Developing Computational Literacies

Educator supports students in understanding and participating in computational literacies.
Made by Digital Promise Computational Thinking

About this Micro-credential

Key Method

The educator helps students develop and participate in computational literacies by both “reading” and “writing”—in this case, by analyzing the role of computation (e.g., algorithms and data) in the media they use and by creating computational media.

Method Components

Analyzing computational media

Media play an important role in how we understand ourselves and the world around us. New kinds of media (in which many elementary and secondary students already participate) are often computational, meaning they are powered by data and algorithms. When students understand the computational aspects of the media they use, they can be more empowered and critically aware users of technology. Consider the following elements of computational media and the effects they can have on society:

  • Search: Information and like-minded people can be more easily found through search. At the same time, governments can quickly identify dissidents.
  • Sharing: Individual voices can spread more easily. Memes spread quickly through cultures. Social movements can organize online. Piracy and fake news can also spread.
  • Personalization: Media track their users and respond to various people differently. This allows people easy access to the news and music they like, but also lets people live in social bubbles and enables new forms of discrimination.

Communicating with computational media

Being literate implies more than just having the skills of reading and writing words on a page: it is being able to use those skills to make meaning and communicate with other people. The same is true for computational literacy. When students participate in computational literacy, they are shaping their identities through self-expression and by internalizing messages from the culture around them. Students often participate deeply in literacies which go unrecognized in school. By including students’ computational literacies in the classroom and helping them to participate constructively, students can learn in ways that are already meaningful to them and develop their critical awareness of disempowering ideas in their everyday lives.

Suggested Implementation

  1. Before teaching the lesson, carefully read the submission instructions and consider what evidence you will need to gather for your submission. If necessary, make arrangements to videotape the lesson or ask a colleague to observe and take notes. You may also want to plan to take notes immediately after the lesson to help you remember the details.
  2. Consider whether there is already a culture of computational media in your school community, even if it is not used for educational purposes. For example, consider social media, online games, using video chat to keep in touch with distant relatives, or smartphone apps. If these cultures exist, they could be a valuable resource to draw on for this lesson because students might already know how they are used and have practices of using them with their peers.
  3. If you cannot identify any such resources, you can create a literacy community within your classroom, perhaps in the same way that English/language arts teachers often create writers’ workshops. To do this most effectively, students need repeated practice with the medium. Consider how this could support your curriculum. For example, the medium could be used as part of a role-playing simulation in a social studies class or as part of a debate in a science class. Based on this, students can create computational media for an audience of their peers.
  4. Plan an activity in which students analyze the role of computation within the medium (whether it is social media, online games, video chat, etc.). Select several examples of important communication within the medium—ideally these would be examples from the local context with which students would already be familiar. For example, if you were working with Twitter, you might consider how Twitter is used for activism within your city. Introduce the examples and lead a discussion on their significance.
  5. Building on this analysis, plan a follow-up activity where students communicate a message using a computational medium. The goal here is to support students’ participation in a computational literacy with the critical awareness they have developed in the activity above. Again, students may choose to participate in a medium that is familiar to them: for example, they may remix popular memes, create digital games, or create digital art that fits the genre of a certain online community.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

Analyzing computational media

  • Buechley, L., Eisenberg, M., Catchen, J., & Crockett, A. (2008, April). The LilyPad Arduino: Using Computational Textiles to Investigate Engagement, Aesthetics, and Diversity in Computer Science Education. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 423-432). ACM.
  • diSessa, A. A. (2001). Changing Minds: Computers, Learning, and Literacy. MIT Press.
  • Garcia, A., & Morrell, E. (2013). City youth and the pedagogy of participatory media. Learning, Media and Technology, 38(2), 123-127.
  • Wilensky, U., & Papert, S. (2010). Restructurations: Reformulating Knowledge Disciplines through New Representational Forms. Constructionism.

Communicating with computational media

  • Boyd, D. (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Yale University Press.
  • Kafai, Y. B., & Burke, Q. (2013, March). The social turn in K-12 programming: moving from computational thinking to computational participation. In Proceeding of the 44th ACM technical symposium on computer science education (pp. 603-608). ACM.
  • Margolis, J., & Fisher, A. (2003). Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. MIT press.
  • Margolis, J., Estrella, R., Goode, J., Holme, J. J., & Nao, K. (2010). Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing. MIT Press.
  • Peppler, K. A., & Kafai, Y. B. (2007). From SuperGoo to Scratch: Exploring creative digital media production in informal learning. Learning, Media and Technology, 32(2), 149-166.
  • Qiu, K., Buechley, L., Baafi, E., & Dubow, W. (2013, June). A curriculum for teaching computer science through computational textiles. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 20-27). ACM.
  • Kafai, Y., Peppler, K.A., & Chapman, R. (Eds.). (2009). The Computer Clubhouse. Creativity and Constructionism in Youth Communities. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Vossoughi, S. (2014). Social Analytic Artifacts Made Concrete: A Study of Learning and Political Education. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 21(4), 353-373.


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 submit a portfolio of student participation in computational literacy. The educator will submit at least one artifact in which a student analyzes the role of computation in a medium in which they participated, and at least one artifact in which a student creates a computational artifact for an audience of peers.

Part 1. Overview Questions

(300-word limit total)

Please answer the following questions:

  • Describe your students’ computational media environment, both in and out of school. How, where, and to what ends do your students communicate with computational media? What inequities exist in your community with respect to participation in computational literacies?
  • Describe the context in which students created the artifacts submitted. What resources (people, ideas, technologies, time, space) did they have access to? How did you support students’ work or help them access resources?

Part 2. Work Examples / Artifacts

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

1) Student artifacts

Submit a portfolio of student participation in computational literacy. The following artifacts do not need to come from the same student.

  • Include at least one artifact in which a student analyzes the role of computation in a medium in which they participate. The student’s analysis should demonstrate a technical understanding of how the medium uses data, algorithms, or computer systems and their effects on how users interact with the medium.
  • Include at least one artifact in which a student creates a computational artifact for an audience of peers. Examples include games, stories, apps, art projects, e-textiles, etc.

2) Analysis of student artifacts

(600-word limit total)

As you answer the following questions, refer to specific evidence from the artifacts submitted.

  • Analyzing computational media
    • Summarize the student’s analysis of the role of computation in the selected artifact selected.
    • How might this analysis impact the student’s participation in the medium they focused on, or how might it impact their learning in a broader context?
  • Communicating with computational media
    • Describe the computational artifact that the student created. What message did it communicate and what medium did it use?
    • How might the experience of creating this computational artifact connect to the student’s broader learning? What understandings or skills does it draw on, or what future learning could build on this?

Part 3. Educator Reflection

(300-word limit)

What opportunities exist within your teaching, the school, students’ families, and the community for greater participation in computational literacies? How might these opportunities benefit specific students or groups within the student body? What barriers exist, and what challenges might come with greater inclusion of students’ computational literacies into these spaces?

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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