K-12 schools: The need for computational thinking
Friday, January 26, 2018
As we race toward tech-based education, it has become imperative that students not only become familiar with emerging technologies but also internalize them. One way to ensure that they do so is to move beyond limited coding exercises and start learning computational thinking.
A new report by Digital Promise stresses this need to teach computational thinking across subjects in K-12 schools. Why is it important? Integrating computational thinking into education will ensure that students can easily tackle complex problems.
Technology is impacting our lives and our jobs. We must deal with advances in machine learning and robotics and other smart systems. Educators are responsible for equipping students with the knowledge and skills to deal with these emerging techs. Computational thinking will train them to anticipate changes and tackle advanced and unfamiliar systems.
School districts are trying their best to incorporate these tech advances, but their efforts are still limited to some computer science studies and basic coding. As the report noted, these are often decentralized, and there is no authority, guidance or planning to integrate computing into the curriculum. There is a severe shortage of computer science and tech teachers. This, in turn, adds to the overall teacher shortage woe.
The need of the hour is to create a new curriculum that focuses on complex problem-solving and interrelated processes, like a computational model. Students must learn to read data, which they can readily apply to their work. They need to develop a thinking process that is precise, logical and repeatable, like an algorithm.
This will train their minds to analyze information and deal with complex and open-ended problems across disciplines. It will help them see a relationship between school and the life outside. We must move beyond the college-ready mindset to a life-ready mindset for our children.
But there is hope. Some states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, which can be incorporated into existing subjects. Schools like Cornell Tech are working on models to enrich and improve tech education.
Cornell's model will integrate computer science for all grades K-12 in public schools. This will empower students not only to be proficient in computer science but also be equipped with strong computational thinking skills. It will make them ready for the digital economy.
Educators must face and overcome these challenges so that future generations receive an education that is of real value to them. As Alibaba's Jack Ma puts it, unless we change the way we teach, our kids will never be able to compete with the machines.
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