Computational Thinking: Why It is Important for All Students

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Given the importance of computing and computer science in most career paths, computational thinking must be a part of every curriculum. This session explores
how computational thinking is related to computer science and information technology and how it might affect K-12 education. Participants will look at curricula examples and learn about new resources produced by a joint ISTE/
CSTA NSF group.
Presenter: Joe Kmoch, Milwaukee Public Schools

Published in: Education, Technology
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  • There are many definitions of computational thinking, but simply put: CT combines critical thinking skills with the power of computing to make decisions or find solutions.

    Skills needed to solve an equation, plan a project, or develop an outline for a writing assignment share similar qualities. They all include important problem solving competencies that students need throughout their lifetime. CT can magnify problem-solving skills needed to address authentic, real-world issues.
    (JK modified from original)
  • There are many definitions of computational thinking, but simply put: CT combines critical thinking skills with the power of computing to make decisions or find solutions.

    Skills needed to solve an equation, plan a project, or develop an outline for a writing assignment share similar qualities. They all include important problem solving competencies that students need throughout their lifetime. CT can magnify problem-solving skills needed to address authentic, real-world issues.
    (JK added slide to original)
  • Bringing CT into formal K-12 education will provide our students with vital problem solving skills. CT is for students of all ages and can be learned and practiced in all disciplines.
  • [To presenter: Click on the embedded link to start a 2 minute animation that describes the skills and dispositions that students gain when the practice computational thinking.]
  • CT for all teachers:

    CT is cross-curricular, so all teachers are responsible for introducing, reinforcing, and assessing CT skills

  • CT for all teachers:

    Most teachers already incorporate CT basics, but may not know it.

  • CT for all teachers:

    * CT has a shared vocabulary that can be highlighted in lessons from every discipline
  • CT for all teachers:

    * CT is made up of foundational building blocks of concepts, skills, and dispositions that get more sophisticated as students get older
    * CT is cross-curricular, so all teachers are responsible for introducing, reinforcing, and assessing CT skills
    CT has a shared vocabulary that can be highlighted in lessons from every discipline
    Most teachers are already incorporate CT basics, but may not know it.
    CT doesn’t necessarily require computers.
  • CT for all teachers:

    * CT doesn’t necessarily require computers.
  • [To presenter: Refer participants to the CT Operational Definition handout. As a presenter, you can decide if you want to walk through the operational definition via the slide deck or just use the handout. If you want to introduce the definition by slide use the next 4 slides (#15-18) and delete this slide.]

    The operational definition was developed by consensus of educators and CT advocates as a framework for CT in K-12 education. The operational definition was the bases for building resources for elementary and secondary school educators beginning to integrate CT into the classroom. The definition is made up of skills and dispositions or attitudes.
  • CT is multidisciplinary use of CS concepts
    (JK slide added)
  • [To presenter: Refer to CT Vocabulary and Progression Chart handout]

    CT Building Blocks start with core concepts. At this time, there are 9 core concepts including:
    Data Collection, Data Analysis, Data Representation, Problem Decomposition, Abstraction, Algorithms & Procedures, Automation, Simulation, and Parallelization.

    These concepts are defined on the chart and then illustrated by grade band.
  • Again, here is an example from a high school history class. Connecting the vocabulary to an activity is the first step in integrating CT. The next step is integrating CT activities. We’ll look at that next.
  • Again, here is an example from a high school history class. Connecting the vocabulary to an activity is the first step in integrating CT. The next step is integrating CT activities. We’ll look at that next.
  • Highest levels – like a menu
  • Recipies provides more details at another level
    At a more detailed level doing actual process (process abstractions)
  • More generalized example – divide and conquer – decompose, solve re-combine
  • [To Presenter: Reference the Computational Thinking Teacher Resources, a booklet that can be downloaded from the web site for free (www.iste.org/computational-thinking). The next several slides are for a high school reference. There are slides that reference an elementary school example. You can find how to read a CTLE on page 11 in the booklet. ]

    The CT Teacher Resources booklet is not a curriculum, but further “definitions-by-example,” including CT Learning Experiences. The booklet includes: 9 CT Learning Experiences and two scenarios to help educators understand what CT is.


