Integrating Computational Thinking into Curriculum

Educator supports students in using computational thinking to develop understandings of ideas central to a discipline.
Made by Digital Promise Computational Thinking

About this Micro-credential

Key Method

The educator designs and reflects on the implementation of curriculum (in terms of unit planning) which uses computational thinking to address big ideas.

Method Components

Computational understandings

If we want students to be able to apply what they learn in school and use it in new situations, teaching should support students in constructing enduring understandings of course material. Learners construct understandings by becoming aware of the relationships between individual ideas and skills, and perceiving deeper structures which make them part of a cohesive whole. Computational thinking is well-suited to developing understandings of core ideas in many content areas. In addition to providing new ways of understanding those ideas, the application of computational thinking to different subject areas has also led to new ideas which have expanded and transformed those fields.

Using computational thinking to construct understandings

Backwards planning is a broadly-accepted pedagogical best practice. In backwards planning, an educator starts with the big ideas or essential questions they want students to understand, considers how students might demonstrate such an understanding (assessment), and then designs activities which will help students grow from what they can already do to being able to successfully demonstrate understanding. When backwards planning a unit that integrates computational thinking, it is important to integrate computational thinking at each step:

  • the understandings themselves may be computational;
  • the assessment may involve computational skills; and
  • the activities may employ computational tools.

Suggested Implementation

  1. Before you start teaching the unit, be sure to read the submission requirements so that you can make sure you collect the evidence you need. Make sure you keep copies of student work from enough students that you can still compile your portfolio even if one student needs to miss class unexpectedly.
  2. Consider pursuing this micro-credential alongside colleagues, for example other teachers in the same grade or the same department. Planning is often much more successful when several people work together.
  3. Complete the questions in Part 1 first. These will help you ensure that your curriculum unit is grounded in the needs of your students and your subject area.
  4. Decide on the essential question or big idea your curriculum unit will explore. If this is a new way of planning, consider reading Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005), which provides the framework around which this micro-credential is structured. There are also many web resources helping teachers adopt a backwards planning method.
  5. Decide how you will use computational thinking in the unit. The stack of micro-credentials entitled “Key Elements of Computational Thinking” addresses the core ideas of computational thinking, and each contains a suggested implementation of lessons using computational thinking which you could use in your curriculum unit.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

Computational understandings

  • Collins, A., & Ferguson, W. (1993). Epistemic forms and epistemic games: Structures and strategies to guide inquiry. Educational Psychologist, 28(1), 25-42.
  • Dewey, J. (1910). How We Think.
  • Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. Basic Books, Inc.
  • Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design. ASCD.

Using computational thinking to construct understandings


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

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 plan and teach a curriculum unit in which students use computational thinking to construct understandings of an essential or big idea. The educator will submit and explain a backwards-planned plan for the unit, and will submit a portfolio of student work showing how students used computational thinking to construct an understanding.

Part 1. Overview Questions

(300-word limit total)

Please answer the following questions about your teaching context. In Part 2, you will be asked to explain why the curriculum unit you designed is a good fit for your students and your subject area.

  • Who are your students? What are their skills, interests, aspirations, concerns, and needs?
  • What are the most important questions and ideas you emphasize in your subject area? Explain your rationale for selecting these questions and ideas.

Part 2. Work Examples / Artifacts

To earn this micro-credential, please submit the following:

1) Unit plan design 

Submit a curriculum unit plan in which students use computational thinking to construct and demonstrate understanding of a question or idea. As a rough guide, the unit plan’s scope should be 10-30 hours of class time. The unit plan should clearly articulate:

  • The essential question or big idea students will understand.
  • How students will demonstrate understanding. This should involve computational thinking.
  • An outline of the unit’s lessons. (For each lesson, it is sufficient to write several sentences explaining the goal and what students will do.) While computational thinking should be the primary mode by which students construct understandings in this unit, it need not be present in every lesson.

2) Portfolio of student work

Additionally, submit a portfolio documenting two students’ learning over the course of the unit. The portfolio should include at least two artifacts per student showing each student’s growth over the course of the unit. These artifacts may include work created by the student, a student reflection on the lesson, the teacher’s or a colleague’s observation notes, a video recording, etc.

3) Analysis

(500-word limit total)

As you answer the following questions, refer to specific examples in the unit plan and the portfolio. The scoring guide in this section focuses on your responses to these questions; the unit plan and portfolio are only considered as supporting evidence.

  • Computational understandings
    • Why is this big idea or essential question likely to result in understandings valuable to your students and important to your subject area?
    • Explain how students used computational thinking to demonstrate their understandings in this unit.
    • For each student, explain the nature of the understanding they constructed, based on evidence in the portfolio. How might each student’s understanding have been different if the student had not used computational thinking?
  • Using computational thinking to construct understandings
    • Explain the design of the unit’s lessons. How did they help students grow from their initial skills and knowledge to being able to demonstrate understanding?
    • How was computational thinking used in the unit’s lessons?
    • For each student, explain how using computational thinking helped them construct their understanding over the course of the unit’s lessons. Use evidence from the portfolio to show each student’s change over time.

Part 3. Educator Reflection

(300-word limit)

Reflecting on the lesson, what might you change that would support one or more students (not necessarily the students whose work was considered in Part 2) to more effectively use computational thinking to develop or demonstrate understanding of the big idea or essential question?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Download to access the requirements and scoring guide for this micro-credential.
How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

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