Computational thinking offers benefits beyond STEM

Dive Brief:

  • Writing for Edutopia, Excel Public Charter School Computational Thinking Program Manager Eli Sheldon says computational thinking — the use of computer science concepts in problem-solving, design and behavioral understanding — can be applied across a number of disciplines beyond the STEM subjects.
  • Citing specific examples, Sheldon notes that algorithmic thinking can be applied in music and art, and decomposition can be applied in identifying problems and solutions in social sciences discussions and analyzing motion graphs in fitness classes. Similarly, abstraction can be used to understand complex systems with simplified visuals, and pattern recognition can be used in identifying solutions based on trends across a number of subject areas.
  • In many cases, he says these approaches are already being used in classrooms without the connection to computer science being made.

Dive Insight:

That these activities are already happening in many classrooms without particular attention being drawn to it is perhaps the most important takeaway in Sheldon's op-ed.

When educators help students to connect the dots on how any activity they're doing can be applied in other ways, especially with potential career fields or activities they enjoy beyond the school walls, engagement and enthusiasm is elevated, as well as building a sense of accomplishment. If a student is particularly skilled in music but faltering in math, a clear line drawn between the two could result in them approaching math in a way they never previously considered. Additionally, students can be encouraged to consider skills they're using during non-educational activities, such as problem-solving while playing a game such as "The Legend of Zelda," to become more mindful of how they apply various concepts in their personal lives.

Ultimately, the skills and subject areas students are exposed to during their schooling don't exist in neat silos in the real world, and it may be time to take deeper consideration of how siloed they remain in the classroom.

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Filed Under: K12 Technology
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