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Why students must learn computational thinking, and possibly, how to teach it

Why students must learn computational thinking, and possibly, how to teach it | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it

It’s not enough to give kids a computer or an ipad and set them loose, and it’s isn’t much better to train them to be “literate” with classes in powerpoint or how to be good consumers of information from the internet. If the computer really is a pencil or bicycle for the mind, then students must learn how to think computationally and algorithmically so that they fully understand what a computer can (and can’t) do, and then be able to instruct it to do so.

 

I say think computationally, and not program for a reason. Thinking computationally is about learning when to use a computer so solve a problem. 

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Computational Tinkering
The impact of computational thinking on our view of the world
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Kids coding at school: 'When you learn computing, you're thinking about thinking'

Kids coding at school: 'When you learn computing, you're thinking about thinking' | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it
“To me, the basic idea of computing is you have to get a computer to solve a problem: you have to come up with an algorithm, a set of instructions. If you can do that, it’s a hugely valuable skill whenever you’re working as a team for any kind of project,” he says.

“Also, think about other subjects. When you learn physics, you think about physics. But when you learn computing, you’re thinking about thinking. About how thinking works. You have to try to imagine how this computer is going to do something for you. There are lots of transferable skills.”
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Seymour Papert - YouTube

A wonderful clip made for television of Seymour Papert's early work on using computers to spark childrens' imaginations. Seymour Papert was the man behind th...

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Coding on campus and beyond - McGill Daily

Though it may be true that we are moving toward a society where computer science knowledge will be as integrated as math and English in the primary school system, coding literacy is even more important for university undergraduates as they prepare for the competitive, technologically advanced, and evolving job market. It’s difficult for students to make sense of the hype around computer science, programming, and ‘hacking.’ Long-standing barriers between technical and non-technical folks create misunderstandings that conceal the true breadth of technology and its essential applications across all academic fields. University students should be encouraged to harness the potential of programming to expand opportunities in their fields.


Even beyond practical usage, coding provides an alternate way of thinking. Employing logic through the mind of a computer forces rationality, brevity, and accuracy. Strong leaders harness interdisciplinary critical thinking by considering problems from within different mindsets (creative, mathematical, emotional, etectera) to form an optimized solution.

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Two thirds of parents 'don't know what an algorithm is' - Telegraph.co.uk

Two thirds of parents 'don't know what an algorithm is' - Telegraph.co.uk | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it

When tested against the new computing curriculum, a quarter of parents admitted they didn’t think they could complete tasks expected of five year-olds.

 

The updated curriculum, now taught to children as young as five, has been designed to equip the next generation with essential skills to succeed in the digital age.

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Bridging the digital divide with computational thinking

Bridging the digital divide with computational thinking | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it

 Google, Apple and Facebook recently published diversity data about its workforce, and the results are clear: Technology has a diversity problem!

 

Most high schools are not prepared for the complexity and nuances of teaching computer science. Schools must invest in professional development, curriculum and hardware. Then, CS curriculums become obsolete in a few years.

 

Changing cultural attitudes about computer science may be even a greater challenge. Until we view computational thinking as a core discipline, part of a rounded education, rather than a niche field, we will not make the changes needed to modernize our educational system.

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If A Computer Can Diagnose Cancer, Will Doctors Become Obsolete? - FiveThirtyEight (blog)

If A Computer Can Diagnose Cancer, Will Doctors Become Obsolete? - FiveThirtyEight (blog) | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it

Quickly advancing technologies like the C-Path raise all sorts of questions for economists about the future of the U.S. workforce. Labor economists have long expected computers to displace workers who perform routine tasks — for example, file clerks, cashiers and bank tellers — but these days, economists are in a debate with techno-optimists over whether technology will also displace higher-skilled, professional jobs, such as doctors, lawyers and (yes) writers.

 

But even if the tech enthusiasts’ wildest dreams come true, Autor said he believes computers won’t replace highly skilled workers, they’ll just enhance the job these workers do. The more likely scenario, as his paper lays out, is that other jobs will be created, and with them the need for different skills.

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Programming != Computer Science

For most students, computer science means lots of high-level coding, screens with black backgrounds and green text, and an esoteric subject. When students hear the term computer science, many think...
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Algorithmic Composition: Computational Thinking in Music

Algorithmic Composition: Computational Thinking in Music | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it
The composer still composes but also gets to take a programming-enabled journey of musical discovery.

 

Non-specialists may be disappointed that composition includes seemingly arbitrary, uninspired formal methods and calculation.c What we shall see here is that calculation has been part of the Western composition tradition for at least 1,000 years, This article outlines the history of algorithmic composition from the pre- and post-digital computer age, concentrating, but not exclusively, on how it developed out of the avant-garde Western classical tradition in the second half of the 20th century. 

