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Communications of the ACM

Viewpoint

From Computational Thinking to Computational Action


From Computational Thinking to Computational Action, illustration

Credit: Boyko Pictures

Computational action, a new framing for computing education, proposes that while learning about computing, young people should also have opportunities to create with computing that have direct impact on their lives and their communities. In this Viewpoint, we outline two key dimensions of computational action—computational identity and digital empowerment—and further argue that by focusing on computational action in addition to computational thinking, we can make computing education more inclusive, motivating, and empowering for young learners. Learners have the capacity to develop computational products that can have authentic impact in their lives from the moment they begin learning to code, all they need is to be situated in contexts that allow them to do so.

Too often, K-12 computing education has been driven by an emphasis on kids learning the "fundamentals" of programming. Even more progressive CS education that centers around the development of learners' computational thinking has largely focused on learners understanding the nuanced elements of computation, such as variables, loops, conditionals, parallelism, operators, and data handling.10 This initial focus on the concepts and processes of computing, leaving real-world applications for "later" runs the risk of making learners feel that computing is not important for them to learn. It begs the question far too many math or physics students have asked, "When will we use this in our lives?"1


 

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