Tuesday, October 28, 2014


The readings for this week discuss the importance of incorporating computational thinking into science for K-12. Grover and Pea review the research that has been the response to Wing’s idea of using computational thinking in school curricula to help support science literacy and raise computational literacy. Sengupta offers a theoretical framework on how to incorporate computational thinking into the classrooms.

As with many of our readings this semester, modeling and representation is imbedded in teaching, or using, computational thinking and literacies. Computational thinking also includes similar principles of teaching engineering practices that we read about last week. Engineering and computational practices use models and representations to learn and then reason and explain possible ways to solve a problem. For older students, computational programs would allow them to have a better understanding of complex ideas that includes connecting different levels or ideas (abstractions) to make a whole picture. Computational thinking could be a good method to support the learning of explanation and/or argumentation, which are important parts of science literacy, according to Sampson and Reiser.

Last weeks reading, A Framework, put emphasis on building up a child’s knowledge throughout their time at school. Sengupta seems to agree with this, and suggests that computational thinking should be introduced in primary schooling, and then built upon. Computational thinking also appears to be a potential tool to carry and build crosscutting concepts across subjects, as it would also be supportive in mathematics. Sengupta and Grover mentioned that computational thinking could also help in the designing and scaffolding of lessons. Students would be able to create their own questions, based off of prior knowledge, and then designing their own ways to solve them. Using computational thinking as a crosscutting concept, or to support crosscutting concepts, would make more meaningful connections from prior knowledge to the new concepts students are learning.

Literacy in computational thinking is important in future classrooms, as technology is a large piece of our society and helps scientists in analyzing or modeling their findings. However, I am not sure of the qualifications I have, or others, have to teach this along side their curriculum. It sounds like a few of the programs could be more complicated than others when programming. How would teachers be trained for this type of instruction? For example, I have never taken a computer science class. What training would I have access to, or have to take in order to successfully be able to teach in my classroom? Or, would I have to bring in another teacher who is more familiar with programming and these programs? Also, how much time can be dedicated for the children to learn how to use the programs?


  1. I think you brought up great points about some of the big challenges integrating computational thinking would face if accepted into the K-12 education framework. I don’t think I am qualified to teach students about programming. As far as coding goes, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about how to write an algorithm in a computer program. If it was more simplified and focused on only drag and drop variables and stuff like that I would be fine. Most teachers could probably figure out how to tinker with a simulation and change variables, but actually creating and debugging a program seems much more challenging. Not only is it challenging for the teacher and student as well, but also what if the programming overshadows the content that students should be focusing on. Then the class becomes less about Biology, chemistry, or physics and more about computer program design and computer science. The Sengupta paper mentioned studies that reported, “middle school and high school students required fifteen or more weeks of instruction, out of which, the first five weeks of classroom instruction were devoted solely to learning programming taught by a programming expert” (pg. 13). To me, I feel like I could use this huge chunk of school time to find other ways to successfully scaffold students learning. To me, five to fifteen weeks of instruction seems like months of time they are learning about computer programming and not biology. However, If students were to take a mandatory computer programming course early in middle school and early in high school, I think the knowledge they gain could be useful as another resource to help support what they are exploring in other domains.

  2. As you ask about qualifications for computational thinking, how could future teachers be better trained for these skills? Also, not just specifically computer science teachers or STEM area teachers, but all instructors? Shouldn’t all teachers implement problem solving and inquiry in their classrooms? Types of programming would probably be left to the specific teachers. Schools aren’t asking history teachers to instruct lessons about mitosis, correct? Assuming, your training would be probably be specific to your school district and your education prior to your teaching profession. The time dedicated to the children would probably be dependent on the standards that are written for the course. If computer science standards are written so that programming is important, then the assessments will be over programming and thus, a greater rather than less amount of time will be dedicated to programming.

  3. Joey, I definitely agree with you about the amount of time that needs to be dedicated for students. Maybe an introductory course for all students early in middle school could introduce them to computer science only. Like a CS related arts type class. And then in later classes, students could actually use their CT knowledge to make models and learn content while also improving CT skills.


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