The purpose of this WebQuest is to introduce prospective teachers to the concept of computational thinking, provide opportunities for them to do computational thinking, and encourage them to apply computational thinking in their own discipline and instructional practice.
Learners and Content
This WebQuest is designed for students in EDCI 27000, Introduction to Educational Technology and Computing, at Purdue University, but it is applicable to prospective and practicing teachers in any discipline. The WebQuest addresses computational thinking, which may be conceptualized as a thinking skill or an approach to problem-solving that draws on concepts from computer science but is applicable to a wide variety of problems and disciplines. Teachers can encourage students to develop computational thinking skills through the integration of computational thinking activities into elementary and secondary education.
As designed, the individual study components of this WebQuest can be completed by students who have access to a computer with Internet connectivity. Activities could be done in a laboratory setting or completed at home. For the group component of the WebQuest, students need access to an online discussion board, such as a forum in Blackboard or other course management system. The course textbook referenced in this WebQuest is:
Newby, T. J., Stepich, D. A., Lehman, J. D., Russell, J. D., and Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. (2011). Educational technology for teaching and learning, 4th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson Education, Inc.
The WebQuest addresses the following ISTE/NETS Educational Technology Standards for teachers
- Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
- Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
- Model Digital-Age Work and Learning
The computer has had a profound impact on many aspects of society, education, and our daily lives. For examples, refer to the discussion of the educational computing in Chapter 1 of your textbook. One way that the computer has impacted us is in the realm of thinking and problem-solving skills. Computational thinking is relatively new conception of certain thinking and problem-solving skills. What is computational thinking? That is what you will have the opportunity to learn in this WebQuest!
What is a WebQuest? A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information used in the activity is drawn from the Web. It is a popular way to integrate Internet resources into education, and you will learn more about WebQuests later in this course. For more information, refer to pp. 194-196 of your textbook. By experiencing this WebQuest, you will learn more about WebQuests while also learning about computational thinking.
The purpose of this WebQuest is to give you the opportunity to:
- create your own definition and understanding of computational thinking,
- design an activity for incorporating computational thinking in the teaching of your discipline, and
- explore and refine your ideas with classmates via an online discussion.
Imagine that you have just been hired for your first teaching position. The principal of your school asks for your help in addressing a new state standard on computational thinking. The principal explains, "There is a new academic standard which states that students should have an understanding of computational thinking and its application in design and problem solving in real-world contexts. As I understand it, computational thinking is something that can be addressed no matter which subject is being taught. The expectation is that students will be able to see that computational thinking is everywhere in daily life and can be applied to a wide variety of problems and content.” The principal continues, "I know you had course work in educational technology at Purdue, so I think you can set an example for the rest of the faculty by developing an activity for your classroom to introduce your students to computational thinking."
So, your task is to design a class activity to introduce your students to some aspect of computational thinking and/or its application.
To complete the WebQuest, go through the steps outlined below in the order they are presented. The first part of the WebQuest will be completed individually, and then you will participate in an online discussion to share ideas with classmates.
What do you know already?
- You should have received an e-mail with a link to a short survey designed to assess your current understanding of computational thinking concepts. Before getting started, be sure to complete that short survey.
What is computational thinking?
- To begin, read this short article by Wing (2006), a computer scientist and educator, who popularized the term “computational thinking.”
- More information about computational thinking is provided on the cs4fn website. Follow the links on the site to learn more about aspects of computational thinking such as logical thinking, algorthmic thinking, efficient solutions, scientific thinking, and innovative thinking.
Experiencing computational thinking
- To get a better understanding of computational thinking, in this case the idea of algorthms, do the following activity at the cs4fn website: http://www.cs4fn.org/algorithms/swappuzzle/.
- Try another activity, in this case one that helps you to understand how computers can represent images: http://sucs.org/~tobeon/project/image.html.
Integrating computational thinking in the classroom
- Explore the following websites to get ideas for how you might integrate a computational thinking activity for students in your own classroom.
Design a computational thinking activity
- Based on your major and teaching interest, develop a preliminary design for your own classroom activity on computational thinking. Your design should identify a specific skill, technique, concept, or aspect of computational thinking that your activity will address and a brief (less than 150 words) description for how you will teach it. Draw on what you've learned about planning learning experiences (see chapters 4 – 8 of your textbook). You may also find it helpful to visit the Wiki repository to find a lesson plan that you are interested in and then try to integrate a computational thinking activity in it.
Share ideas with classmates via online discussion
- Post your computational thinking preliminary design in the Computational Thinking WebQuest online discussion forum in the EDCI 27000 Blackboard site no later than Thursday of the assigned week.
- Review the examples of computational thinking activities posted by your classmates. Post responses to at least two of your classmates. As you frame your response, consider the following questions.
- What makes a good classroom learning activity?
- Which of the preliminary design examples that have been presented do you think will make for a good computational thinking activity? Why?
- How has using this WebQuest helped you to develop your own understanding of computational thinking?
What have you learned?
- At the end of the online discussion, you will receive an e-mail with a link to another short survey about computational thinking concepts. Please complete the short survey.
- As a final step, review the Conclusion page of the WebQuest.
Online discussion response grading rubric
Initial posting of computational thinking activity is made in a timely manner (i.e., initial posting must be made no later than Thursday of the discussion week).
Computational thinking activity is clearly written, with an excellent use of grammar and spelling, and draws on reading assignments related to the design of instructional activities.
A minimum of two responses to the postings of others in the class must be made prior to the end of the formal discussion.
Responses to others in the class are of high quality that addresses the discussion question and adds to the overall discussion (e.g., add additional information, broaden the discussion, give a clear view of your position and how it contrasts/compares with the current response, extend the viewpoints of others with your own thoughts).
Above and beyond – through multiple, high level responses the minimum number of quality responses is surpassed and extended (e.g., summarizing the responses of others in the class and showing relationships between viewpoints, providing additional sources with references that have been investigated).
At the conclusion of this WebQuest, you will have a better understanding of the concept of computational thinking, and you will have had an opportunity to design an activity for introducing computational thinking with your own students in the classroom.
How do you think computational thinking skills can be of benefit to your students? In what ways can you help your students to develop computational thinking skills? Which examples of computational thinking activities from the class did you find particularly interesting or appealing?
If you find this kind of thing interesting, you might consider preparing to become a teacher of computer science. Purdue now offers a computer science teaching endorsement program that leads to a supplemental teaching license in computer education. This program is open to all secondary teaching majors and may be of particular interest to students majoring in math, science, or technology.