Learning to Think Like a Computer


Advocates of “computational thinking” are working to give everyone, especially college students but sometimes even children, the opportunity to learn how to code as a basic life skill. “Learning to Think Like a Computer,” an article in this Sunday’s New York Times, highlights a number of programs at major universities designed not for Computer Science majors, but for arts and humanities students who may be able to gain useful skills that can then be applied to their field. The article also notes the College Board’s new Advanced Placement class in Computer Science Principles, and even a toy used in a kindergarten class that teaches 4 and 5 year olds the basics of programming without them realizing it.

One student interviewed insisted that all of the skills he might gain from learning to think like a computer – “critical thinking, problem solving, analysis, and making logical arguments” – are also inherent in the humanities. But many others disagree. According to Dr. Jeannette Wing, a former professor at Carnegie Mellon, “Computing practices like reformulating tough problems into ones we know how to solve, seeing trade-offs between time and space, and pipelining (allowing the next action in line to begin before the first completes the sequence) have many applications.”

It would be hard to argue that knowledge of computer language would not be beneficial in many fields. But is it critical, or just another way to reinforce the existing curriculum?

Pappano, L. (2017, April 4). Learning to think like a computer. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/education/edlife/teaching-students-computer-code.html.

Posted by Meghann McKale, 653:01 Sp17

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by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information
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