The 4C’s or the core skills of the 21st century – Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking- have been associated with maker spaces for long. There is no qualm about how maker spaces help build these skills among not just a child but any maker. The constructivist theory of education states that the learners learn the best when they create their own learning experience and the maker community is on the same page. We have always advocated that Maker Spaces are great way to build the core 21st century skills along with learning the best way you can.
However, there is an upcoming 5th C- that educators, programmers and trainers believe need to be built in each child as well- Computational Thinking- A skill that I believe is at the centre of learning inside a Maker Space.
- But, What is Computational Thinking?
Simply put, computational thinking is thinking like a computer or more like developers who tell the computer how to approach a problem and program the computer to solve it. Does that mean everyone needs to become a developer or a computer scientist or should aspire to be one? No. Of course not. Computational thinking is not a prescription, but a way of thinking, that can be applied anywhere in your life.
“Computational thinking is not a prescription, but a way of thinking, that can be applied anywhere in your life. “
The below graphic very well shows where computational thinking fits in the sphere of education in 21st century:
So, is it like Design Thinking?
No. It is not. Design Thinking is a process with defined non-linear stages- Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test- that you actively participate in to come to a solution. Computational thinking is characterised with some essential elements- a thought process broken down into chunks. While they both may seem like iterative processes, they differ – Design Thinking is a process, it is external, a framework that helps you to approach a problem and Computational Thinking is a way of thinking, something you adopt internally and apply it in any situation in your life.
“Design Thinking is a process, it is external, a framework that helps you to approach a problem and Computational Thinking is a way of thinking, something you adopt internally and apply it in any situation in your life.”
Computational Thinking does come with its own set of key characteristics- which may be termed slightly differently depending on where do you do your research- nonetheless, these are the broad characteristics of Computational Thinking:
a. Decomposition: Looking at a problem and breaking it down into smaller components or variables.
b. Pattern Recognition and Data Representation: Identifying similarities, patterns, trends and regularities in the data.
c. Generalisation or Abstraction: Identifying general principles that generate these patterns and removing unnecessary ones.
d. Algorithm Thinking: Once the problem is broken down, patterns recognised, and hypotheses made for why is something happening, it is time to come up with a Step-By-Step instruction or a logical approach to solve the problem.
In terms of the process, computational thinking has a 3 Step process that are also called 3A’s- Abstraction, Automation, Analyses or Formulate a problem, Express a Solution designed algorithmically and analyse when the solution is executed. A great way to solve problems inside a Maker Space through the approach of Tinkering, Debugging and Creating.
Great, how do I take it back in the classroom?
If you are onboard with this and want to take it back to your classroom or maker spaces, here are some resources you should definitely check out:
Computational Thinking Resources
- This is a great resource for activities that one can do to build computational thinking skills in a learner
- If you are a teacher, educator or an instructional designer, check out this google archived course
- And here is a resource with all the links to resources you can use
With the advancement in technology, our education spaces are also changing along with skills that our future leaders and we need. Computational Thinking is one such skill.
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