Defining CT is Hard.

By: Germania Solorzano

At this point in our process, I’m struck by the importance of definitions, which is ironic since Computational Thinking doesn’t have one universally agreed upon definition.  But in coding observations from last year’s summer program, a small team of us discussed the sometimes minute sometimes large differences in how we defined certain terms.  

For example, when looking at transcripts from the summer program, what constitutes evidence of Computational Thinking?  How much can be gleaned from a transcript?  How much is influenced by memory of the observers at the program?  How much is open to interpretation?

I’ve found that a lot is open to interpretation, until you establish some common ground rules and definitions.  How are we defining Pattern Recognition?  What actually shows evidence of persistence with difficult problems?  How should we categorize the evidence?  

How should we categorize behaviors or thought processes that have overlap with one another.  For example, since the project is called Accessing Computational Thinking in Making Activities, it’s important to distinguish making activities from Computational Thinking.  They are not necessarily the same thing, and yet there are a lot of overlapping thought processes and behaviors.  The overlapping ideas suggest to me, that it was right to structure the program around these themes.  But then a new question appears: Should we distinguish between making activities and behaviors associated with making, from Computational Thinking?  Where should we make these distinctions?
As we wrestle with these questions, it is clear that the wrestling is necessary.  Each round on the mat with these terms and the data force the team to clarify our definitions and clean off the lenses of our observation to attain a sharper focus and a clear picture of what we’ve done and what more we need to do.


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