- Computational thinking, a problem-solving method that involves an algorithmic and often visual method of analyzing and processing data, is increasingly important as schools and districts work to equip students with the skills they'll need for future success, Cheryl Capozzoli, the science/STEM coordinator for the Harrisburg (Penn.) School District, writes for eSchool News.
- Harrisburg schools now consider computational thinking as the fifth "C" in the "4 Cs of 21st century skills" — along with critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration — but Capozzoli recommends hosting professional learning days with staff members and meetings with parents to better acclimate both groups to the concept and its importance before embedding it in curriculum.
- Additionally, she suggests starting simple by introducing students to basic data sets, integrating the concept across curriculum areas, and committing to continue adapting and evolving the approach as needed.
Computational thinking approaches don't just have to be applied in STEM subjects. Algorithmic thinking can be used to analyze patterns in music and art. Decomposition can identify problems and solutions in social science discussions and in the analysis of motion graphs in health classes, and abstraction can use simplified visuals to explain complex systems. These approaches are arguably the true benefit of studying computer science above the technical skills students gain.
In many cases, teachers are also already asking students to do these things in any problem-solving assignment, whether they're aware of that or not. Connecting those dots, however, can be critical for students. If an activity they enjoy can be applied in other ways — with music being tied to math or the process of solving a problem in a game like "The Legend of Zelda" to critical thinking — their engagement and enthusiasm will likely rise. Finding ways to view a challenge in the context of something you're already good at can paint that challenge in a more approachable light.
Skills and subject areas aren't separated into neat silos in the real world, so administrators — especially those overseeing curriculum and teacher training — must keep that in mind amid demands for students better prepared with the cross-curricular soft skills that go beyond core areas of study.