OPAS-CT-CS

OPAS Computational Thinking (CT) & Computer Science (CS) Resources

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Computational Thinking (CT) is a set of habits of mind people use to generalize and solve problems -- finding patterns, abstraction, automation, analysis. CT led to the development of computers and applying the power of computing and thus the ability to crunch lots of data (numeric, textual, image) systematically and efficiently to solve problems and increase understanding and innovation in all disciplines in which data are used.

In the history of Science, first there was observation (van Leeuwenhoek's "little animalcules"); then there was simple experimentation (one variable, one trial); then there was sophisticated experimentation (multiple variables, independent replication, statistical analysis). Now, thanks to the power of computational thinking and computers, we have an additional set of tools: simulation, modeling, and data mining. These enable more sophisticated "thought experiments" and calibration of theoretical constructs and hypothesis testing, leading to better understanding of the natural, built, and social worlds.

~Jo Oshiro

Page Contents -- feedback to Jo via Jo_Oshiro@ous.edu
(by category, in no particular order; some entries in multiple categories)

Computational Thinking [top]

Computational Thinking (CT) is a set of habits of mind people use to generalize and solve problems -- finding patterns, abstraction, automation, analysis. CT led to the development of computers and applying the power of computing and thus the ability to crunch lots of data (numeric, textual, image) systematically and efficiently to solve problems and increase understanding and innovation in all disciplines in which data are used.

CS Theory [top]

    Key Concepts and Caveats to Computer Science:
  • There is a natural environment, the primary focus of science; a built environment, the primary focus of engineering; and a virtual environment, the focus of computer science & software engineering (some would say it is a subset of the built environment).
  • A computer is a machine that executes instructions. Those instructions are a program. Long sets of instructions are written in languages of limited vocabulary and defined syntax to ease the human/computer interface, thus avoiding programming by on/off switches.
  • Computer science is more than programming.
  • Historically, that "limited vocabulary and defined syntax" made a need for rigorous attention to detail which has been culturally translated to a somewhat false difficulty level. Modern programming interfaces have dealt with this to some extent. Many programming interfaces for kids are icon-based drag and drop.
  • Programming needs pretty good problem definition, a bit of logic, some task-breakdown skills (e.g. what you want to do better match up with your icons), and stepwise thinking—but it does not need to be saved for kids who've had algebra.
  • Round up of K-8 Computer Science/Technology Concepts/Caveats/Resources by Jo Oshiro, September 2011 -- pdf
    Some Jargon and Technical Details of CS:
  • IDE ( Integrated Development Environment) — a software package that helps a human through writing the code (typing it, drag and dropping it, whatever) and translating it and packaging it to be run on the computer by a click of a button or icon. Some of the tools you will look at will be more explicit about these processes, some will keep them a bit more covered up.
  • CS (Computer Science) — including programming, development and analysis of algorithms (procedures, rules, stepwise processes to solve a problem), optimization of algorithms and processing (split across how many processors?), what is amenable to computable solutions.
  • CT (Computational Thinking) — see next section.
  • Software Engineering — how do you reasonably put together and maintain usable, efficient software systems, including management of the human/computer interface?
  • Compiler — the part of an IDE which translates from the language to a lower-level computer-friendly language; does a whole program at once.
  • Interpreter — compiles a line at a time, which creates some inefficiencies but also has some advantages.
  • Editor — a word processor for programs which does not have all those nifty hidden formatting features. A lot of people use Notepad or a similar .txt processor for editing programs or scripts.
  • Script — a program in a scripting language, which is like a programming language but may not be able to reach quite as far into the guts of the computer to stuff and extract data.

Some CS links:

  • Great Principles of Computing, Denning (high level discussion intended to frame undergrad+ curriculum development, may be somewhat relevant or inspiring for this group's CE-21 discussions) and by the same author, a little reality check, Beyond Computational Thinking.
  • More CS than CT, the High School Discrete Math curriculum wiki — http://occcwiki.org/ — from a 2009-2011 ETIC/OPAS grant; further development of this material under discussion.
  • Scratch — http://scratch.mit.edu/ — is a great tool to help students begin to learn about animation and game creation. Created by students at MIT, Scratch has all the tools to help a person of any age get started in creating computer games, graphics, cartoons, and animated stories. Advanced animation favorite — Blender at http://www.blender.org/.)
  • Computer science offers some definitely disciplined thinking without needing a wet lab or lots of equipment/materials, and many concepts can be presented without the use of computers — http://www.csunplugged.org/ — also see http://www.ncwit.org/resources.res.box.cs.html for a nicely packaged, downloadable kit for CS Unplugged. There's a PSU prof who does CS Unplugged outreach if you want that contact.
  • http://www.imacs.org/ — The Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science (IMACS) is an independent teaching and educational research institute headquartered in Plantation, Florida, USA. In addition to full-time curriculum development and publishing divisions, IMACS operates teaching facilities for above average to talented elementary and secondary school students. Useful for their online course material.
  • Ron Eglash's work including Culturally Situated Design Tools
  • NSF Exploring CS curriculum, designed to articulate with the new (in-process, 2012) AP CS -- www.exploringcs.org

Programming [top]

Gaming [top]

Modeling [top] See also Big Data

Big Data/GIS [top]

Pedagogy [top]

Technology standards come in several flavors:

  1. Educational technology in the classroom (smartboards, computers, etc.)
  2. Teaching students to be users and consumers of technology (keyboarding, word-processing, internet smarts, etc.)
  3. Teaching students to be creators and analysts of technology.
I care most about (3) and assume that is what readers of this page are after.

Some scaffolding:

 

Competitions [top]

  • OGPC, the Oregon Game Project Challenge run by the Techstart Education Foundation, now in its 5th year (2012).
  • Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program, includes JFLL, FLL, FTC — www.ortop.org
  • AFA CyberPatriot (http://www.uscyberpatriot.org/Pages/default.aspx) — "Now in its fourth phase, CyberPatriot IV is open to all high schools, Civil Air Patrol Units, JROTC Units, and accredited home school programs around the country. CyberPatriot is the premire national high school cyber defense competition that is designed to give hands on exposure to the foundations of cyber security. CyberPatriot is not a hacking competition. CyberPatiot's goal is to excite students about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education."

More Resources and Links [top]

 

Please send feedback and suggestions for this page to Jo_Oshiro [at ] ous.edu — thanks!

Page last updated: Monday, December 12, 2011