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Computational Thinking: A Digital Age Skill for Everyone

Lesson created by jolynn young using

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This lesson is centered around computational thinking, a "unique combination of thinking skills that when used together, provide the basis of a new and powerful form of problem solving."(Barr, Conery, & Harrison, 2011)
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Summary of the article titled Computational Thinking: A Digital Age Skill for Everyone

A few questions to guide your thinking as you read the summary:
How are you using technology in your classroom?

How can this technology be altered to develop a more problem solving approach?

What skills are your current assignments requiring of students? Are these skills going to be useful outside of the educational setting?

Computational thinking is a new way of problem solving that you may already be doing in your classrooms! This is an innovative look at problem solving with some familiar aspects such as problem decomposition, data representation, and modeling as well as some less familiar aspects such as binary research, recursion, and parallelization. An example given of computational thinking involves high school students in the United States skyping with students in South America. Together they have collected data and created models depicting the rate of deforestation in the world’s rainforests and are collaborating on their data simulation and algorithm before running their simulation. This computational thinking approach combines critical thinking and problem solving as well as technology in a way that will prepare students for the future.
Computational thinking is a way of formulating a problem in a way that enables us to use a computer or other tool to help solve it. Using a computer or other tool, data is organized logically and represented through abstractions such as models and simulations. Technology is also used to automate solutions through algorithmic thinking. This data is analyzed and used to find the best possible solution and achieve the most effective and efficient combination of resources and steps. Then this process is generalized so that it can be transferred to solve a variety of problems. The skills involved in computational thinking are supported by attitudes that become essential dimensions of the process. These attitudes include confidence in dealing with complexity, persistence with difficult problems, tolerance for ambiguity, ability to collaborate, and the ability to deal with open ended problems.
This is a powerful way of thinking because it gives humans the ability to interact with technology in a way that will extend beyond the power of human thought. Equally important are the life skills that come along with this way of thinking, like how, when, and where computers and other tools can help us solve problems and communication and collaboration skills. While students may already be learning elements of these skills, the long term goal is to see that all students have the opportunity to learn these skills so that they can be transferred to different problems in different contexts.

Barr, D., Conery, L., & Harrison, J. (2011) Computational Thinking: A Digital Age Skill for Everyone. Learning & Leading with Technology. March/April 2011, pg. 20-21.

This lesson was all about computational thinking, but how is this any different from critical thinking and problem solving? Computational thinking offers a unique combination of thinking skills, its more tool oriented, and takes the familiar skills associated with problem solving and makes them practical in a way that they are automated and implemented at much higher speeds. As you move forward and implement critical thinking and problem solving skills in your own classroom, think about how you can incorporate technology and use real world applications to advance to the level of computational thinking. To understand the topic further try searching for lessons centered in computational thinking and searching for project based learning within your content.
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Lesson Creator
How can you use computational thinking as an approach to learning in your classroom? Does this approach span across content areas or is it localized to the STEM classrooms?
11/17/2014 • 
 1 Response
 / 1 Updates

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