The Problem with Computational Thinking

Why do educators seem to like CT so much more than computer scientists?

There’s an ongoing debate in computer science education about what constitutes computational thinking (CT). Computer scientists tend to advocate for a strict understanding of the “computational” half of CT and say that CT without computers is just plain problem solving. On the other side, there are researchers that see the value of integrating the “thinking” half of CT into core curriculum. It’s likely both the “computational” and “thinking” parts of CT are important, but there’s a lot of research that needs to be done to confirm exactly what those parts actually are.

As a CT researcher who has studied up on the CT debate and who has contributed on a project introducing CT to K-5 educators this past year and, I have seen firsthand the frustration in CS with the lack of consensus surrounding the definition of CT and at the same time the growing interest of elementary educators in integrating CT into the classroom. It’s an odd situation.

Is there something about the way elementary educators use CT that contribute to their satisfaction with CT? Can we even say they are satisfied with CT? My video presentation below explores these questions:

So twenty computer science education graduates walk into a Zoom room…

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