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Computational Thinking, 10 Years Later


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Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research.

Jeannette Wing corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, oversees the organizations core research laboratories around the world, and Microsoft Outreach.

Credit: Microsoft Research

"Not in my lifetime." That's what I said when I was asked whether we would ever see computer science taught in K-12. It was 2009, and I was addressing a gathering of attendees to a workshop on computational thinking convened by the National Academies.

I'm happy to say that I was wrong.

It's been 10 years since I published my three-page "Computational Thinking" viewpoint in the March 2006 issue of the Communications of the ACM. To celebrate its anniversary, let's consider how far we've come.

Think back to 2005. Since the dot-com bust, there had been a steep and steady decline in undergraduate enrollments in computer science, with no end in sight. The computer science community was wringing its hands, worried about the survival of their departments on campuses. Unlike many of my colleagues, I saw a different, much rosier future for computer science. I saw that computing was going to be everywhere.

I argued that the use of computational concepts, methods and tools would transform the very conduct of every discipline, profession and sector. Someone with the ability to use computation effectively would have an edge over someone without. So, I saw a great opportunity for the computer science community to teach future generations how computer scientists think. Hence "computational thinking."

 

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