Computational thinking

Computational thinking is a concept that I first heard in a talk by Jeannette M. Wing during her time at the National Science Foundation. If our society and economy are built on information, much like the Industrial Revolution was powered by engines, then every child being educated today needs to understand the core concepts of computer science. At least that’s how the thinking goes.

In large part, I agree. Computation began the transformation of science, industry and the military before I was born, but I have been able to watch as business, music, art, entertainment, and countless other areas of endeavor were transformed practically overnight. Now law, politics, and the humanities are undergoing this same change. The ability to abstract and automate problems may be more important to tomorrow’s school children than algebra word problems ever were to us. I suppose time will determine the utility of the concept of computational thinking. As a buzzword, it is gaining quite a bit of traction.

Computer scientists and others learn these skills as a matter of course as a side effect of learning to program. For others, the path is not so straightforward. I collaborate with a number of artists, musicians, humanists, and other academics from non-technical fields, and I have been looking for been looking for materials that could form the basis for a (for example) graduate level course of study in computational thinking aimed at non-scientists. For the most part, I haven’t found much. There are a number of good sources for an overview of the field, such as the IAE-pedia article on the topic. Other sources are aimed more at K-12 students. Information┬áthat is geared toward my target domain has been more elusive.

I plan to spend much of this semester collecting links, citations, and other resources, and posting them here. Check back if you are interested. I would appreciate feedback.