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A Computer Has Finally Proven the Answer to a 400-Year-Old Math Problem - Gizmodo

A Computer Has Finally Proven the Answer to a 400-Year-Old Math Problem - Gizmodo | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it

Thomas Hales of the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, developed a proof for the problem back in 1998. But at 300 pages, it took 12 reviewers four years to check for errors—and even then, they were only 99 percent certain it was correct. So, in 2003, Hales began to create the Flyspeck project: a computational tool that would check his proof.


It uses two pieces of formal verification software—delightfully called Isabelle and HOL Light—both of which rely on just a small, easily validated series of logical statements. With those, they can check any series of other logical statements, like a mathematical proof, if they have enough time.


That means that mathematicians can now concentrate on thinking creatively about their problems—and let computers do the grunt work of checking to make sure they're correct. 

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How Numbers Help Us Spot Metaphors and Irony - Epoch Times

In Stanford's Computation and Cognition Lab, the researchers developed computational models that use pragmatic reasoning to interpret metaphorical utterances. Their research for this particular project involved four online experiments with 340 subjects.


As Kao puts it, “There is still a long way to go before computers can understand Shakespeare, but it is a start.”

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Some Universities Crack Code in Drawing Women to Computer Science - New York Times

Some Universities Crack Code in Drawing Women to Computer Science - New York Times | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it

One of the reasons so few women work in tech is that few choose to study computer science or engineering. At a few top college programs, though, that appears to be changing.

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Computer programming and coding in schools— a hype in education or an emerging trend? | European Schoolnet Observatory

There are a growing number of countries in Europe and internationally, which refocus their ICT curricula on developing students’ computer programming and coding skills and introduce this topic in national, regional or school curricula. …And this for very young learners starting already in the last year of kindergarten or in primary schools and in many cases as a requirement.

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You Can Already Code—You Just Don’t Know It Yet

You Can Already Code—You Just Don’t Know It Yet | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it
When someone tells you they code, it’s as if they’re calling you from inside the world’s most exclusive club.

Via Bonnie Bracey Sutton
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Political computational thinking: cross-sector policy networks in the construction of 'learning to code' in the computing curriculum

‘Learning to code’ has become a major policy agenda in education policy in England. This paper provides a ‘policy network analysis’ tracing the governmental, business and civil society actors now operating in ‘policy networks’ to project learning to code into the reformed National Curriculum programmes of study for Computing.

 

 It can be argued that learning to code is a kind of inculcation into new computational ways of interacting with the world, as channelled through the ‘rules’ of computer science and the disciplinary systems of thought associated with programmers. Such practices are intended to prepare them for a world in which computational thinking and coding practices are seen as potential solutions to all of today’s political and economic problems, with Big Data as the source for those solutions and algorithmic procedures to operationalize them. Through learning to code, young people are being configured in the conduct of coders, with the skills and capacities to write the code to engineer,solve and ‘hack’ the future of the solutionist state.

Susan Einhorn's insight:

What seems to be overlooked in this research is the value of computational thinking when approaching new problems and that this is but one approach, not the only one to use. On the other hand, the author makes some interesting statements about defining policies based on economic needs and corporate interests rather than the benefits to students. 

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Is coding the new literacy?

Is coding the new literacy? | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it

...you might be forgiven for thinking that learning code is a short, breezy ride to a lush startup job with a foosball table and free kombucha, especially given all the hype about billion-dollar companies launched by self-taught wunderkinds (with nary a mention of the private tutors and coding camps that helped some of them get there). The truth is, code—if what we're talking about is the chops you'd need to qualify for a programmer job—is hard, and lots of people would find those jobs tedious and boring.

 

But let's back up a step: What if learning to code weren't actually the most important thing? It turns out that rather than increasing the number of kids who can crank out thousands of lines of JavaScript, we first need to boost the number who understand what code can do. As the cities that have hosted Code for America teams will tell you, the greatest contribution the young programmers bring isn't the software they write. It's the way they think. It's a principle called "computational thinking," and knowing all of the Java syntax in the world won't help if you can't think of good ways to apply it.

Susan Einhorn's insight:

Interesting exploration of issues ranging from differentiating the value of coding from that of computational thinking, computational thinking and computer literacy as a new, essential literacy, the lack of minorities and women in computer science, the lack of computer science classes in US schools, etc. And, of course, the mention of kids in Vietnam tackling what seems to be a tough topic in programming for older kids in the US - loops -  easily as they program in Logo. 

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Coding in the Classroom: Computational Thinking Will Allow Children to 'Change the World'

Coding in the Classroom: Computational Thinking Will Allow Children to 'Change the World' | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it

"Computer programs are among the largest and most sophisticated artefacts that human beings have ever built," Peyton Jones tells IBTimes UK. He describes looking at a program like looking at the Empire State building through a computer screen-sized window. "You don't get the same visceral sense of its scale and sophistication," he says, "but it's still there."

 

With coding now an integral part of the computing programmes of study in the new national curriculum in England, Peyton Jones hopes that more people will gain an understanding and appreciation of the technology that surrounds us.

