Computational skills

csm_model_21e_eeuwse_vaardigheden_b_f1eb46fa7dRecently this new model of 21st Century skills was published by Kennisnet. The reason we put the link to this updated model on the TELL toolbox immediately was that the ict skills, or digital literacies, have now been specified more. One of the digital literacies is computational thinking, which is a term that leads to quite a bit of confusion. Many people think you need to learn programming skills but actually computational skills more generally refer to problem-solving in steps by thinking logically and algorithmically, just like a computer. Learning to write your own computer application is an example of this skill, but there are many other ways in which to practice and improve this skill.

One clear and relatively simple example of applying computational skills is when you use a search engine like Google. If you are looking for lesson materials for your pupils, for example, you can simply type in [refugees], but you find more suitable material for your specific target group by adding [+teens]. Look at the different result when you do that:
In the first search you get less results and more general results, whereas with the second result you immediately find resources that might relate to your pupils more. By the way, I also added [+uk] to ensure easy access to English materials, as this is the subject we teach. And I am sure that if you are looking for a text on refugees, you probably would like something more specific, for example refugees from a certain background or people working with refugees in the UK, etc. This means your search entry must be as specific as possible.

And then once you get the search result you need, again, to know how resources are organised to be able to go for the right link presented to you. Not all resources have been ‘metadated’ extensively; think about how you yourself categorise your blogs. Have you used tags at all? Have you used general (technology) or more specific (flipping the classroom) tags? Do your blog posts belong to one and the same category on your page? These are a few examples of things to bear in mind (or not) when you upload material online. And this is what helps you find useful resources on other people’s webpages too… So actually you do not only need to learn how to think like a computer for computational skills but also like a human! When applying these skills you are constantly analysing, problem-solving, comparing, evaluating, narrowing down, predicting, abstract thinking, etc. This visual shows both the concepts and approaches involved in computational thinking:

A computer organises information in a specific kind of way, different from books and other more linear sources. To become ‘computationally literate’ as one of the digital literacies, you need to experience what it is like to use these online sources efficiently and effectively. Experience by means of trial and error works (learning by doing), but help in the form of specific training and tips regarding the concepts and attitude will speed up this process of becoming computationally smart.

Note: I was inspired to write this blog post by the latest podcast by Don Zuiderman. If you are interested in 21st century skills, you can listen to this podcast here.


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