#46 – Demystifying Computational Thinking

Unpacking Education June 30, 2021 26 min

The focus of this week’s episode is on demystifying computational thinking. We look at it through the lens of teaching computational thinking skills to our students. We also explore the role of empathy and inclusivity, which are integral to computational thinking in ensuring that the problem-solving accomplished by artificial intelligence and computer-driven programs—such as facial recognition and social media platforms—is just and equitable.

When engaging in computational thinking, problem-solving and critical thinking skills are practiced and exercised. Supporting students as they learn to employ computational thinking will prepare them for jobs and careers that don’t even exist yet. Today, we hope to help our listeners demystify computational thinking and learn ways that they may integrate the foundational skills involved. We dive deeper into four foundational skills: abstraction, algorithms, decomposition, and patterns (or pattern recognition). You are most likely already using some, if not all, of these components of computational thinking.

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
Digital Learning Coach
Pamela Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can’t code but those who don’t solve problems using a combination of computational thinking with empathy, intuition and creativity.

Tara Swart, neuroscientist and author


The following are resources available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:

Use Computational Thinking to Prepare Learners for the Future

It is essential to teach our students how to solve problems, not just find answers to simple knowledge-based problems that could be resolved by asking Google, Siri, or Alexa. It’s about teaching strategies to help students work through and solve complex problems around a multitude of topics and in varied environments. Computational thinking provides a standard, systematic approach to solving problems that can be used across content areas and subjects…and even across time.

Computational thinking is made up of several skills, and a great computational thinker will use all of them. In this episode, we dive deeper into the following four foundational skills:

  • Abstraction: Look at relevant and important details only.
  • Algorithms: Use steps and sequencing to solve problems.
  • Decomposition: Break things down into smaller manageable parts.
  • Patterns: Find similarities and trends.

Apps to Practice Computational Thinking

  • Let’s Mod is an app dedicated to computational thinking to empower a global community of problem-solvers. With over 200 Common-Core-aligned lesson plans available for free, Let’s Mod provides K–12 students with an interactive virtual playground where they use math to solve problems, tinker, create, build, and share.
  • Scratch (Tips) is a programming platform and online community that can be used to create presentations, simulations, games, art, and so much more. Teachers can integrate the use of Scratch into any subject in order to increase voice and choice in their classroom. Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively—essential skills for life in the 21st century.
  • Soundtrap (Tips) is an online audio production tool that allows you to record and edit multiple audio tracks in either music or podcast mode. The free version offers 900 loops, 210 virtual instruments and sounds, and over 150,000 sound effects from Freesound.org. Final productions can be exported as either MP3, WAV, or MIDI files. There is even a collaboration feature to invite a friend to work on the project with you.