Thursday, February 20, 2014

CT x 2

Some define computational thinking in 4 parts and that is how I started my students with computational thinking - decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithms.  There are two other ways of thinking about computational thinking.  One is the one from MIT media lab (Creative Computing) that sees computational thinking composed of computational concepts (sequence, loops, parallelism, events, conditionals, operations, and data - which by the way looks a lot like the Scratch menu), computational practices (being iterative, testing and debugging, reusing and remixing, abstracting and modularizing) and computational perspectives (expressing, connecting, questioning).  This is the framework I have been using to guide my students on their journey into coding.

The other definition is the one that had me stumped for a while - it's the one on ISTE's site, with input from CSTA and it is seems simple, at least on the surface:

Critical Thinking + Computing Power = Ability to make decisions and innovate solutions

I have been thinking about this one for a while and considering how to bring it to 3-4 graders.  It came to me recently that I needed to go back to a few workshops I used to start out the school year on critical thinking and intellectual standards (being clear, accurate, relevant, logical, and fair).  We had a class discussion about what computing power might look like with critical thinking and why the critical thinking piece is needed to make decisions and innovate solutions that help humanity and make the world a better place.  There are many brilliant people who use computing power to further selfish motives, but that is not using critical thinking with computing power to make wise and fair decisions while innovating solutions.

Here are some thoughts from my students after our discussion:

"Intellectual standards are important when computing power, making decisions, and innovating solutions.  When making decisions, you need to think, "Am I being clear, accurate, relevant, logical, and fair?"  You need to consider others and how your decision will affect them.  When innovating solutions, you need to think the same question.  When you have computing power, you need to use Intellectual Standards to decide how you are going to use it."

"I think critical thinking is important because it helps a lot of people do things.  To be a critical thinker, you have to have Intellectual Standards - be clear, be accurate, be relevant, be logical, be fair.  When you are making decisions, you have to have intellectual standards.  With the intellectual standards, you have to make sure you are making the right choice.  You also have computing power when making decisions.  You also have to use intellectual standards and computing power to innovate solutions.  That includes thinking:  "Should I be doing this?  Am I doing this correctly?  Will it work and can I improve upon this?"  Having intellectual standards, computing power, and being a critical thinker will really come in handy later on."

"Critical thinking is involved with computational thinking because it takes the qualities of critical thinking to be able to understand computational thinking.  Also, it takes computational thinking to make decisions and innovate solutions.  If you are not accurate, something could go wrong.  If you are not clear, someone may do the wrong think because of your instructions.  You have to be logical because you might crash your systems instead of solving a problem.  If you are not relevant then you could solve the wrong problem.  You have to be fair in distributing work, otherwise people will be angry."

"To be a computational thinker means that you break problems down and that you are fair to people.  Ask:  What is the outcome of this?  This will help you be logical.  Computational thinking helps the world become a better place."

"Critical thinking gets you your idea and computing power helps you with it.  Putting them together helps you make decisions and make solutions.  Critical thinking helps you answer a problem accurately, state your answer, and basically help you revise."

"Critical thinking is important because you are not only fair to one another and public, but you are making decisions correctly.  You also make solutions to your problems.  You think about others when using critical thinking and computing power; not just yourself.  A problem is that many houses do not have safe security that makes sense.  Sometimes, this is a problem in not only your house, but in the mall, an apartment, a hotel, and many other places."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Computational Thinking - Piece by Piece

A resource I have used quite a bit is the Google Exploring Computational Thinking site.

They have broken down CT into decomposition, pattern recognition, pattern generalization, and algorithm design.  I really liked how they introduced each part of CT and provided analogies for each one.  For example, they likened decomposition to tasting a dish and figuring out what all the ingredients are in it.  After going through a few examples of CT in action, I thought that it would be good to go more in-depth into each part.  I started with decomposition and had the students brainstorm examples of decomposition in the world around them:
-mysteries - because you need to break it down to find clues, or sometimes they are broken down and you need to put the clues together
-planning a trip - first you have to find hotel, decide where to go, buy tickets, board the plane, budget
-building a house - because it is made up of different rooms
-Legos - there is a big model on the front, then need to break down into directions that you follow to make it

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

3D-A New Way of Seeing and a New Way of Making

Our school just got a 3-D printer with digitizer, so off I set on how to enter this world of 3-D printing with my students.  When I first told them that we have a 3-D printer, I got some pretty perplexed looks, and then after the silence, questions such as, "You mean it prints 3-D pictures on paper?"  I thought about how I would introduce it to the class and decided to bring them back in time to the 1300s and Black Death:
"Fear of the plague paralyzed the times.  It left a shortage of labor, a need for technology to fill the void, and questions, lots of questions, about the meaning of life."  (Joy Hakim, 2005).  We moved ahead to when painters first started painting with perspective.  We read an excerpt from Joy Hakim's The Story of Science together, analyzing and discussing it together.
"In Italy, the Polish student Nicolaus Copernicus learns of Columbus's voyage and of others that follow.  He studies some of the new maps.  He also studies an astonishing new drawing technique called perspective; it uses principles of geometry to show three dimensions on a two-dimensional piece of paper.  Drawings no longer have to look flat; they can show depth.  The can mirror the real world...Art is soon used as a tool of investigation - to plot, to plan and visualize..."
We then created a timeline and added several milestones of the early 1400s to it and I fast-forwarded to the late 20th century and into the 21st with the history or 3-D printing with this infographic.

I tried to recreate the wonder and awe that people must have felt when they first saw a drawing with perspective and connect that to the wonder that my students were sensing when they first heard about 3-D printing.  They were amazed to learn about all the developments in the field from printing cars to organs.  Just as perspective led to a new way of seeing, 3-D printing is leading to a new way of making.