Computational Thinking

Curricula focused on problem-solving, coding, and STEM subjects help prepare students to address future challenges. To give students the best start possible, schools are looking to help them develop a toolkit of technical skills.

92%

of future jobs around the world will require digital skills.

ZDNet, 2018

93%

of American teachers believe computational thinking in K-12 involves using heuristics and understanding algorithms.

Pew Research Center, 2018

40%

of new students in Germany are enrolling in STEM degrees, as these areas are seen as “safe” career paths.

U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

Computational Thinking

A conversation with Chris Stephenson

Head of Computer Science Education Strategy, Google

Chris Stephenson

How would you expect that computer science education will change over the next decade? How will it look different than today?

Computer science is currently undergoing tremendous change and I believe this trend will continue and likely accelerate. The last ten years have been typified by huge improvements to CS learning environments as exemplified in the growth of block-based programming. Perhaps more importantly, the focus on truly engaging all students has put a new emphasis on not just what we teach, but how we teach. I believe that this shift to more research-driven engaging teaching practices/methodologies will continue to improve our ability to engage and inspire all students. So ten years from now I would like to think that we will be providing all students with the computing skills they need to thrive in the global economy.

What does it look like when computer science and STEM education is going well? What does it look like when those efforts are ineffective?

Like any classroom, a successful computer science or STEM classroom is a place where all students are deeply engaged in genuine learning and where every student, regardless of her or his ultimate career pathway, is learning how to solve problems and express solutions using real-world tools and strategies. For computer science and STEM in particular, we know things are going decidedly less well when the children in the seats do not reflect the diversity of the larger population. In these cases, our greatest challenge is about who is not in the room, which students are not having these opportunities and cannot see themselves succeeding in these disciplines in the future.

What foundational pieces must be in place for effective computer science education in schools?

I believe that computer science is no different than any other academic discipline when it comes to what is fundamental. First and foremost, well-trained teachers who demonstrate an excitement for the discipline and teach in a way that is relevant and engaging to all students. Students who are involved, inspired, and learning. And finally, teacher and students who have access to the tools that support teaching and learning in the discipline.

Hear more from the experts

Computational Thinking

A conversation with Dr. Tim Bell

Professor, University of Canterbury

How have you seen computer science education evolve in recent years?

The biggest thing I've noticed is that we don't teach it the way we always have, since we want to make it accessible to people other than just those we have always attracted. At the same time, computing has become a lot more human-centred. In the 70's and 80's we had multiple people using one computer, and we had to take turns to use this limited resource. Now multiple computers take turns for us to use them, and we have lots of discretion about which ones we buy, so a great user experience is important. This means that we're seeing human-centred software developers being valued more and more, and that diversity is becoming a priority. In education this has resulted in a push to give a wider range of students a chance to develop a vision for how they might have a part in this field. Of course, we have a long way to go yet on this front!

How would you expect that computer science education will change over the next decade? How will it look different than today?

I can't predict the future, but the future that I'd like to invent is one where all members of society feel that they are empowered to participate in our increasingly digital world. As well as creating new things, we are likely to have to make sensible choices about how we use and regulate new technologies, whether it's social media, AI or quantum computing. Making good decisions about these requires an informed society, and CS education is needed to achieve this.

What does it look like when computer science and STEM education is going well? What does it look like when those efforts are ineffective?

When it's going well, I think we will see teachers who feel confident to teach it, and can see the point of it. When it's not going well, we see inequitable access to good education, both in terms of resources but also in terms of access to confident and competent teachers.

What foundational pieces must be in place for effective Computer Science education in schools?

Having good support from school management and officials in the education system is needed from the top down; and from the bottom up, teachers need to be given the opportunity to learn how to teach the subject (e.g. not just learn programming, but learn how to teach programming.) This is a big change, and resourcing for this (time and money) is hard to find in most education systems.

Computational Thinking

A conversation with Markus Hohenwarter & Stephen Jull

Founder/CEO & COO, GeoGebra

How have you seen STEM education evolve in recent years?

Aside from the now ubiquitous recognition of the acronym worldwide, itself indicative of the increasing value and importance placed on science, technology engineering and mathematics curriculum, I would have to say the addition of ‘arts’, resulting in STEAM. STEAM has opened the door even wider to a greater number of students who may not otherwise have considered getting excited about what was, historically, considered a curriculum area limited only to those with a love of mathematics. From our perspective at GeoGebra, math is everywhere - across all the creative subjects, and core to innovation and exploration. And, well, who doesn’t like to explore?!

How would you expect that STEM education will change over the next decade? How will it look different than today?

Students’ biggest complaint in schools is arguably still the relevance of the curriculum to their everyday lives - now and in the future. STEM subjects are already improving in status among students, if only because students everywhere use, create and influence technologies. Schools have the opportunity to put that interest and competency in technology to work in the learning process. Here at GeoGebra we are all about exploration in learning across the STEM subjects, and for us, perhaps the biggest area of change will come through the impact of AR powered technologies - including GeoGebra’s 3D AR app - enabling a hands-on exploration of the physical and mathematical properties of the world all around us. When a student can walk into and through a morphing Tesseract using AR technology after having completed A Wrinkle in Time in English class, they will leave that experience understanding 4D theory in a way that wasn’t possible until now.

Tell us about the best example of effective STEM education that you’ve seen in action.

This is the impossible question, as there are so many and such varied examples that it’s quite impossible to pin one down. It would be a cop-out to just point to something from the global GeoGebra community of teachers and students, and so I am going to resort to the great stand-by, but never dull, space travel - or in this case nearish space - with the ‘Lego Man in Space’ project by students from Toronto. Anytime you can get nearly 3M+ views of a student STEM project you know you’re doing something right :) Were there a repeat mission, I suppose an obvious extension of the mission would be to send a phone along to collect sensor data to capture and display the mission in GeoGebra!

What foundational pieces must be in place for effective STEM education in schools?

If there is one common thread running through all great classrooms and schools, it’s great teachers who share a joy and love of learning with their students. High quality, engaging STEM education doesn’t necessarily require technology. But...if you’ve got great teachers; a supportive and engaging learning environment, and you mix in the best technology, that’s when things start to get really exciting!

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