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Computational thinking and the digital natives.


The 'digital natives' argument is that people who were born in world of omnipresent computing and internet (let's say born 1990 or later) will be able to intuitively understand computers in a way that 'digital immigrants' like me, who remember writing essays by hand at university, and writing snail mail letters to friend, cannnot.

However, it's my observation that the majority of the 'digital natives' just take computing and the internet for granted, and know little about what goes on behind the interface they are able to use. This says something good about the GUI design paradigm, but also means that perhaps innovation is not happening as much as it could be.

When my son goes to school, I would like him to be taught about computers in the same manner as learning to write and do sums. This is apparently the idea promulgated by Jeanette Wing
The term computational thinking (CT) was coined by Jeannette Wing (2006) to describe a set of thinking patterns that involve systematically and efficiently processing information and tasks. CT involves defining, understanding, and solving problems; reasoning at multiple levels of abstraction; understanding and applying automation; and understanding the dimensions of scale. While the concept has emerged from computer science, students can engage in CT with or without a computer. CT draws on a rich legacy of studies of human cognition, such as systems thinking, problem solving, and design thinking.(The ITEST Small Group on Computational Thinking)

I think this means that computers are designed according to a basic logic, and by teaching that logic one can enable people to engage with computers as reconfigurable technology, not black boxes which only do what they've been sold to you as doing.

It's about empowering the next generation to take technology in a direction that integrates it on an individual level in ways that are given direction by persons, and not by corporations and governments.

So - for example - children could be given their own version of the One Laptop Per Child, a sturdy piece of hardware, with an open source basic platform, and taught how to write their own programs into it. Imagine - they could write programs that help them to learn to read, or do maths.

What do you think?


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