CODING OR COMPUTATIONAL THINKING?
Much like students learn to read and then read to learn, coding and computational thinking are intertwined. Computational thinking will be fundamental to many of today’s students’ careers and interests in the same way that knowing how to read is fundamental to everything they do in school. ISTE, which refreshed its Standards for Students in 2016, doesn’t mention coding specifically as an essential skill. Instead, computational thinking, defined as the ability to “develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions,” is listed as one of the seven standards students should master. According to Code.org, there are more than 503,000 open computing jobs nationwide, but only 35 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation, and fewer than half of U.S. schools teach computer science.
Kids can also practice on Arduino boards—relatively low-cost electronic circuit boards that utilize open-source software—to learn how code and interact with physical components. For example, students write a line of code and watch a light on the board light up or flip a switch on the board and see their code change. Begin with the tutorials, recommends Jorge Valenzuela, an educational coach who writes about how to develop computational thinkers; this will allow students to see patterns in the code and how it manipulates hardware, reinforcing the decomposition aspect of computational thinking.
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