    CT Learning Experiences (CTLEs) are examples of learning experiences for students of all ages and across content areas. This is an example from high school.
  • Each CTLE includes a CT Guide on the Side that correlate the activities…
  • …to CT skills (in black lettering)

    Identifying, analyzing and implementing is some of the CT skills contained in this lesson.
  • ….and dispositions (in blue lettering). CTLEs can help teachers and students gain a better understanding of the CT building blocks.

    Tolerance for ambiguity and handling open-ended problems are the two dispositions featured in this learning experience.
  • The body of the CTLE looks like a lesson plan or activity. The CT activity is correlated to an item in the Guide on the Side, like this activity

  • ...or like this disposition (in blue lettering)

  • Or this vocabulary (highlighted in green).
  • [To presenter: This is an activity for presentation participants. Hand the high school Traffic Jam learning experience worksheet.]

    Use the CT Vocabulary Chart and the working definition of CT with the disposition listed to identify where you can find CT skills, vocabulary, and dispostions in the Traffic Jam Learning Experience.

    [Discuss what people found. IF you have printed out the CT Teacher Resources booklet, check answers with the booklet. IF you have not printed out the booklet, verbally use go through the correlations.]
  • (JK this slide and the following 8 slides are added
    This list of mathematical practice standards echoes the knowledge, skills and dispositions noted in the development of CT
  • CT Dispositions:
    Confidence with complexity
    Persistence in working with difficult problems
    Tolerance for ambiguity
    Ability to deal with open-ended problems
    Ability to communicate and collaborate to achieve a common goal
  • CT Core Concepts
    Data Collection, Analysis, Representation
    Problem Decomposition /Analysis
    Abstraction
    Algorithms & Procedures
    Automation
    Modeling & Simulation
    Parallelization
  • While CT fits into all of the mathematical content standards areas, this one detailing modeling is of particular interest
  • Talking Points for District Leaders and Principals
  • Talking Points for District Leaders and Principals
  • Talking Points for District Leaders and Principals
  • NSF, CSTA and new curricula are including CT in huge ways

  • As noted in MacArthur Foundation studies, 21st century is no longer focused on content (which can be looked up and doesn’t need to be memorized) or memorized procedures, but rather on the process of creating that content and then using mash-ups and other means to create new content and procedures to solve new problems

  • CT Features which promote new approaches to learning – project-based, inquiry-based, reality based, multidisciplinary, deep analysis, using concepts from CS preparing for the use of automation to help solve problems (most major scientific and even non-scientific research revolves around stating problems in such a way that computers can then harvest and help evaluate data)

  • Problems involving interpersonal skills are not usually amenable to CT, computation, CS, though the problem analysis skills can often apply, so in that way there’s some possible involvement.

  • Technology Review chose it’s 10 Emerging Technologies – all involve many of the core concepts and dispositions of CT

  • CT Teacher Resources include:
    •   An operational definition of CT for K-12 Education •   A CT vocabulary and progression chart •   Nine CT Learning Experiences •   CT classroom scenarios

    CT Leadership Toolkit includes:
    •   Making the Case for CT •   Resources for Creating Systemic Change •   Implementing Strategies Guide  
  • (JK modified slide to include my CT wiki)
  • Computational Thinking: Why It is Important for All Students

