Muffy Calder - The Importance of Computational Thinking in the Digital Age


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Professor Muffy Calder's keynote from the CAS Scotland conference 2012.

The video of this presentation is available at:

Professor Calder is the second Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland. She undertook the post on 1st March 2012.

Professor Calder comes to the Scottish Government from the University of Glasgow where she continues to hold the chair of Professor of Formal Methods (Computing Science).

Her research is in modelling and reasoning about the behaviour of complex software and biochemical systems using computer science, mathematics and automated reasoning techniques. In 2011 Professor Calder was awarded an OBE for services to Computer Science and a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award. Professor Calder also played a key role in establishing the BCS Academy of Computing as a partnership between UKCRC, CPHC and BCS.

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  • Chairman of Google
  • Muffy Calder - The Importance of Computational Thinking in the Digital Age

    1. 1. The importance of Computational Thinking in the digital* age Muffy Calder Professor of Computing Science University of Glasgow and Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland18/11/2012 *any age! 1
    2. 2. What is Computational Thinking?18/11/2012 2
    3. 3. What is Computational Thinking? Thinking precisely and unambiguously about data and computation, separating concerns and thinking about • what a system does and how it does it • what are the right abstractions • what can you leave out, what must be considered • what are the best representations for those abstractions • what is the power and/or constraints of the underlying machinery • what are the interfaces (human or otherwise) • what are the conditions for operation • what are solutions for similar systems or components • when to use recursion or parallelism • when is randomisation or approximation is appropriate • when will a heuristic help (an experience based technique, rule of thumb, when you can’t do an exhaustive search ) • when will a reformulation or reduction lead to a known solution • when should you trade space for time or v.v. • when dealing with data: ecological fallacy and fallacy of composition 318/11/2012
    4. 4. Computational Thinking is not just for computers -- its for lifeThought processes and the automation of abstractions.Formulation of a problem and solutions.Understanding limitations and power of computation. Programming is fundamental to computer science and computational thinking.18/11/2012 4
    5. 5. ProgrammingSoftware is everywhere – in nearly every business, every aspect of modern life. - jet engine, car brakes, tax return, holiday booking, this presentation …Software is designed and modified everywhere, not just in software industry.Computing Science and Computational Thinking are too important to be left toleft to universities or to chance -- what happens at school is crucial. . 18/11/2012 5
    6. 6. My own background My introduction to computer science was appalling – but it got better quickly. Research in modelling and reasoning about concurrent and communicating systems. From wireless network protocols to molecular biology. Telecommunications industry, medical research, sensor systems, air traffic systems. Chair of UKCRC 2009-2011 Board of BCS Academy of Computing Royal Society Report -- State of Computing at School18/11/2012 6
    7. 7. A Grassroots RevolutionUK-wide Computing at School group. Self-help group for computing teachers Supported by BCS, Microsoft, Google and others CAS Scotland CAS designed curriculumRoyal Society report.Government takes notice. Eric Schmidt 2011 MacTaggart Lecture decisive.18/11/2012 7
    8. 8. There is a need to improve understanding in schools of the nature and scope ofComputing. In particular there needs to be recognition that Computer Science is arigorous academic discipline of great importance to the future careers of many pupils.Every child should have the opportunity to learn Computing at school, includingexposure to Computer Science as a rigorous academic discipline.There is a need for qualifications in aspects of Computing that are accessible at schoollevel but are not currently taught. There is also a need for existing inappropriateassessment methods to be updated.… there is a lack of continuing professional development for teachers of Computing.18/11/2012 8
    9. 9. As Chief Scientific Adviser in Scotland CfE is an opportunity -- distinguishes computing science from ICTTwo relevant activities:Curriculum working group looking at CPD needs for teachers – proposal foractionBCS Academy of Computing, Computing at School Scotland, Education Scotland and theScottish Qualifications AuthorityExemplification material –RSE and BCS Academy of Computingsupported by Education Scotland (and universities and industry)Jeremy Scott seconded on part time basisPhase 1 levels 3,4: intro to CS, mobile app development, programming in ScratchPhase 2 levels 4: info sys design, level 5: software design and development18/11/2012 9
    10. 10. My message• Computational thinking is about problem formulation and solving• Computing Science is a rigorous science and engineering discipline• Programming is at the heart of Computing Science – about thinking and engineering – allows us to understand, design, and change software which is everywhere• (Computing) Science is empowering be scientific and rigorous, be brave!