The Future of Education

Edition 8

Accepted Abstracts

Computational Thinking: Back to the Future

Andrew Csizmadia, Newman University (United Kingdom)

Helen Boulton, Nottingham Trent University (United Kingdom)


Computational Thinking is regarded as a gift from Computer Science to other discipline areas, a digital literacy skill and a cornerstone of the computing programme of study that is delivered as part of the National Curriculum in English Schools from September 2014 (Department for Education 2013). Since Wing’s (2006) seminal article was published with a clear and concise call to embed Computational Thinking in all subject areas, the impact of, and influence of, Computational Thinking can be seen worldwide. This is evident in the ubiquitous and pervasive nature of computing, the engagement and interaction with big data in a range of disciplines and the development of the computer science curriculum in countries worldwide. However, there is continuing discussion and debate (Brennon & Resnick 2012) regarding the need for a robust distinct definition of the term “Computational Thinking”, as at present there is no collective consensus definition for this term.

In this paper, the authors seek to contribute to this ongoing discussion by presenting the findings of a desk-based academic literature review relating to computational thinking which utilised both Influential Literature Analysis (Hoepner & McMillian 2009) and Citation Analysis (Harzing 2010) to identify relevant key texts. These key texts were then analysed to identify the most frequent occurring items (i.e. terms, descriptions and meanings) and coded using appropriate synonyms. This review does not use Wing’s article (2006) as its epicentre but identifies the historical roots which have developed and shaped computational thinking.

Criteria are proposed for the objectives of a definition of computational thinking, in accordance with the findings presented in the literature review. The criteria were then used as a theoretical framework together with the items identified from the literature review as the vocabulary to propose a definition for computational thinking. The proposed definition was then evaluated against definitions proposed by other computer science educational researchers (Grover & Pea 2013; Selby  & Woollard 2013; Brennon & Resnick 2012) to determine its effectiveness.

The authors look back to identify the historical roots of computational thinking, and look to the future in which educators use a consensus definition of computational thinking.

Keywords: Computational thinking, definition,    

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