Encouraging Computational Thinking

Jan 17, 2020 by

Encouraging Computational Thinking

The world of education and work is changing. Students require new skills and indeed new ways of thinking. Computational Thinking (CT) is now considered to be essential to the success of students in both tests and also for their future careers. Education Drive calls CT a ‘problem-solving process’ and thinking in a logical way. It involves breaking problems down into logical steps and analyzing them, typically with the assistance of computers.  It is an ability that can be taught across all disciplines. Those students who are capable of CT are more likely to achieve success in sectors such as technology and enable them to cope with challenging problems, which are now key skills.

Bringing CT into the Classroom

Integrating CT into the classroom is challenging even though it is already present in the curriculum. School leaders need to take steps to ensure that CT is taught effectively. They need to providing training in the area so that teachers.  There is no particular expertise required and all it requires is a general understanding of the concept and some techniques that promote it during the learning process.  Some researchers explain the best way to promote CT is by teachers learning as they teach and to see things from the point of view of the student. It is a skill that can be taught by directing children to engage in problems. Many students find logical thinking and abstractions difficult. There is a need to teach it in an imaginative way so that the student can stay engaged.  The best approach would be to start early.

The aim should be to encourage children to think in the following ways.

•           Decomposition, this encourages students to break down problems.

•           Then learning about pattern recognition and how to link their knowledge to real-world scenarios.

•           Students should be familiar with abstraction and concepts such as sequencing and conditional logic.

It is recommended to link teaching of CT to project-based and experiential learning and this makes learning both engaging and fun for children.

Mathematics

Teaching mathematics in a stimulating way can help a student to acquire increased analytical abilities and become familiar with algorithms and this enhances their CT.  It could be done in a way that presents mathematics in the form of problems or projects. It is recommended not to attempt to teach it directly in just math class, but students can acquire CT while engaged in finding solutions. There are a number of computer programs that encourage a student to conceptualize problems and to solve problems and they enhance their CT skills. Google for Education provides a number of links to open source software that can be used in class.

Coding and Programming

A great way to encourage students to think in a logical way is coding. Many students are addicted to their phones, tablets, and love computers and enjoy coding.  An idea could be to help children to design and program their own games. This is a great way to introduce them to algorithms, logic, and problem-solving and this encourages CT. It can help them break down problems and to identify sequences.  There are a number of platforms that allow students to engage in coding, that is suitable for their age such as the one developed by MIT called Scratch. However, coding is not suitable for many students as they all have different learning styles.

A Variety of Strategies

Math and coding can help to promote CT but more may need to be done.  It can be integrated into classroom activities. Games that encourage students to count and to solve problems could be helpful, such as puzzles or hopscotch.  Students are encouraged to work together on projects such as building a robot. It is recommended that the teacher help students to experiment in class and come to their own conclusions. Collaborative learning during hands-on projects is advised, as children can learn from each other. Students learn best if they are empowered and they engage in self-directed learning. For example, they can be encouraged to write their own algorithms which are a series of step by step instructions. They can write an algorithm on how they can make dinner or play a game. This teaches them computational concepts such as sequencing, in a fun way.

Assessment in Computational Thinking (CT)

Because CT is now so important to the development of students, school leaders should invest in new ways to assess students’ progress. They can use the data from formal assessment and feedback from formative assessment, gained during classes, to evaluate students. This can be used to refine the teaching of CT and to ensure personalized learning.

Keywords

Computational Thinking, CT, analytical, problem-solving, coding in class.

Comment

What is the role of technology in promoting computational thinking (CT) in your school or school district?

References

Bauer, A., Butler, E., & Popović, Z. (2015, October). Approaches for teaching computational thinking strategies in an educational game: A position paper. In 2015 IEEE Blocks and Beyond Workshop (Blocks and Beyond) (pp. 121-123). IEEE. Retrieved from http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/7369019

Black, Lauren.  (2018). How to emphasize, teach and use computational thinking. Education Dive. Retrieved from http://www.educationdive.com/news/how-to-emphasize-teach-and-use-computational-thinking/568715/

Jones, Dacia (2018). 10 Classroom-Ready Computational Thinking Resources for K-12. Getting Smart. Retrieved from http://www.gettingsmart.com/2018/05/10-classroom-ready-computational-thinking-resources-for-k-12/

González, M. R. (2015). Computational thinking test: Design guidelines and content validation. In Proceedings of EDULEARN15 conference (pp. 2436-2444). Retrieved from http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/41076993/720.pdf?response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DCOMPUTATIONAL_THINKING_TEST_DESIGN_GUIDE.pdf&

Zimmermann, Eli (2018). 5 Ways K–12 Teachers Can Take a New Approach to Computational Thinking. ED Tech. Retrieved from http://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2019/01/5-ways-k-12-teachers-can-take-new-approach-computational-thinking

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