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A computing revolution in schools - BBC News

A computing revolution in schools - BBC News | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it

There are bound to be teething troubles as schools get to grips with this new approach to teaching about computers. But we should not lose sight of the long term aim - which is not necessarily to produce a nation of Mark Zuckerbergs. Only a minority of children will have any great interest in or aptitude for coding, just as only a few will want to become mathematicians.

 

But most of them will need to understand something about how computers work and just about all of them can enjoy the creative possibilities that digital technology offers. If we can show a new generation how to be the masters not the servants of the machines of the future, then that is a prize worth winning.

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Computational Thinking: How To Get It, and Why It’s Important « Annie Murphy Paul

Ultimately, Computer Science Unplugged aims to evoke intrinsic interest in its subject—to inspire students to regard computer science as an exciting intellectual adventure. Later, of course, they can go on to use an actual computer to learn to program. But students’ offline introduction to computer science may well make them more interested in pursuing the subject, and may increase the odds that what they learn later will be absorbed in a deep and lasting way.

 

Even those students who don’t go on to study computer science will have gained something valuable: the capacity for computational thinking.

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Evolving the definition of Computational thinking

Evolving the definition of Computational thinking | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it

It could be tempting to reduce computational thinking to just another subject to be taught in schools. However, if we take a more aspirational viewpoint (again the examples here are very interesting long version of Jeanette Wing’s presentation)  – then the interplay between humans and computers will change the behaviour of both.

A more sweeping definition of Computational Thinking would call for new skills, new ways of thinking and make a radical change to the economies who adopt these principles.


Via Pierre Levy, Bonnie Bracey Sutton
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Is Computer Programming Hard? Not if You Have These 7 Characteristics!

Is Computer Programming Hard? Not if You Have These 7 Characteristics! | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it
The truth is that not everyone can hack it as a computer programmer. It takes a unique set of characteristics to succeed in this field. We enlisted some programming pros to identify what it takes to hack it in this career.
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‘Computer literacy now complusory in Judiciary Employment’ – Kogi CJ gives out 60 laptops to JUSUN members

‘Computer literacy now complusory in Judiciary Employment’ – Kogi CJ gives out 60 laptops to JUSUN members | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it

Chief Judge of Kogi, Justice Nasir Ajanah on Monday declared that computer literacy will henceforth form part of the pre-requisites for employment into the state Judiciary among other criteria.


Ajanah made the declaration during the formal presentation of 60 laptop computers to members of the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) under the first phase of the union’s computerization programme in Lokoja.


The Chief Judge said he was “very passionate” about computerization because it was the legal trend and the judiciary could not afford to be left behind in the development.

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Cornell Tech's Levitt says boost K-12 computational literacy | Cornell Chronicle

Cornell Chronicle: Daily news from Cornell University
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It’s true that many students today have access to laptops and tablets, “but we almost never give them the keys to the technology kingdom,” Levitt said.

 

“We don’t teach them how the software and hardware they’re using work, despite the fact that we know they are very curious,” Levitt said. “We don’t give them the tools to innovate, and we don’t create the problem-solving pathways that support so much other learning.”

 

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Why tech needs moms

Why tech needs moms | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it
To address the tech industry's "pipeline problem," a spate of investments have targeted programs that teach coding to kids, including Google's "Made With Code," a new $50 million initiative to inspire girls to become programmers.

 

Just one question: What about me? More specifically, what about the millions of moms like me who have the education and work experience but not the coding skills to join the tech industry?

 

 

In addition to having education and work experience, moms represent a $2.4 trillion market and are quick to adopt technology: 90 percent are online, 81 percent have smart phones, and we dominate social media.

 

While having a computer science degree may be preferable, the truth is many tech roles don't require one, and there are many talented and educated moms hungry to work in a high-growth industry offering career advancement and economic security. With the number of tech jobs expected to balloon by 1.4 million by 2020 - 70 percent of which will be unfilled, moms would alleviate the talent shortage in the near term while ensuring the integrity of the talent pipeline.

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Computer science adds new dimension to study of chemistry - The Stanford Daily

Tossing the plastic model aside, Stack projected the same three-dimensional model onto the screen with his laptop through a chemistry computer program.

 

Computational chemistry allows a computer to understand a specific aspect of science — such as the structure of a protein — and then learn how it functions. Applications of coupling computers and chemistry include creating solar cells and drugs and optimizing motor vehicles.

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The 75-Year Saga Behind a Game That Teaches Preschoolers to Code | Enterprise | WIRED

The 75-Year Saga Behind a Game That Teaches Preschoolers to Code | Enterprise | WIRED | Computational Tinkering | Scoop.it
Next month, if you walk into any Target store across the country, browsing one of the main hubs of mass American consumerism, you’ll find a board game that teaches the fundamentals of computer programming to preschoolers. It’s called Robot Turtles. To play, you spread toy turtles across a grid—among various boxes, brick walls, and ice…

Via Paul Herring
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