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Communications of the ACM


Learning Through Computational Creativity

Learning Through Computational Creativity, illustrative image

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates / Shutterstock

The National Science Foundation's "Rebuilding the Mosaic" reporta notes that addressing emerging issues in all fields will require utilization and management of large-scale databases, creativity in devising data-centric solutions to problems, and application of computational and computer tools through interdisciplinary efforts. In response to these needs, introductory computer science (CS) courses are becoming more than just a course for CS majors. They are becoming multipurpose: designed not just to prepare future CS scientists and practitioners, but also to inspire, motivate, and recruit new students to CS; provide computational thinking tools and CS skills to students in other disciplines; and even train future CS K–12 teachers. This multifaceted nature of introductory CS calls for new ways of envisioning the CS curriculum. Along with computational thinking, creativity has been singled out as critical to addressing important societal problems and central to 21st century skills (for example, the 2012 National Research Council report). Driven by these observations, we see an opportunity to revise introductory CS courses by explicitly integrating creative thinking into the curriculum.

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Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is not an innate talent or the province of just a few individuals, and it is not confined to the arts. Rather, it is a process integral to human intelligence that can be practiced, encouraged, and developed within any context.1,2,5,7–9 Epstein's Generativity Theory2 breaks creative thinking down to four core competencies:


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