Thursday 2016-10-06

To avoid Totemic Computational Thinking, we should only use everyday tasks that beginners will easily recognize and have worked with repeatedly.

For example, say we're talking about writing an essay that is 10 times longer than what the students are capable of currently producing (say 1 page). One line of inquiry is have the students identify a topic, and outline it, and then see what they produce.

Another is to ask the students what's needed to write a 1-page essay. List the items required, e.g. pen, paper, an idea, and some time. So in order to write a 10-page essay, do we need 10 times the number of pens, paper, ideas, and time? Why is it that we don't need 10 pens, but we need 10 pages (at least! ;)? Will the 10-page essay take 10 times as long to write as a 1-pager? What about the idea -- how does that work? How do stories get broken down into chapters? Why does Wikipedia subdivide topics into sub-topics?

While the first line of inquiry has an element of computational thinking in that it asks the student to plan their approach, the second line of inquiry establishes the tree structure of the document and the enumeration of nodes, along with developing the understanding of constraints.