Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Computational thinking

Grover and Pea explored the rationale for incorporating computational thinking into the K-12 curriculum. The authors explained the varied perspectives and evolving definitions of computational thinking in order to develop a rationale for its inclusion in main stream classrooms. CT “ involves solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior, by drawing on the concepts fundamental to computer science.” Although it is clear that computer science is pervasive in today’s society, it is still unclear how CT should be included in school. For example, should it be taught as a separate subject, or integrated within the existing curriculum? Challenges in incorporating CT include teacher training, development of pedagogical content knowledge, and the need for gender-neutrality. Additional research is needed to explore developmentally appropriate ways to teach CT for varying ages and skill levels.

Sengupta et al. make the case that not only is computational thinking and important skill in its own right, but that it should also be used to teach students how to develop and interact with representations in science and math. Integrating CT into science curricula can effectively deepen students’ understanding of natural phenomena. Agent based computer programs like StarLOGO have a “low floor and high ceiling” – allowing easy access for beginners as well as enrichment opportunities for advanced learners. These types of programs are effective tools for introducing CT through science modeling activities. Thus, students can engage in CT and scientific practices at the same time.

I personally feel that that it is very important to incorporate CT into the curriculum because so far knowledge in computer science has not been equitably distributed. For example, although my elementary school had a “computer science class” this was limited to learning how to type, how to make power point presentations, and how to surf the web. No mention was made of programming or any type of CT. This uneven distribution of knowledge/skills is reflected in the gender gap that exists in the CS industry. Not only is CT an important skill for the future, but it is also a good way to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills. The latter is especially important if today’s society is becoming increasingly reliant on technology.


  1. I had a very similar "computer science" experience in elementary school. What's worse, in high school, I took another class that was supposed to be on CS, but all we learned was how to use Word and Excel, kind of, while spending most of our time playing online flash games. However, I have gotten some programming experience since then (not enough to call myself an expert, or even good, but more than nothing), and I can say that it would be very useful in our classrooms, especially in showing that there are many different ways to the answer we want.

  2. I think you both give good examples of classes that teach computer literacy, but not necessarily computer science. The articles specifically talk about teaching computational thinking using agent-based computer programs should require minimal to no training in teacher. This might very well be true as the programs are ultimately designed for use by children, but I'm not sure how it can be easily integrated into the classroom.