Problem Solving: Computational​ Thinking =The New Critical Thinking

The What of the learning is found within  ISTE Standard 5c as students “break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem- solving”. This leads me to question, how can education systems intentionally teach our students to solve problems *differently* than we were taught? Barr, Harrison, and Conery state in Computational Thinking: A digital age skill for everyone:

“While the human mind is by far the most powerful problem-solving tool we have, the ability to extend the power of human thought with computers and other digital tools has become an essential part of our everyday lives and work.”

I believe humans can ‘flex’ critical thinking skill sets in preparation for careers where this level of thinking is the expected norm from a very early age. As an educator, I feel a responsibility to find new systems and resources that will guide those who learn with me.

Computational thinking (CT) is a new way of teaching students how to critically think for the world they will live and work in.  We can empower learners to build the confidence they will need to be critical thinkers within their generation. 

Building on, Growing 21st Centennial Learners: Can rubric and standards-based assessment co-exist with open-ended learning?  The How is supported by the addition of a ‘5th C’ to the common foundational practice of ‘The 4 C’s’ in  The 5th ‘C’ of 21st Century Skills? Try Computational Thinking (Not Coding) by Shuchi Grover for Ed Surge.

The power of this resource is in the examples for classroom instruction providing applicable experiences for learners to experience CT outside of a stereotypical technology environment. Jennifer Gonzalez supports the use of CT in Know Your Terms: Constructivism, by emphasizing how we can teach beyond the compliance-based learning of classrooms long ago. By growing the CT in our students, we are developing them into the critical thinkers, doers, and creators of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Trevor Muir highlights the Why in his Ted Talk: Schools should take place in the real world. He speaks to the ways educators can engage learners to break down and facilitate problem-solving (ISTE 5c) and still demonstrate success across content subjects.

Muir’s examples speak to the equity we are often lacking in our classrooms and empowered me to think about learning in a 21st-century student-centered way. My passion for instruction drives my desire to analyze these possible solutions that will prepare learners for a world based on computational thinking. Muir identifies why the mentoring of teachers and pre-professionals is important for all learners.

As coaches and instructional leaders in and outside of the classroom, it is important to remember that intentional, “byte-sized opportunities” for teachers and pre-service educators pave a path of success for our students. By introducing the ‘5th C’ and backing up the project-based, 4th Industrial Revolution learning, Computational Thinking will be successful in the content classroom of tomorrow…today! 


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