    1. 1. Computational Thinking: An Important Skill for All Students Joe Kmoch Washington HS of IT Milwaukee Public Schools joe@jkmoch.com http://computationalthinking.pbworks.com
    2. 2. #nafnext #NAFNext Session Description • Given the importance of computing and computer science in most career paths, computational thinking must be a part of every curriculum. This session explores how computational thinking is related to computer science and information technology and how it might affect K-12 education. Participants will look at curricula examples and learn about new resources produced by a joint ISTE/CSTA NSF group.
    3. 3. #nafnext Three Statements about Computational Thinking • Based on 9 computer science practices and their application to most subject domains – Data Collection, Data Analysis, Data Representation, Problem Decomposition, Abstraction, Algorithms, Automation, Simulation, Parallelization • Related to Common Core in Mathematics • Probably our best shot to get Computer Science experiences in K-12 3
    4. 4. #nafnext Critical Thinking + Computing Power = Making Decisions or Innovating Solutions (Think “Create, Produce, Manipulate”) What is CT?
    5. 5. #nafnext The core principles of Computer Science are the basis for Computational Thinking. CT is the use of CS principles in problem domains What is CT?
    6. 6. #nafnext A Digital Age Skill for Everyone A Digital Age Skill for Everyone Why CT? Why Now?
    7. 7. #nafnext The knowledge and skills that students need to know and be able to do by the time they graduate from secondary school. CT for All Students
    8. 8. #nafnext The CT Student
    9. 9. #nafnext CT for All Teachers All teachers can and should be responsible for teaching skills, practice, and assessment of CT. This is not a “computer thing”.
    10. 10. #nafnext CT for All Teachers Most teachers already incorporate CT basics, but may not know it.
    11. 11. #nafnext CT for All Teachers CT has a shared vocabulary that can be highlighted in lessons from every discipline.
    12. 12. #nafnext CT for All Teachers CT is made up of foundational building blocks of concepts, skills, and dispositions that get more sophisticated as students get older.
    13. 13. #nafnext CT for All Teachers CT doesn’t necessarily require computers.
    14. 14. #nafnext CT Operational Definition (handout)
    15. 15. #nafnext Computational Thinking is The marriage of – the big ideas in computer science (such as abstraction, algorithms, modeling, problem decomposition) – with problems and big ideas in most other subject matter domains CT Operational Definition
    16. 16. #nafnext CT Building Blocks (handout)
    17. 17. #nafnext High school Abstraction CT in the Classroom
    18. 18. #nafnext • Technique of generalizing from specific instances (dealing with both process and data) • Capturing essential common characteristics while discarding unessential characteristics • Operating simultaneously at multiple layers and define relationships between layers What is abstraction?
    19. 19. #nafnext Cooking a Meal Abstraction Cooking a meal • At the highest level we might have the list of courses that make up the meal – Appetizer(s) – Soup/salad – Entree – Dessert • And probably an order in which to work on them (project timeline) 19
    20. 20. #nafnext Cooking a Meal Abstraction • At the next level, we might have the details of the individual parts – The recipes, for example • At the next level, we might have the details of how to do certain cooking actions – doing a reduction or – pureeing, or – rolling dough (All process abstractions) 20
    21. 21. #nafnext Example of data abstraction This Chicago transit map is a data abstraction; contains essential info like stations and transfer points, avoids details like exact street locations of stations or distances 21
    22. 22. #nafnext Process Abstractions of the mind • Techniques • For example: Divide and Conquer • Abstraction of how to solve a problem, not actually a solution to any particular problem. • Take a problem and divide it into several piece • Solve or complete each piece • Re-combine the pieces to solve original problem 22
    23. 23. #nafnext CT Learning Experiences
    24. 24. #nafnext CT Learning Experiences
    25. 25. #nafnext CT Learning Experiences
    26. 26. #nafnext CT Learning Experiences
    27. 27. #nafnext CT Learning Experiences
    28. 28. #nafnext CT Learning Experiences
    29. 29. #nafnext CT Learning Experiences
    30. 30. #nafnext Traffic Jam (activity)
    31. 31. #nafnext Another activity • Please get into groups of 4-8 • Review the Computational Thinking within Disciplines Chart • Within your group brainstorm some lessons in your discipline where you already include one or more of the CT concepts or dispositions; together consider how you could enhance these lessons to include one or more additional CT concepts or dispositions. • 20 minutes; write ideas on a large sheet • Then we’ll share at least one idea from each group
    32. 32. #nafnext Comparing CT Core Dispositions and CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice CCSS Standards for Math Practice Computational Thinking core dispositions 1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them Confidence with complexity Persistence in working through problems 2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively Ability to deal with open ended problems 3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others Ability to communicate and collaborate to achieve a common goal 4. Model with mathematics Tolerance for ambiguity 5. Use appropriate tools strategically Ability to communicate and collaborate to achieve a common goal 6. Attend to precision Persistence in working through problems 7. Look for and make use of structure Ability to deal with open-ended problems 8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning Ability to deal with open-ended problems <http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/mathematics/introduction/standards- for-mathematical-practice/>
