The last couple of weeks I have been focusing on ISTE Student Standard #5 Computational Thinker. Because my mind tends to lean more in a mathematical and science direction I wanted to push myself and see how I can incorporate computational thinking into regular ELA practices. I chose ELA for a couple of reasons. One, because it tends to be my least favorite area to teach, and I was hoping to find some strategies that would help me find more enjoyment in teaching it. Another reason is because it didn’t come across to me as the most obvious subject area to integrate computational thinking.

In my initial reading into computational thinking, I read about teachers using robotics to connect with reading and students. This idea seemed so straight-forward in integrating computational thinking and ELA. It seemed almost too good to be true. I decided to continue my search in a broad sense to get a handle on computational thinking. I was brought to K12 Computer Science which gave me a good foundation in my understanding. Computational thinking is a problem-solving strategy with four major facets:

  • Decomposition – breaking something down and figuring out the parts (divide the task)
  • Pattern Recognition – finding similarities and differences to make predictions
  • Abstraction – finding principles that generate the patterns
  • Algorithm Design – develop step-by-step instructions that solve similar problems
Basics of computational thinking. Retrieved from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxUJKn6TJOI&feature=emb_logo

These facets are things that can be done with or without a computer, meaning that computational thinking does not need to be done with a computer. This got me one step closer to finding a way to incorporate it into my ELA instruction. As I continued research I found some helpful graphics and information that share relationships between computational thinking and other subject areas. Most of those were related to mathematics and sciences. At first it seemed unhelpful, but as a teacher I have already had to find ways to integrate my instruction so I realized just by seeing how it could connect to math and science I could use that to connect back to ELA.

One of the goals that appears in almost everything we teach students is problem solving or problem based learning. We want our students to be able to take their task at hand and be able to come up with a solution. In an article, I found from Edutopia, I was so excited to see that there is computational thinking going on in my classroom already. Whenever students are solving problems, or working on project based learning there are elements of computational thinking happening. To me, this means if I focus and do it with even more intention I can find a way to bring in even more elements.

From this Edutopia article I was able to find some tools and resources that will help me with my classroom instruction and can also help anyone else looking to add more elements into their teaching. One resource I found was a link to Green Dot Public Schools where they have lesson plans available online. Some of them are for free. There are multiple subject areas included, one of them being ELA. Three lessons are available for free. They don’t all match the level of students I teach or content I would be covering, but they make a great model for how to create my own lessons.

In my search for better understanding I didn’t find a fast and easy solution. There isn’t going to be one trick I can include in my teaching to check off the computational thinking box. Instead, I am going to find myself questioning and searching for ways to give my students real-world opportunities with problem-based learning. In that way, I feel like I understand computational thinking as a cycle where things can keep being modified or improved. What works for one lesson today may fail tomorrow’s. The best we can do is to model for our students to keep analyzing problems as they come up and finding new ways to come up with solutions.

Tools

Resources

Gura, Mark. (2013, September 26). Student Robotics and the K-12 Curriculum. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-robotics-k-12-curriculum-mark-gura

K12 Computer Science. Computational Thinking. Retrieve from https://k12cs.org/computational-thinking/

Sheldon, Eli. (2017, March 30). Computational Thinking Across the Curriculum. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/computational-thinking-across-the-curriculum-eli-sheldon

Valenzuela, Jorge. (2018, February 12). How to Develop Computational Thinkers. ISTE. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/Computational-Thinking/How-to-develop-computational-thinkers

4 thoughts on “Computational Thinking

  1. I agree with you that it is easier to think about computational thinking and how it connects to math and science. I appreciate your honesty in how you wanted to push yourself to incorporate it more into ELA. “The best we can do is to model for our students to keep analyzing problems as they come up and finding new ways to come up with solutions.” What a great line and so true. I can’t wait to hear more about how you have been incorporating computational thinking into your lessons.

  2. Rachel, I think this insight from your blog is potentially powerful, “Whenever students are solving problems, or working on project based learning there are elements of computational thinking happening. To me, this means if I focus and do it with even more intention I can find a way to bring in even more elements.” You are so right! What a great place to look for opportunities to integrate computational thinking across content areas and especially via ELA practices. PBL is a great mechanism for this and I think can even be focused around or centered on an ELA unit. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Rachel, you make a great point when you say that whenever students are solving problems they are using elements of computational thinking, and that once a teacher is aware of the CT strategies they can more intentionally develop them. I Also like your idea that CT is like a cycle that loops and morphs as we incorporate the strategies into our lessons. For my own teaching practice, I want to become more intentional about pointing out to the students which particular strategy they are using while they are solving the problem. Thanks for your insights.

  4. Rachel,

    Thanks so much for sharing! I found your statement, “Whenever students are solving problems, or working on project based learning there are elements of computational thinking happening. To me, this means if I focus and do it with even more intention I can find a way to bring in even more elements” to be very powerful. For me (and for others) this is the type of reminder that is really useful. It’s important to realize that in many cases we are just a few tweaks or steps away from implementing some of the concepts already. That makes the task feel less daunting. Thanks for the wonderful insight!

    – Cory

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