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Computational thinking and its implications

The concept of computer science is not new in education, however, over time there have been shifts in how this area is taught in the classroom, moving away from educating on programming, to a wider view of computer science, which has evolved into the new idea of computational thinking.

This post focuses on the concept of computational thinking, exploring its definition, benefits and how it can be utilised in the classroom.

What is computational thinking?

Computational thinking (CT) is a problem-solving process involving various features. It can be used in a wide range of education subjects, including maths, physics, science and humanities. CT is not just for computer science students, but it’s a new way people can adopt to look at an issue.

Computational thinking involves four problem-solving stages:

  • Decomposition – Analysing the problem and breaking it into more manageable sections.
  • Pattern recognition – Finding patterns, trends and any similarity in data.
  • Abstraction – Spotting and highlighting principles that originate perceived patterns.
  • Algorithm design – Generating instructions to solve the problem.

Furthermore, the process usually entails students to answer questions like:

  • Who is better at solving problems? human or a machine?
  • Are there any common patterns between this problem and the one analysed previously?
  • How can data be structured to solve this problem?
  • Is there a general answer to this problem?
  • Is there a step-by-step procedure I can use to figure out this issue?
  • Are there any computational methods I can use?
  • What are the limitations of solving this issue?

Should computational thinking be taught to students?

One of the most important aims for educators is to prepare students with all the skills they need to succeed in their future professional life. However, most of the abilities teachers enhance nowadays, will probably not be utilised in five years, time as technologies are evolving every day at a phenomenal rate, altering the way people work and live.

With this in mind, educators should utilise and share computational thinking skills to prepare every learner to live and solve problems in this technological-driven world where humans and machines coexist.

Additionally, it has been proven that computational thinking will be a vital skill in the future workspace, as technological devices will be more sophisticated and data will grow noticeably. So, future careers will require employees to be able to gather information, structure data, as well as being able to use it to make decisions.

How is computational thinking utilised in schools?

Computational thinking, like any other skill, can be used in the classroom, embedding it into areas such as language arts and humanities.

In the field of language arts, computational thinking skills have been used by teachers in various ways, including teaching students to use logical processes to put a mixed up story, back into a  correct sequence; driving learners to adopt a first-order logic, to reach an explanation grounded on given facts; and inciting scholars to identify related patterns in proper grammar sentences. Similarly, in social science, educators have promoted activities such as identifying similarities between historical events, creating visualisations of common trends and originating models for social systems to develop computational thinking among students.

Computational thinking is a problem-solving skill that all students should acquire as, in this digitalised world, this ability will be useful in all workplaces.

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