Computational Thinking is a major focus in the Australian curriculum of Digital Technologies learning. But, what does it mean, and why is it important for children to develop this skill?
Computational thinking is a problem-solving method that is applied to create solutions that can be implemented using digital technologies. It involves integrating strategies, such as organising data logically, breaking down problems into parts, interpreting patterns and models and designing and implementing algorithms. – Australian Curriculum
Related Reading: Do you know the Australian curriculum for Digital Technologies?
It is a problem solving process where the goal is to produce a systematic solution to a problem. The process involves analysing a problem and coming up with a solution that consists of a sequence of defined steps that need to be undertaken to solve the problem, and to determine what information or data is needed to solve the problem.
It’s a structured approach to problem solving building on problem solving skills already in play.
We use computational thinking skills every day without realising it. For example, the simple task of getting ready to go out, there are a number of defined steps you take to ensure you are ready to go out, and arrive at your destination on time and with ease.
Consider the following:
We use problem solving skills every day. So when getting ready to go out, you would identify what you need to wear for the day by checking the weather conditions. Depending on what the weather would be like you would then analyse what you should wear to suit the weather conditions as well as the dress attire to suit the reason for going out. Is the going out a social reason or is it to a business meeting? Don’t forget, you also need to manage your time appropriately to avoid running late.
This process consisted of gathering data to then logically thinking the sequence of steps required to eventually achieve the goal of getting ready to go out on time and dressed appropriately to suit the weather and the dress code.
Computational thinking is a disciplined problem solving skill – a skill that is now a big feature of the school curriculum in Australia.
The Australian Curriculum: Technologies describes two distinct but related subjects:
Digital technologies are part of our everyday lives. We use them all the time. We use them for work and at home. They make our lives easier, efficient and incredibly time saving. They help us to make informed decisions on everything from what to wear, when and how we perform daily chores like the washing to the cooking.
Digital Technologies are the handy apps or the computerised washing machines that beeps when the cycle is done to becoming dependent on Siri to ask all sorts of questions like what the weather will be on the day so you know how to dress for the day!
Do the following everyday activities involving digital technologies sound familiar?
The list is endless ….. we are very much reliant and dependent on these handy digital technologies to help us live and function every day.
Although many of us are eager users of digital technologies, we have little understanding of HOW they work, and HOW they are actually created.
Previous schooling curriculum focused on digital literacy rather than digital technologies. Digital literacy is more about how we can use digital technology whereas digital technologies is about how we can become creators of digital technology solutions.
There is now a strong awareness for children to understand HOW digital technologies work and HOW they are created, and the underpinning thinking required to develop new digital technologies.
There is a strong emphasis on giving children the opportunity to become not just users of digital technologies but creators of digital technology.
The curriculum features computational thinking which is the way of thinking and problem solving, critical for developing new digital technologies.
The aim of the national curriculum is to strengthen this way of thinking so that children can solve and think about every day problems effectively, and to also apply them to the creation of digital technologies.
Digital technologies is not just about sitting in a room playing with a computer – it is so much more than that.
Digital Technologies is about changing the world.
I quote from my studies on digital technologies, an extract:
The study of digital technologies and computational thinking into Australian classrooms ensures that Australian youth move from being users of technology, produced elsewhere, to becoming world leaders in developing new technological innovations and solutions.
Code plays an important role in the creation of digital technologies but more critically, the study of digital technologies equips students to develop fundamental skills that will become crucial for creating code and solutions.[Source: Learnings from F-6 Digital Technologies: Foundation]
What are the skills required for jobs of the future?
Technology and Computational Thinking
It’s fascinating to read research reports like the The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Report, The Future of Jobs, where it reports by 2020, automation will replace up to 5 million jobs.
Devin Fidler, Research Director at the Institute for the Future says:
“Computational thinking – the ability to manage the massive amounts of data we process individually each day, spot patterns, and make sense out of all of it – will be valued.”
According to to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), related jobs like software developers will grow by 18.8% as well as computer systems analyst jobs will increase 20.9% by 2024.
What is Computational Thinking?
“It’s a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behaviour by drawing on the concepts fundamental to computer science.” – Jeanette Wing
“Computational thinking is fundamental skill for everyone, not just for computer scientists. To reading, writing, and arithmetic, we should add computational thinking to every child’s analytical ability.” – Jeanette Wing
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