appreciate and respect the diversity of views and values that influence sustainable development;

  • participate critically and act creatively in determining more sustainable ways of living.

Through the priority of Sustainability, and computational thinking as an interdependent cross-curriculum competency, learners develop the knowledge, skills, values and world views necessary to contribute to more sustainable patterns of living.

Some examples of algorithmic thinking, experiential learning, and the Create paradigm across the curriculum follow:-

Languages / Literature

*Decode and code language systems

*Create an interactive and open-ended story using Scratch

*Tell or relate a story using Scratch

*Code simple translation software

*Create a thesaurus for a book

*Use speech to speech translation systems

*Use symbols to explore patterns in poetry, haikus, sonnets

*Code ‘leitmotifs’ as characters enter a scene

*Create interactive, animated open-ended videos with sequential and branching paths

*Analyse the frequencies of different words or phrases

*Linguistic recursion e.g.The Cat in the Hat Comes back or This is the house that Jack built.

*Create a story with replaceable text, for parts of speech, new vocabulary, humorous or memorable parts

*Create original aleatoric writing after studying the automatic writing of the French Surrealists involving dreams or the Virtual Muse by Charles Hartman

*Create an ePortfolio of the creative journey and present research assignments

*Create stories by using chance elements,e.g. coin flip, choosing words out of a hat, a sound recording for each creative choice.


*Draw, rotate and translate 2D shapes.

*Move grid coordinates to evoke animation

*Create and manipulate vector points and lines

*Create arcs, change stop and start angles by calculating radians

*Use repeated addition to create new formula to count the number of people in a room using simple algebra

*Collect data, compute ratio, and generate statistics and probabilities in a spreadsheet

*Use collected data to conduct predictive analyses, make ‘what-if’ predictions

*Explore ratios of ingredients in a cake, how would the numbers change with different numbers of guests

*Make interactive question / answer short movies that explain ratio, proportion, probability

*Build a webpage/ePortfolio which documents all the original work created

*Create a pension retirement calculator, model it in a spreadsheet

*Consider application of bio-inspired algorithms i.e. neural networks, genetic algorithms, particle swarm and ant colony optimisation, firefly, leaping frog, bat, flower pollination algorithms

*Create coded visualisations and compare sorting algorithms, quick, insert, heap, bubble, merge, count

*Create coded visualisations and compare searching algorithms, linear and binary

*Model data for the Travelling Salesman problem

*Create an ePortfolio of the creative journey and present research assignments


*Design data models through personal and collaborative inquiry;

*Explore patterns of reactivity of Group I Metals and Group 7 Halogens

*Create simulations of explosions in Scratch, carbon connectivity or bonding

*Create additive colour wheels, mix RGB values

*Model light waves and refraction

*Create a Punnett Square program

*Use the babymaker app and put the algorithm to practise by crossing genotypes and creating endless generations of children

*Create flowcharts for experiments, or taking measurements

*Develop and use a model to describe why asexual reproduction results in offspring with identical genetic information and sexual reproduction results in offspring with genetic variation

*Create an ePortfolio of the scientific journey and present research assignments

Physical Education

*Make a spreadsheet model to track physical activity

*Create a BMI calculator, sleep calculator, time on computers, time spent exercising, nutrition calculator

*Create a calculator that asks about time management and responds with suggestions

*Create scoreboards for different sporting events or fixtures

*Create an ePortfolio of the creative journey and present research assignments


*‘Step back in time’ with virtual or augmented reality combined with GPS tracking for location data

*Create interactive, animated videos with sequential and branching paths using EdPuzzle

*Tell or relate a story using Scratch

*Create a date calculator and test it with historical events

*Code a timeline of events

*Count recurring words in different texts

*Create a story with replaceable text, for parts of speech, new vocabulary, humorous/memorable aspects of historical events

*Create an ePortfolio of the creative journey and present research assignments


*GPS, mapping technologies and the interconnectedness of devices

*Collect weather data and compute, make comparisons with other locations or times

*Collect data on people’s living habits and patterns and compute their Carbon Footprint

*Create hypotheses about a population, collect and compute statistical data, accept or refute hypotheses

*Create an age calculator, ask age in years, determine birth year, determine the season, calculate age in days and milliseconds,

*Create a migration model in a spreadsheet

*Create an ePortfolio of the creative journey and present research assignments


*Code examples of aleatoric or indeterminate music in Scratch or Python e.g. Johannes Ockeghem, Mozart’s dice music, Arnold Schoenberg, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Charles Ives, Pierre Boulez, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, John Williams

*Code original compositions using elements of chance, randomness, indetermination or substitution

*Code leitmotifs and variations

*Create an ePortfolio of the musical journey and present research assignments


*Make an art piece based on some instructions that follow a dice sequence

*Explore the work of the Dadaists and chance (Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Paul Klee)

*Explore and be inspired by the work of Qubais Reed Ghazala, original techniques in suminagashi, dye migration, and aperture shift photography

*Create shapes in Processing or Javascript, translate, rotate to make an animation

*Create an ePortfolio of the artistic journey and present research assignments

*Create a colour wheel from computing additive light in the RGB scale.

Participants will engage in an Algorithmic Thinking task at the conference. Tasks have been created for all of the above. Contact me for further information.

Further reading

Education for Sustainable Development Goals - Learning Objectives

Developing Computational Thinking in Compulsory Education - Implications for policy and practice