What has education been about? In schools, education and the process of learning, has always been about understanding and retaining information that has been passed on to you by teachers who have plenty of knowledge. How much of information have you retained from interactions with your teachers? Ask yourself this: have you ever found history useful in your life? There would've been a tourist guide to explain to you what you thought you didn't know on a visit to a historical site, but let's face it. You didn't retain that information all those years ago because you though you had no use of it.
Everything in this technologically advanced world has taken a turn for the better. Technology has touched lives and fields alike, and has converted them into being efficient. With this, education is now taking a turn to help students, parents and teachers understand that the process of learning is not just about retaining what's given to you. It's about finding the right places to apply what you've learned. The purpose of education lies in its application, and the current job market requires people who are able to apply acquired knowledge on the field. And this is where Computational Thinking comes into the picture.
Computational Thinking is a process that involves reason, logic, and creativity to help a student (or anyone) solve a problem. This valuable skill finds its use in schools, work, and beyond, as it provides a unique method of problem-solving, which is important to jobs in the future. There's a difference between computational thinking (let us call it CT) and math: CT allows you to form innovative solutions for the problems you are faced with. You're given your own space to come up with a solution that's completely yours. What CT also allows is the free will of the person to choose any path, or even come up with their own, to find a solution. But math, can be strenuous and hard on the mind. It is also well within the teacher's power to restrict a student's thought process to an ideal path to come up with the optimal answer.
Computational Thinking uses 4 important steps:
Decompose. In this step, the problem is broken down into smaller chunks for students to understand the problem as a whole. If you were presented with a lengthy paragraph describing the problem, you would first break the statement into smaller points so it would be easier for you to comprehend.
Abstraction. What it basically does, is pull out certain differences to make one solution work for multiple problems. Think of it in this sense: you're playing a level in Super Mario, and you find a recurring pattern in every level. Mushrooms you have to eat, bricks you have to hit to gain coins, plants and turtles you have to avoid, and tunnels you have to slide down. This can be interchanged at any time, but the solution essentially remains the same. They occur at different stages of the game, so you'll be creating a mental map of a solution that would go something like this:
Okay, I'll run on normal ground for a few meters, collect coins and dodge those turtles or probably even send them flying. Once I reach an area that's overpopulated with enemies, I'll slide down the tunnels, where there won't be as many. I'll get past them, and I'll be well on my way.
Pattern Matching. Now that you've found differences in certain problems to come up with one solution for them all, it's time to come down to finding the pattern hidden in the questions before you. How else will you identify the solution at first glance, if you're unable to understand the type of the question? Deciphering the pattern of a question requires extensive understanding of what the problem asks for, and how you can use the knowledge you've acquired to form your answer.
Algorithm. Once you've identified the answer to the problem before you, all you need to do is write it down. You start from the very beginning, detailing the solution in points for easy understanding, until you reach the end. A point could have multiple sub-points, and a solution could have many points as well. Once you finish jotting them down, have a look at what you've written, and try to find areas where you could make the answer easier and more efficient.
Yes, it is inclusive, and it should be used in a classroom setting. Students of any grade and scale would benefit out of this. It's only with the skills acquired during this process that students turn into bigger assets for companies that seek innovation in the answers presented before them. As computer science is a field that constantly grows, teachers can look to services that offer them with resources to help educate their students. Teachers are viewed as sources of knowledge, and when you're a teacher, competing with an industry that doesn't stop growing will make you feel overwhelmed. But don't worry, you could always use puzzles and games to figure these concepts out yourself, which will give you the confidence to use the same thinking in a class of 30 kids.
One common error that teachers make when utilizing this process is by using a set of standard puzzles that students have to solve. It cuts down on creativity and leg-room for the student to plan their solutions, and it pretty much does the opposite of what you would've intended. Ensure that when you try to integrate this concept in a classroom, you provide a student the space to explore different options, and when you think they've obtained the right solution, help them look for a better one. The process doesn't stop until you're certain that they've gotten the best solution they could possibly think of.
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