District Administration June 2017 - 14

BeyondtheNews
Thinking like a computer
brings wide learning benefits
By Shawna De La Rosa
A large gap between the number of
computer science graduates and available jobs has led an increasing number
of districts to boost instruction in computational thinking. The concept refers
to the thought process of expressing a
solution to a problem with a series of
sequenced steps, like in a recipe.
It's a critical part of computer programming and it can assist learning in
all disciplines.
In 2015, 60,000 college graduates
earned a bachelor's degree in computer
science, according to the National
Center for Education Statistics. And
according to the most recent numbers,
523,000 computer science job openings
remain. The biggest source of all new
jobs in the U.S. is in computer science.
Not only is computer science the
largest source of all new wages, it is one
of students' top three areas of interest,
behind art and performing arts, says
Hadi Partovi, founder and COO of
code.org, a nonprofit that aims to improve access to computer science.
So, districts are integrating computational thinking at young ages to

boost the number of computer science
graduates. Elizabeth Forward School
District in Pennsylvania began teaching
computational thinking in its K8 curriculum six years ago after seeing that
enrollment in grade 9 computer science
classes had dropped.
Using loops
Fifth-graders plant seeds in a virtual
garden to learn about the "loops" required to write Swift code. The activity,
which uses Apple's Swift Playground
app, gives students multiple directions
for each seed and each row. The solution
is to write one group of commands and
repeat it multiple times using a loop.
"As more and more professions
become technology dependent, computational thinking becomes the key to
unlocking new discoveries," says Ward
Cochenour, instructional technology
specialist at Elizabeth Forward.
Teaching computational thinking is
as important as teaching shapes, number
sequencing and language skills, says
Shelley Pasnik, director of Center for
Children and Technology, which re-

DID YOU HEAR?

'13 Reasons Why' draws concern
In a first of its kind, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
sent a notice to school mental health professionals nationwide in May on
how to talk about a new Netflix series, "13 Reasons Why," which focuses on
teenage suicide. A NASP spokeswoman said it was the first time the association provided guidance in response to a television show.
Some critics also worry the show's graphic depiction of a teenager's suicide
could contribute to a "contagion effect" among students with mental illness.
Rebecca Aguilar oversees school counselors at Thoreau Middle School
in Fairfax County, where school officials sent home a list of talking points
advising parents to "stay engaged" with children, and even discuss the show
with them, if their children watch it.
Robert M. Avossa, superintendent of Palm Beach County Schools in
Florida, had also told parents that school personnel had seen a rise in the
number of students who have hurt themselves and threatened suicide.
Source: The Washington Post, DAmag.me/i8
14 June 2017

PINT-SIZE COMPUTERS-Firstgraders, above, at Elizabeth Forward
School District start learning how to
think like a computer.

searches technology education.
As early as kindergarten, teachers
can create computational thinking
stations with computer tablets and
dancing. "Dance moves include patterns," says Pasnik, also vice president
of nonprofit Education Development
Center. "Stomp, stomp, slide. How do
you communicate your moves to the
next dancer? How do you relate to one
another? That's important."
Computational thinking is the process of taking the skills from computer
science and applying them to other disciplines. Such skills include data mining and organizing, using algorithms
to create solutions and showing data
through an abstraction.
In middle school, computational
thinking shows students that the problem-solving process needs to be broken
down into steps, David Evans of NSTA
says. For example, students can mine
data on the internet regarding snowfall
in the 1960s and 1970s, when their parents were children. They can compare
it to the snowfall of the past 10 years.
Data mining and simulations are both
examples of computational thinking.
Students use data mining skills and
then create simulations to see if it really
did snow more decades ago.
The students can then present their
findings scientifically and use them to
either prove or disprove that their climate is changing.
Shawna De La Rosa is a freelance writer in
Washington state.
District Administration


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