Computational Thinking: Nothing More Than Systemic Common Sense Problem-Solving

From what I can determine, computational thinking is said by its proponents to provide a manner of thinking (extrapolated from computer science) that should be applied across all occupational and social endeavors. And that computational thinking should be taught and enforced beginning with the earliest grades. The Computer Science For Fun Site while not doing a very good job of detailing examples of how it should apply, does lay out the types of thinking inclusive in computational thinking.

Logical Thinking: Logical thinking is about deducing as much new information as possible from the little you already have – but (and this is the critical bit) not by jumping to conclusions. The new information gleaned must follow for sure.

Algorithmic Thinking: Algorithmic thinking is developing a set of rules that produce a winning or successful problem-solving strategy each time when confronted with similar circumstances. Once a successful algorithm has been built, one does not need to rethink the exercise from scratch each time.

Efficient Solutions: In computer science, efficiency is basically just about minimizing how much of some resource you use to complete a task. The resources to minimize vary but the most important one is often ‘time’. What matters is usually finding ways that guarantee you get a task done in as few steps as possible.

Scientific Thinking: Basically scientific thinking is essentially not jumping to conclusions without evidence: following the Scientific Method to build up new knowledge. And the steps of the scientific method are to:

  • Ask a Question
  • Do Background Research
  • Construct a Hypothesis
  • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
  • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
  • Communicate Your Results

Innovative Thinking: Innovative thinking means, I think, not only coming up with unique ideas that are guaranteed to better some small or large part of mankind but to push the idea through to fruition.

Jeannette Wing, who coined the term Computational Thinking, wrote: “It represents a universally applicable attitude and skill set everyone, not just computer scientists, would be eager to learn and use. “ In her article, she goes on to characterize Computational Thinking as conceptualizing, not programming; fundamental, not rote skill; a way that humans, not computers, think; complements and combines mathematical and engineering thinking; ideas, not artifacts; for everyone, everywhere.

Given the common sensical attributes of so-called computational thinking, there can be little doubt the whole thing is a bit silly and a lot forced. That we need to ball it all up into curricula and add it to reading, writing, and arithmetic as a basic as early as kindergarten, is ridiculous. Ms. Wing and CMU are garnering considerable attention with considerable fluff. It too will pass but not before we have misdirected billions to buying computational thinking as the skill of the 21st Century.