    33. 33. #nafnext Comparing CT Core Concepts and CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice CCSS Standards for Math Practice Computational Thinking core concepts 1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them Data collection, analysis, representation Problem Decomposition/Analysis 2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively Abstraction 3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others Algorithms and Procedures 4. Model with mathematics Modeling & Simulation 5. Use appropriate tools strategically Automation 6. Attend to precision Data collection, analysis, representation 7. Look for and make use of structure Parallelization Algorithms & Procedures 8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning Algorithms & Procedures <http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/mathematics/introduction/standards- for-mathematical-practice/>
    34. 34. #nafnext CCSS: Standards for Mathematical Content High School: Modeling Modeling Standards Modeling is best interpreted not as a collection of isolated topics but rather in relation to other standards. Making mathematical models is a Standard for Mathematical Practice, and specific modeling standards appear throughout the high school standards indicated by a star symbol (★). <http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/mathematics/high-school- modeling/introduction/>
    35. 35. #nafnext CT Statement #1 CT is a key interdisciplinary component in preparing students to be successful in a globally competitive workforce. • If students are going to be successful in postsecondary education and compete for and win jobs, they must have the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that CT provides (Wagner). From ISTE CT Website, Computational Leadership Toolkit (8/22/11), p 42 Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow, Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, Harvard U
    36. 36. #nafnext CT Statement #2 CT is a critical enabling skill that will raise the level of achievement for all students, especially those who are traditionally marginalized. • Successful students must be able to connect and apply academic content to real-world situations, and CT provides a framework for that learning connection (Marzano). From ISTE CT Website, Computational Leadership Toolkit (8/22/11), p 42 Robert J Marzano, Marzano Research Laboratory
    37. 37. #nafnext CT Statement #3 CT is already a learning strategy in many classrooms and lessons today. However, we need to more closely examine the uses of CT and identify and expand student and teacher awareness about its impact and power. • This means we probably do not have to expend large sums of money. We just need to recognize and align CT strategies to current practices. From ISTE CT Website, Computational Leadership Toolkit (8/22/11), p 42
    38. 38. #nafnext NSF CE21 proposals require CT prominently CSTA K-12 CS Standards, 3rd ed (CT is a major focus of these new standards) New AP Computer Science Principles and Exploring CS Curricula – CT plays a major role CT is gaining traction!
    39. 39. #nafnext Consuming content and parroting procedures is 19th and 20th Century 21st Century Education is about process, about learning tools and skills to remake content, create new learning and solve problems (think creators, producers) Not about just formal education in school but also about informal education – 24 hour learning – the network CT promotes 21st Century Learning Re-Imagining Learning in the 21st Century: MacArthur Foundation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6_U6jOKsG4&feature=relmfu Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner: MacArthur Foundation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0xa98cy-Rw&feature=relmfu
    40. 40. #nafnext Contextual Multidisciplinary Project-based and inquiry based Looking deeply at a problem Using abstraction + algorithms + analysis + bringing to bear any number of tools + possibly automation/computing CT Features
    41. 41. #nafnext CT isn’t necessarily useful for all problems ...but for many of our largest problems involving sciences, environment, social studies for example where large datasets abound and modeling and simulation techniques are useful CT for our larger problems
    42. 42. #nafnext Technology Review (May/June 2013) 10 Emerging Technologies – among them: Deep Learning (AI) Prenatal DNA Sequencing Baxter: Blue Collar Robot Smart Watches Ultra-Efficient Solar Power (Nanotechnology) Big Data from Cheap Phones Supergrids CT in Emerging Technologies
    43. 43. #nafnext CT Teacher Resources and CT Leadership Toolkit For free download at www.iste.org/computational-thinking Coming Soon! CT database for links to research and other teacher resources. CT Resources
    44. 44. #nafnext For more information, contact: computational-thinking@iste.org Or http://csta.acm.org/Curriculum/sub/CompThinking.html www.iste.org/computational-thinking Joe’s site: http://computationalthinking.pbworks.com Thank you!

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