Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Grover & Pea’s article, Computational Thinking in K-12: A Review of the State of the Field, focused on the definition of computational thinking, the application of CT within K-12 schools and concerns with each, and the next steps for improvement of CT application and broadening of discourse.  The Royal Society provided the concise definition that computational thinking is the “process of recognizing aspects of computation in the world that surrounds us,” and using knowledge and tools from CS to “understand and reason about both natural and artificial systems and processes.”  The current CT within schools focus on a variety of systems, including abstractions and pattern generalization to debugging and systemic error detection.  Grover and Pea touch upon the controversy and debate surrounding where to place the potential curricula and the amount of emphasis placed on it.  Ultimately, Grover and Pea conclude that researchers are still in the process of forming the specific curricular associated with CT and have mainly focused on defining it. 

The Sengupta, et al article focused on the various practices associated with CT, their relationship to science and math, and their integration into K-12 science topics.  Through looking at past research and evidence, the researchers promoted a specific learning environment that fosters the joint development of a scientific topic and the computational thinking associated with these higher level science ideas.  This learning environment was determined to include a specific type of programming, in this case agent-based to help promote both modeling and simulations of the science topic and CT. Finally, Sengupta outline four major design principles for integrating understanding and development of science and CT: 1.  Support low-threshold and high ceiling activities, 2. Design programming, 3. Support algorithm visualization and 4. Sequence learning activities.  Findings from the study supported these ideas and showed that students greatly learned from this teaching environment and scaffolding, especially one-on-one, was very beneficial.  

Major themes:
·      CT will create students capable of inquiry (coming up with their own questions) who have the ability to solve these problems in a logical way
·                          CT involves using CS, inquiry, and reasoning skills
·      CT should be used as a medium for/integrated into teaching and understanding other subjects.
·      CT is an active process-not just a technological machine doing the work-where modeling, simulations, and real world applications are stressed and performed
·      Incorporating CT into schools is highly beneficial for all students

One aspect that I really liked and Grover and Pea touched upon it was the fact that CT may and can be used as a medium for understanding other subjects.  Finding connections between concepts across disciplines is critical for complete understanding.  This leads to one issue/controversy that the researchers faced: whether or not computational thinking should be a separate subject, within a specific discipline or spread out over many.  In a world where technology is so prevalent, I can definitely see the pros to CT being its own separate subject.  This way, more emphasis and time can be given for real world applications and hands-on projects, opportunities that may fall by the wayside when CT is incorporated within a specific topic.  However, with this mindset, how would you go about incorporating all the subjects and their connections into one class?  However, including it in the maths and sciences is essential, whether within the same class or a separate one. 
Another question I had regarded resources.  In schools that do not have many funds or lack certain technology, how can CT, using CS, be effectively carried out?  While deSessa mentioned that many schools do not have this problem, there are schools that lack sufficient funds or are overcrowded.       

Finally, I just wanted to say that I liked deSessa’s reasoning, in the article, Computational Media and New Literacies-The Very Idea, and how he/she explicitly states what computational literacy is- “intelligence achieved cooperatively with external materials,” not just solely by the technological machine-and separates it from the term computer literacy.  Through defining these terms and stating the differences, I was able to see the greater importance CT held, the active nature involved in completing CT, and how it applies to many other domains.

1 comment:

  1. I also got thinking a lot about computational thinking and modeling as a sort of practical platform from which to learn the disciplinary core ideas of science and engineering. I know that there's also been discussion around engineering and/or scientific practices being used in this way, as a framework for the teaching of core ideas, but I'm not sure where we're at. It seems to me that computational thinking, while an important and powerful subset of modeling practices, would be a difficult sell to many teachers now who already feel unequipped to handle the engineering practices outlined in the NGSS. Add to that the relative lack of educational infrastructure around CT/computer science (as far as I know, NSTA and ASEE are both bigger than the professional organization for teachers of computer science), and the relatively high start-up cost of a course in computer science with respect to technology and professional development, and my guess is that CT will remain just a subset of modeling practices (though I hope it grows, because I think it's challenging and cool). I know this is all wrapped up in talks about modeling as the one and only scientific practice, too.


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