Monday, July 13, 2009

Time to do more with computational thinking

So, if you've read this blog before you know I'm not happy with what is passing for 21st Century skills education in the United States. Some colleagues and I have been talking about what we can do to move things along in a direction we'd be happy with. I suggested we need to get computational thinking embedded in national content standards. We don't need a whole new set of standards directed at computational thinking we need to help move the existing content standards into the 21st Century.

Last week I was at a meeting of the Diversity Council for Engineers Week. The engineering community is struggling with this issue as well. They'd like to see engineering education take place in high school. A few states do allow elective engineering courses to count toward the high school graduation science requirement. Obviously the Diversity Council is working to encourage diversity to be a cornerstone of engineering recruitment. The efforts to inform and encourage youth to explore engineering is reaching down into the middle grades.

Can computational thinking reach down into the middle school? There are people and programs doing that today, but they aren't having a large-scale impact. Can computational thinking find a place in Engineers Week; does it need something different? What are your thoughts about expanding awareness about computational thinking?


House on Bob's Street said...

I still think the key is linking computational thinking to the concepts of "How People Learn". I have a good set of notes towards writing such an article. I also think we may be reinventing the wheel. It seems to me that the old Vanth project at the former LTC was infusing HPL into Bioengineering/computational thinking. If so, I can immediately think of 3 former LTC'ers who could collaborate on such an effort.

Ray Rose said...

That's good to know and could be useful, but since there are no bioengineering standards that impact high school graduation requirements we still need to make changes to the core curriculum standards.

Alana said...

I don't think you are going deep or wide enough before you search for a solution. As soon as I see "curricula" the ideas play out the institutional model of the 1880's, and therein, in my opinion lies the crux of many issues - institutions and the hierarchies are at odds with the future world. The student of the future needs to be able to manage a world that is hyperconnected (see Mark Pesce and for more on this tension).

I find this tension a useful position from which to plan new educational processes. Then my thinking about computational skill building wraps itself into questions of what student driven content choices, and/or student driven project choices would allow for embedded experiences of computation? When could we strategically facilitate this type of knowledge? When they wrote code? When the designed things? I know there will be many answers.

It is my belief that until our solutions put students in charge of the content (which is ubiquitous and therefore no longer precious, to be doled out at points of our choosing) they will continue to tell us we are off base by refusing to learn. When they drive what they want to learn, they will be more open to those with expertise telling them the component parts needed in each skill.

Or so I see it,

Anonymous said...

I agree Computational Thinking is very important and can be a very important tool no mater what area you are in. i am wondering why there are no tools to support computational thinking. if we relay want to push this idea i think its more then teaching a powerful way to think but also giving them the power to do something with this thinking method. its like standards committees, whats better defining a standard if how to do something or just providing a tool to do it by the standard very easily. as a programmer i don't want to implement long standards but i don't care about taking a ready module with a simple interface that will implement the standard. should we be educating or creating tool for computational thinking ?