Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Subject choice, computational thinking and the digital divide

There is so much talk about the digital divide. The digital divide relates to the inability to access the Internet and ICT skills, and the lack of fluency in ICT skills. The digital divide impacts on education and the learners’ future in so many ways. Familiarity with computers and fluency with office applications leads to computational thinking and certain attitudes. To quote from a document from the International Society for Technology in Education and Computer Science Teachers Association 

'Computational thinking (CT) is a problem-solving process that includes (but is not limited to) the following characteristics:
  • Formulating problems in a way that enables us to use a computer and other tools to help solve them. 
  • Logically organizing and analyzing data 
  • Automating solutions through algorithmic thinking (a series of ordered steps) 
  • Identifying, analyzing, and implementing possible solutions with the goal of achieving the most efficient and effective combination of steps and resources 
  • Generalizing and transferring this problem solving process to a wide variety of problems’ 
CAT teaches these skills – using the computer to solve problems; logically organise and analyse data; automate solutions through a series of steps; and all the steps above. These skills do not only relate to computers but to life and all subject areas in the school. 

Essential attitudes / characteristics of ICT-use are
  • 'Confidence in dealing with complexity 
  •  Persistence in working with difficult problems 
  • Tolerance for ambiguity 
  • The ability to deal with open ended problems 
  • The ability to communicate and work with others to achieve a common goal or solution’ 
These are characteristics essential in today’s world. Those who do not do not become fluent with the computer do learn these attitudes / characteristics.

Look at this list – is this not what is encouraged in the activities in the Gr 10 and 11 CAPS CAT books from Study Opportunities, particularly at the end of modules and towards the back of the book. To develop computational thinking and associated attitudes the learners must learn to use the computer to solve problems.

Subject choice is taking place in many schools now. Encourage learners to take CAT or IT as in the world of expanding knowledge and changing economies learners must learn computational thinking (the problem-solving process) and develop the associated attitudes. In every school try and break the digital divide and encourage computational thinking via ICT use.


Anonymous said...

What is described here, I also see as the ultimate aim of CAT.
Yes, learners need to know e.g. Word - the tool they work with - and the functions/features it offers so that when they encounter a problem, they understand what the different tools (packages) can or cannot do and make informed decisions as which and how to use them to solve the problem in the most efficient way.
That is also what I like of the type of questions in the Computer Olympiad and I agree, your textbook definately prepares learners for this objective.

Solution development, not mechanical skills only without thinking

I also like the way your textbook provides background and understanding (is it called context?) to these aspects, e.g. that using Word is about communication and the aspects involved and how Word's features contribute to that. Excellent!

Anonymous said...

A feature in your grade 10 book (and hopefully also in your grade 11 book) that I think also contributes to some of the 'computational thinking' objectives, is the concise summary at the end of each module which learners could use as a starting point for their own summaries to help them to extract the core and organise their learning in their own way.
I strongly believe that learners should make their own summaries as it forces them to work through the content, think about it, organise it in a way that is meaningful and logic for themselves and it is a sound learning strategy.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the bullet:
'Automating solutions through algorithmic thinking (a series of ordered steps)'
I think not enough attention is given to this in CAT. Yet, the CAT CAPS talks about 'procedural skills', which in my opinion are a series of ordered steps.