Archive for March 20, 2016

Forbes weighs in on Computational Thinking: I’m one of *those* critics!

Based on the Forbes article (quoted below), I can now be referred to as Reviewer #2 (see post explaining that academic meme).  I am one of *those* critics.

I’m not apologizing — I still don’t see evidence that we can teach computational thinking the way it’s been described (as I discussed here).  For example, is it true that “Computational thinking can also help in understanding and explaining how things work”?  By learning about computational things, students will learn how to understand non-computational things?  Maybe, but I don’t see much research trying to achieve that and how to measure whether it’s happening.  I do believe that you can use computational things to learn about non-computational things, through modeling and simulation.  But that’s different than saying that “computational thinking” will get you there.

The defense offered in Forbes (“Despite almost a decade of efforts”) is a weak one.  There are lots of things that humans have believed for a lot longer than a decade that are still wrong.  Lamarckian theories of evolution?  Spontaneous generation? Flat Earth?  Length of time of a belief is not a measure of its truth.

Young students in grades K-6 should learn the basic ideas in computing and how to solve problems computationally.  Computational thinking can also help in understanding and explaining how things work. Computational thinking can be taught as a complement to science and to principles of engineering design. It can also be taught to support students’ creative expression and artistic talents.  Despite almost a decade of efforts to define computational thinking, there are still critics that suggest we don’t know what computational thinking means or how to measure it. The previously mentioned work in standards setting and assessment is helping to more clearly define computational thinking and how it can be incorporated in the classroom.

Source: Thawing from a Long Winter in Computer Science Education – Forbes

March 20, 2016 at 7:27 am 3 comments


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