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Computational Thinking

‘A high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world.’ DfE (2013)

Computational Thinkings refers to the way in which we teach the computing curriculum. In order to tackle problems whereby computers can help us, we need to think like a computer, therefore computational thinkings describes approaches and concepts to do so (Computing Handbook, 2016-2017). Computational thinking allows children to become better problem solvers and an easy way to do so is to use a programmable device such as a Bee-Bot and a map to create a simple set of instructions (algorithms).

The featured image above was created by the DfE funded Barefoot Computing Project. The model outlines the development of computational thinking approaches and concepts.

It is widely recognised that computational thinking compromises of the following (Pick and Mix 4: Computer Science):

Decomposition: This is the ability to break a problem down into task to make it more manageable. For example, the task of putting on the school’s Christmas play can be decomposed into auditioning pupils, learning lines, building sets, creating costumes etc.

Algorithms: An algorithm is a sequence set of instructions or rules for performing a task. An algorithm is written for humans to follow.  Typically, we create an algorithm following decomposition. For example, having identified all the movements of a simple dance motif we can then sequence the movements. For example, Full turn clockwise  > clap hands above head > squat down > touch floor etc. Correctly sequencing an algorithm is very often, though not always, important.

Abstraction: Abstraction is just simplifying things. When we abstract we hide or ignore unnecessary detail. A great example of an abstraction is the London underground tube map. This hides the unnecessary detail of the actual track routes and distance between stops, as it is not needed for its purpose.

detail-tube-map.jpg
A map of the London Underground which hides unnecessary detail, thus simplifying the map.

Pattern: This is about identifying and using similarities. For example, when writing the algorithm for a task – say drawing a square – we might spot that we have the same steps repeated 4 times. Identifying this pattern would lead us to use a repetition command when programming leading to a more efficient program.

The Barefoot project can be access further at www.barefootcas.org.uk.

Similarly, the BBC has create some great materials on computational thinking. They can be viewed following this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/topics/z7tp34j

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