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Communications of the ACM


A New Perspective on Computational Thinking

A New Perspective on Computational Thinking

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The idea of adding computational thinking (CT) to a child's analytical ability goes back almost four decades,20 yet its recent promotion29 as an "attitude and skill set" for everyone has helped popularize it all over the world. While periodic reviews on the status of CT education6,11 indicate wide agreement on what comprises CT, there is a struggle in the field by teachers and educators on how to integrate CT practices and skills into K-12 education. Many researchers and educators who initially supported the idea of teaching CT skills to everyone are now wary of its promise. Some of the remaining trouble spots include definition, methods of measurement, cognitive aspects, and universal value of CT.6 This Viewpoint presents an alternative perspective on computational thinking, positioning CT as a link to cognitive competencies involved not only in science and engineering but also in everyday life.

A major source of current troubles with CT comes from linking it to electronic computing devices and equating it with thinking by computer scientists. Accordingly, many of currently recognized CT skills are associated with problem solving and use of electronic devices with a goal of preparing tomorrow's programmers.11,29 A decade of discourse and experimentation has yet to produce ways to separate CT from programming and the use of electronic devices. And, the lack of such separation continues to preclude us from capturing the cognitive essence of CT.


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