The educator guides students in using tools which support their engagement with computational problems while avoiding tools that are unnecessarily complex.
Any tool for computational thinking, whether it is a programming language, a block-based interface, a simulation controlled with sliders and buttons, or even a game that can be played in real life, has implications for how much complexity to reveal to the end user and how much to hide. Often, this results in a trade-off between power and ease of use: the simpler a tool is, the fewer opportunities there are for users to get stuck or lost. One design goal for tools meant for computational thinking is “low floor, high ceiling,” meaning both beginners and advanced users can use the tools effectively.
When using computers as tools in the classroom, it is important to know the skills your students bring to the task, to choose appropriate computational tools, and to support students when they need help. If students have had a computer science course (or if you have time to focus on programming within your own subject area course), tools that involve programming can be extremely powerful. In many cases, however, tools which involve limited programming, or non-programming interfaces, will be more appropriate. In many cases, students will have very different skill levels (some students may be more skilled than you). With the right classroom structures, this variety of skill levels can be an opportunity. Some of the structures that can be helpful in supporting students with different skill levels to access computational tools are allowing students to work in groups, recognizing students when they have expertise, directing others to them for help, and encouraging students to seek help from each other and from online sources rather than waiting until you are free to help.
It is also important to make sure computational tools are well-aligned with learning goals. There is sometimes tension between the design of consumer software and the needs of educators: consumer and office software is generally made to help users accomplish tasks as easily as possible. However, if a computational tool automatically solves precisely the problem which the educator wants students to understand and explore, it may not be the right fit for the task. In other cases, computational tools are designed specifically for education, but are not well-suited for computational thinking because they do not expose the complexity of a problem in a way that allows students to interact with it. For example, a computational tool may provide students repeated practice solving word problems, but if it does not also allow students to explore an environment in which to create and share new word problems, it may not be well-suited for learning with computational thinking.
To earn the micro-credential, you must earn a ‘passing’ evaluation for Parts 1 and 3, and a ‘Yes’ for each component of Part 2. In the assessment of this micro-credential, an educator will teach a lesson in which students use a computer to engage in computational thinking. The educator will submit a portfolio of artifacts documenting at least three different student interactions with the tool, and analyze the effectiveness of the tool for those students.
(400-word limit total)
Please answer the following questions:
To earn this micro-credential, please submit the following:
1) Student artifacts
Submit a portfolio that documents three students’ use of a tool for computational thinking. The portfolio should include artifacts from all three students (one artifact per student); the artifacts may feature use of different computational tools. These artifacts may include screenshots, video of student interactions, your notes or those of another colleague, student work, student reflections, etc.
2) Analysis of student artifacts
(800-word limit total)
As you answer the following questions, refer to specific evidence from the artifact(s) submitted.
Note: please remove all personal identifiers from student work before submitting.
If you were able to re-design this computational tool to improve its effectiveness for learning with computational thinking, how would you change it? Refer to specific features of the tool you would add, change, or remove, and connect your proposed changes to specific examples from your students’ interaction with the tool. Explain how the proposed changes might have made it more effective for those students learning with computational thinking.