There’s one common trait found in smart people- they know how to think! Beyond learning lines of codes, solving a mathematical problem, and operating a computer, one must know how to be an independent thinker.
Many people think coding is simply about learning various lines of codes on a computer, but, coding is more about thinking of the best ways to communicate your intent to the computer. Before implementing a function in a code, one must have thought about all the other possibilities surrounding that function.
Computational thinking is a subset of critical thinking, logical thinking, and problem-solving, all of which are ‘hot’ skills in the workspace today.
The ability to turn complex terms and situations into easy-to-understand concepts is called computational thinking. This article highlights everything you need to know about computational thinking for kids, as well as why it is an important skill every kid must learn.
Overview of Computational Thinking for Kids
Teaching kids how to become problem solvers rather than showing them what to do to solve a problem will boost their productivity and make them become independent thinkers.
Computational thinking for kids is a problem-solving skill. Contrary to what you might think, computational thinking is not limited to ‘computer thinking’. It is called computational thinking because it helps one to think smart, and fast, and interpret complex texts into simple texts.
Computational thinking for kids encourages independent and smart thinking. The computer executes functions based on various lines of codes that have been programmed into it to make it work. What people see is the output of those complex codes which makes the computer accessible to just anyone!
The same applies to kids; imagine the joy that will be felt if a kid executes tasks and assignments without having to wait for instructions on how to do it, cool right? Kids can learn how to think algorithmically and solve a problem without leaving out small, important details.
Before kids can become computational thinkers, they need to first learn how to identify a problem, understand it, analyze all the possible ways that problem can be solved, then select the best possible way to solve that problem.
All About Computational Thinking
Computational thinking is not limited to programming and STEM alone. It also cuts across the arts and social sciences. There are four key elements and techniques of computational thinking: Decomposition, Pattern Recognition, Abstraction, and Algorithms.
Decomposition is the act of breaking down complex problems into smaller, distinct chunks. Decomposition is the first step kids or anyone, in fact, will take towards computational thinking. To help kids better understand the concept of decomposition and how it works, you can assign specific tasks to kids. Give them a detailed step-by-step guide on how to do it and make sure they follow the steps religiously.
Their previous knowledge of the tasks does not matter; they must follow each step rigidly. This will help them understand the importance of decomposition. It opens one’s eyes to the many possibilities of solving a problem.
In decomposition, kids will learn how to think algorithmically. Another way to explain this to kids is to tell them to eat. Now, the purpose of this is not just in eating the food alone, but also to understand the steps taken to get that food into their stomachs first, they will have to open their plates, pick up a spoon or fork, sit comfortably, scoop a portion of the food, put in their mouths, and swallow.
Decomposition is an essential step toward computational thinking.
This is the process of identifying similarities between each chunk. It involves checking for patterns in previous problems and determining if there are similarities between both problems. This is why pattern recognition cannot occur without decomposition.
Pattern recognition helps kids digest a problem faster and solve it more easily. A recurring problem makes it easy to spot problems and provide solutions based on past related problems. Some of the benefits of pattern recognition are logical thinking, memory retention, quick problem solving, and visualization, among others.
When kids are given an assignment for the first time, they might spend hours getting it done! But, the next time they have an assignment similar to that, they will spend lesser hours solving it. This is because they have recognized a pattern between both assignments and can apply their previous technique to solve the present one.
Patterns happen in our everyday life. When kids can recognize that patterns can be found in our everyday routine, then they are one step away from becoming computational thinkers!
Abstraction means the process of eliminating irrelevant information to focus only on the important ones. Abstraction helps to narrow the scope of a problem and focus on the important details alone.
Abstraction is one of the hardest elements in computational thinking. Even as adults, we sometimes get so carried away with the excitement of solving a problem that we forget to focus on the important things.
Pattern generalization is another word for abstraction. Teaching kids the ability of abstraction in problem-solving will help to increase their time management and focus. They will be detail-oriented; that is, focus on facts and necessary details only.
Video games are a good way to teach kids abstraction. The games contain multiple distracting elements enough to keep kids distracted, but they ignore these distractions and focus on the end goal- winning.
An escape room activity is another perfect example for kids to learn abstraction. Escape rooms are equipped with enough props, irrelevant clues, patterns, and details to throw kids off course.
This is the fourth and final step in computational thinking. The joy of solving a problem is not only in solving it alone but also in helping other people solve it. Algorithms mean developing a step-by-step guide to solving the problem.
Algorithms are important because they help one to arrive at the same conclusion all the time. Teachers can introduce algorithms to kids by giving them a new problem to solve and writing down ALL the steps it takes them to solve the problem. Then, have them share these steps with their friends.
You can also ask other kids to solve the problem using the existing steps. Algorithm builds trust, communication, and visual thinking. Kids will also learn how to translate theories into actionable steps.
Things to Know About Computational Thinking
Here are the things you need to know about computational thinking for kids.
- Computational Thinking improves logical thinking in kids
- It improves communication among kids
- Computational thinking is a necessary skill for kids to thrive in their various subjects.
- Computational thinking is not something kids can learn in one day; parents and teachers need to constantly imbibe it in kids and make it a day-to-day activity for them.
- Computational thinking is a lifelong skill that breeds other skills, including teamwork, logical perception, inquisitiveness, and emotional intelligence, among others.
What is Computational Thinking Not
Computational thinking can mean everything and everything, but computational thinking is not any of these:
Computational Thinking is Not Computer Thinking
Do not get it mixed up; computational thinking is not the same as computational thinking, because a computer cannot think! It is a device that does not have the ability to think because it was programmed by humans who think.
Computational Thinking is Not Computer skills
They are entirely two different concepts. Computer skills refer to the ability of a person to operate a computer. Computational thinking has no relation to computer skills; it is rather the ability of one to think independently and logically.
Computational Thinking is Not Coding
Again, computational thinking is not coding. A person who has computational thinking can be a better programmer compared to those who lack it. However, computational thinking is not the ability to code, nor is it affiliated with coding as a whole.
What is Computational Thinking?
Computational thinking is a problem-solving skill. It requires a person’s ability to break down complex problems into smaller chunks (decomposition), identify the similarities between the problems (pattern recognition), eliminate irrelevant information to focus on the problem at hand (abstraction), and finally, provide a step-by-step guide on how to solve that problem (algorithms).
What Kids Can Learn About Computational Thinking
Computational thinking is very important for kids to learn today. It is a lifelong skill that will continue to be relevant in their lives.
Problems are inevitable, and to solve problems, computational thinking is essential. It will help kids think strategically, innovatively, and factual.
Summary of Computational Thinking for Kids
Computational thinking is a necessary life-saving skill that kids should learn. A kid who has knowledge of computational thinking will be able to approach problems from an objective mindset and solve them seamlessly.
Teaching kids computational thinking is a conscious effort of both parents and teachers. It is also a gradual process for kids, and it requires patience and willingness to learn.
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