A goal for teaching CS: Fostering Creativity Through Computing

February 13, 2017 at 7:56 am 1 comment

Aman Yadav and Steve Cooper have the CACM Viewpoints Education column this month. They raise the questions of how learning computing can lead to greater creativity, and how we can design computing education experiences to draw students in to greater depth.

Computing has the potential to provide users opportunities to extend their creative expression to solve problems, create computational artifacts, and develop new knowledge. The pervasive nature of computing and accessibility of digital tools is also transforming K-12 education as students move from being mere consumers of content to engaging in the subject matter by creating computational artifacts. Take Scratch, for example, which is one of the many tools designed to teach kids to code, and comes with varying levels of support for educators implementing them in both formal and informal learning settings. Scratch provides students with an opportunity to express their creativity through stories, games, and animations. While Scratch has the potential to be a powerful tool, it is often used as little more than a presentation tool in the classroom. Studies of Scratch users show that few projects use variables or control flow data structures. While the Scratch environment provides a ‘low floor, high ceiling’ that allows beginners to dive into the environment without frustration, many students do not advance to a higher level. Tools like Scratch can empower students to showcase their creativity like never before; however, the way these tools are taught by teachers and used by students significantly influences whether students move along the creativity continuum. While Scratch is widely used, we know little about how it influences students’ creative thinking.

Source: Fostering Creativity Through Computing | February 2017 | Communications of the ACM

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. rademi  |  February 13, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Knuth placed great emphasis on the importance of searching and sorting (of sequences – this should be obvious, but there’s a tendency to lose track of that when reading Knuth’s volumes).

    So I took a look at some of Scratch’s sequence data structures:


    and then it’s treatment of sorting and searching within those:

    https://wiki.scratch.mit.edu/wiki/Search (uh… hang on here…)

    … well, sorting within some of those (sorting strings is mostly useful only for things like finding anagrams).

    Anyways, that sorting page does use variables, but I am guessing that many teachers do not have motivating reasons nor motivating examples to get them interested in that. (Possibly, also, there’s things like that “don’t reinvent the wheel” meme which demotivate for understanding fundamental concepts – and, for that matter, demotivate for applying existing knowledge to real problems.)

    * * * * *

    The “irrelevant” searching page (which I included here even though it says nothing about using scratch to search) points at a much bigger issue.

    In “natural languages” like English, we have a plethora of experiences which we associate with words and we categorize those associations using definitions (dictionary definitions, for example). But it’s important to note that the simple words (like prepositions) have many definitions and usages. This might not be a good thing, but it’s intrinsic to how we understand words (and it tends to be the downfall of projects undertaken by large groups of people).

    Computers, on the other hand, take a very different (imperative) approach, and generally require a single definition before they can take action. This issue permeates computer culture and tends to result in considerable friction for the student. That “irrelevant” scratch search page is an example of this issue.

    That said, the obvious google search — site:wiki.scratch.mit.edu “searching values — has problems. Perhaps https://wiki.scratch.mit.edu/wiki/Game_Tree is the most relevant. Of course, this is an MIT site where people are perhaps already expected to have mastered the basics, but that kind of thinking suggests that either scratch wasn’t really designed for beginners or that it needs some bit of effort before it’s ready to present programming fundamentals.

    * * * * *

    Short form: I guess I am forced to agree with you here.


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