Why is Computational Thinking more important than ever for the Education Sector?

The last one and a half year has been a year of turmoil with an unprecedented crisis engulfing the entire humanity. Clueless times, some not so happy and welcome behavioral changes and a series of lockdowns across the globe, the pandemic pitted all of humanity against a single virus. We all have been at war, except that in this case, we've all been on the same side.

This pandemic has altered people's lives in enormous as well as small ways. In just a few months' time, the crisis brought about a massive digital adoption. Digital adoption took a quantum leap across segments. Consumers moved online and to cater to the ever-increasing digital demand consumer interactions moved digital too.

One of the sectors that saw a dramatic shift during the pandemic is the education sector. What this sector witnessed throughout the pandemic has been particularly drastic and the shift that has happened to online learning is here to stay. With the unprecedented rise in online learning experiences, a major focus has now shifted to problem solving using Computational Thinking.

But what does Computational Thinking entail?
Basically in our lives we encounter enormous complex problems everyday. Computational Thinking involves taking that complex problem and then breaking it down into a series of smaller, more manageable problems. Each of these smaller problems are now looked at individually, considering the fact that how was similar problem solved previously. Here the focus has to remain on important details, while ignoring irrelevant information. The next logical step is to devise simple rules to solve each of these identified smaller problems. The final step is to design a program to help solve the complex problem in the best possible way.

Computational Thinking, therefore, has four cornerstones:

  1. Decomposition - breaking down complex problems into smaller, simpler problems.
  2. Pattern Recognition - to make connections between the identified simpler problems and past experiences with similar problems.
  3. Abstraction - identify important information while ignoring irrelevant information.
  4. Algorithms - design simple steps to solve problems.

The most interesting and important aspect of Computational Thinking is that it is a thought process, rather than being a scientific body of knowledge about computer or programming. It is more like solving everyday problems. Let us for that matter try and understand Computational Thinking using a situation from our daily lives. Consider a daily life situation wherein you need to meet your friend today at a specific place (Complex Problem). If you break this down (Decomposition) to smaller problems like where would you meet, how would you reach there, the routes available to reach the place, what would you want to do, how much money would you spend, what would the weather be like and for what duration would you stay put. Relate these smaller problems to your past experiences and the solutions you had devised then to solve these problems individually (Abstraction). The final step would be to chalk out the exact logistical details for the meeting (Algorithms).

The planning part here is Computational Thinking and the execution part Programming.

Since the shift has been massively towards digital and technology, Computational Thinking is now a pre-requisite skill for understanding the technologies of the future. Computational Thinking has to be a necessary part of any classroom, even for the youngest of learners. It is increasingly becoming a foundational skill for students. Each of the cornerstones of Computational Thinking harmonize the pillars of active learning. The focus thus, has to be on encouraging problem-solving skills. We live in a world of Smartphones and Smarthomes. Creating a breed of active learners who are adept at Computational Thinking strategies will create a better work force; a Workforce of the Future.

Computational thinking will help address some ethical trade-offs that everyone around the world is concerned about. It will help learning become more equitable with visibility into students thought process thus, ensuring more autonomy for students. It will not only promote active learning but also create a system of learning that can focus on one on one attention.

An uncertain landscape with remote education being more important than ever; Computational Thinking is sure to answer a lot of questions and challenges that the online learning segment is facing right now.

But the dilemma here is,
Is the system ready and most importantly equipped to embrace this change?

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