CS, CT, and computer skills

For clarity, when I use CS I mean computer science, and when I use CT I mean computational thinking. Perhaps this is not the best term, as I think many educators would interpret CT and critical thinking. However, for the moment it will do.

So far this summer, I have been to ISTE and attended some workshops on CT, as well as examined the idea of computing concepts as they appear in STEM and Maker Space initiatives. I have been reading papers and articles, such as workshop materials from some local offerings like the TCNJ workshop on CT, but most notably the cornerstone work by Jeannette Wing. Even as I went through the AP Summer Institute course to prep for the AP CS A, the roles of coding and problem solving were emphasized. As I processed all this information it became more evident that CS is not just about coding. Yes, it is important to expose everyone to coding, and the Hour of Code and work of Code.org is vital, but that merely opens the door to possibilities. Big idea #1 – We can teach kids to code, but in order to be successful in computer science, or really any aspect of life, they need to be able to problem solve. 

Further, I had some discussions and reflection on the role of CS in education. What is the role of CS in STEM? How does computer science support or relate to other disciplines? Is the term computer science still a relevant term in today’s STEM/Maker world.  An esteemed colleague in our central NJ CSTA group, who is the leading advocate for CS education in NJ commented to me, emphatically, that CS IS still very relevant. One of the biggest struggles we have in promoting CS education is differentiating it from computer skills. The idea of technology integration, computing skills, computer science, all seems to fall under one large umbrella for many educators. And, it is a large umbrella, especially as technology becomes more pervasive in our lives. Big idea #2 – we need to infuse technology and problem solving into all aspects of our student’s education, so they can create solutions and be aware of the potentiality of technology. 

Finally, this thought occurred to me. Perhaps it is a mashup of other ideas and thoughts, but it seemed to sum it up well:

To create with technology is to use computer skills. To actually create technology is computer science. 

It is such an exciting time to be in education and work with technology. What was technology integration 20 years ago (word processing skills, keyboarding, data collection, etc) is now more like global collaboration, multimedia presentations, and problem solving with technology. This is vital in all areas of our students lives, and relevant to how they live.