What is Computational Thinking and Why Should You Care
Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Computational Thinking says that computational thinking is, “a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science,” and that “to flourish in today's world, computational thinking has to be a fundamental part of the way people think and understand the world.” But what does that really mean? Think of it this way: computational thinking is like a Swiss Army Knife for solving problems.
Programming as Problem Solving
Computational thinking may sound like it’s complex, but it’s a basic a problem-solving process that can be applied to any domain. This makes computational thinking an important skill for all students, and it’s why our curriculum is structured to teach students how to use computational thinking to be precise with their language, base their decisions on data, use a systematic way of thinking to recognize patterns and trends, and break down larger problems into smaller chunks that can be more easily solved.
Here’s a video from our Introduction to Programming for VEX IQ curriculum that explains the concept of breaking down problems and building them up, and then shows how to apply that concept to programming a robot.
Computational Thinking is Everywhere
Instead of simply consuming technology, computational thinking teaches students to use technology as a tool. With computational thinking, students learn a set of skills and a way of thinking that they can apply to technical and non-technical problems by:
- Applying computational strategies such as divide and conquer in any domain
- Matching computational tools and techniques to a problem
- Applying or adapt a computational tool or technique to a new use
- Recognizing an opportunity to use computation in a new way
- Understanding the power and limitations of computational tools and techniques
Students who develop proficiency in computational thinking also develop:
- Confidence in dealing with complexity
- Persistence in working with difficult problems
- Tolerance for ambiguity
- The ability to deal with open-ended problems
- The ability to communicate and work with others to achieve a common goal or solution
These dispositions and attitudes are all important for students interested in pursuing STEM careers, but they’re also important for any student who wants to be able to succeed in today’s digital, global economy.
If you’re still not sure how computational thinking is important to you or your students, consider this:
- A math student trying to decide whether they need to multiply, divide, add, or subtract in order to solve a word problem
- A writing student who is researching a topic and needs to take notes in an organized and structured way
- A science student trying to draw conclusions about an experiment
- A history student trying make comparisons between different historical periods
- A writing student trying to organize supporting details for a topic sentence
- A reading student trying to find evidence to support character traits within the text
- A math student trying to find a new way to solve a problem
- A music student trying to learn how read a new piece of music
These are all examples of how we apply computational thinking each day, whether it’s in math, science, the humanities, or the arts.
Computational Thinking in Your Classroom
If you’re looking for an easy way to add computational thinking to your classroom, both our VEX and LEGO curriculum include computational thinking as part of the students’ learning process. Our curriculum teaches computational thinking skills by:
- Immersing students in the problem-solving process, both individually and collaboratively
- Teaching students how to decompose problems and then apply that to larger tasks
- Providing students with opportunities to seek or explore different solutions
- Providing students with opportunities to apply computational thinking skills across different disciplines
If you’re looking for a low-cost way to work computational thinking into your classroom, check out Robot Virtual Worlds, a robotics simulation environment that can help you extend your STEM classroom by teaching kids to program, even if they don’t have access to a physical robot. With the Robot Virtual Worlds Curriculum Companion, you can use both our LEGO and VEX curriculum in your classroom, even if you don’t have access to physical robots.
We also recommend checking out:
- Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Computational Thinking
- The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Computational Thinking Taskforce
- Google’s Computational Thinking for Educators
- The International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Computational Thinking page
Posted on February 10, 2016 in Announcements by LeeAnn Baronett : 0 Comments