rediscovering some comments on computational thinking
I keep a journal using the Day One app for macOS/iOS, and while I have some lingering concerns about platformizing (and even digitizing) my journaling, there are also some pretty neat aspects to using an app like this. First, it’s very easy to copy text from other electronic sources into the app, and that really helps me capture things that made an impression on me from day to day. Second, it’s also easy to search for, read, and even be reminded of old entries. If I have time in the morning, I like to bring up the “On This Day” feature of the app and see what I wrote in years past.
It’s like this that I remembered today that on March 6th of last year, I annotated one of the readings for my students in my LIS 618 course with a comment that I wanted to remember. LIS 618 is a course about games, literacies, and learning, and this particular reading touches on connections between games and computational thinking. I have a lot of thoughts about computational thinking, and in years past, I’ve been eager to use Hypothesis to give students my critical perspective on a reading while they’re completing it themselves (I have not pre-annotated the class readings this year because it’s a busy semester and I’m interested in seeing how things go without my commentary, but I miss it—it feels like I’m going without a major part of my pedagogy for asynchronous classes).
Anyway, as I wrote in my journal, it “felt like I was working something out internally, so I wanted to include it” in Day One so that I could remember it. As I’ve been trying to get back into blogging, I’ve wanted to use my journal as a source for new posts. Since this entry (still) captures a lot of my thoughts about computational thinking, I thought I’d go ahead and reproduce it here:
Computational thinking is worth reading up on. In short, it’s the idea that folks can develop the skills for thinking about programming and computers independently of doing any actual programming or tinkering with computers.
It’s an important idea with good intentions, and it certainly provides a strong rationale for offering game design activities (including designing tabletop games, since computational thinking is related to but distinct from programming itself).
I have some (perhaps unwarranted) skepticism about it, though, because I can’t help but hear the promise that “every discipline can connect with computational thinking” as an implicit dominance of technical fields and a warning that the social sciences and humanities ought to get on board to stay relevant. I guess my concerns are two-fold: First, if computational thinking is really as universally important as advocates have claimed, why is it called “computational” thinking, and not something more discipline-neutral, like “critical thinking” or “problem-solving”? Second, are computer science educators also eager to “import” outside ways of thinking? Or is the concern with “exporting” computational thinking to history and not trading it for “historical thinking” in computing?
This isn’t an outright rejection either, though. I benefit in my personal and professional lives from perspectives and mental habits that could be described as “computational thinking,” and I’m as eager that my daughter learn to program as I am that she learn French. I also think that learning to think about computers is an essential part of “learning to be a citizen” in today’s world—computational literacies are key to not getting fleeced or manipulated in so many aspects of life. At the end of the day, I pretty much agree with the substance of computational thinking—my concern is with its packaging, positioning, and broader context.
Sorry for the soapbox here. As might be expected of a French-teacher-turned-ICT-professor (who strongly identifies with both!), I have very complicated feelings on subjects like this!
- computational thinking
- computer science education
- STEM education
- Day One
- analog vs. digital
- LIS 618
- social annotation
- asynchronous teaching
You can use click on the
< button in the top-right of your browser window to read and write comments on this post with Hypothesis. You can read more about how I use this software here.