How are computational thinking and design thinking similar and different? What strategies can educators use to interconnect these problem-solving processes and support our students in solving real-world problems?
Reframing My Question
At the beginning of this module in the exploration of ISTE Student Standard 5: Computational Thinking, I had produced the inquiry question presented above. In my initial research on computational thinking and this ISTE standard, I kept coming back to some of the resources I came across in my exploration of design thinking in the previous module. I was left wondering, what is the difference between computational thinking and design thinking? How are they similar? Although my inquiry question helped to frame my initial research and provide a useful entry point into exploring this standard, I felt like I needed to step back and take a broader approach. Both of these thinking models provide useful processes for engaging students in thinking critically and supporting them in strengthening their problem-solving skills. In the article Computational Thinking, Design Thinking and Innovation, Kathy Schrock provides an insightful overview of both computational thinking and design thinking, as well as an array of resources connected to each. While there are certainly overlapping components of computational thinking and design thinking that I found in my research and have reflected on below, it has also been incredibly beneficial for me to build a deeper understanding of these two thinking models within this inquiry question.
Revisiting Design Thinking
While I was reading and understanding ISTE’s computational thinking standard, I was reflecting on the previous research that I had done for my design thinking blog post. In my previous blog, Fostering Creativity, Empathy, & Real-World Problem Solving Through Design Thinking, I discussed design thinking and outlined tech tools to support the use of that model. Kathy Schrock also provides additional tech tools in her blog post here for each of the stages of the design thinking process. Researching the design thinking model guided me towards a deeper understanding of design thinking and its process. As I mentioned in my blog post, the design thinking framework has five stages to the problem-solving process: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. What’s important about the five stages of this problem-solving framework, is that they are meant to be completed in order. To me, design thinking’s framework is an extremely useful guide for organizing the problem-solving process. Design thinking’s philosophy of beginning with empathizing also sets the stage for authentic critical thinking and problem-solving. As students navigate through problem-solving in this framework, they are challenged to think creatively and continuously reflect back on the empathizing stage to drive their solutions.
Exploring Computational Thinking
In exploring computational thinking and learning about how this framework can be used to solve problems, I began to realize how beneficial it is that this model is flexible in its points of entry. Computational thinking allows educators to dive deeper into problem-solving with their students within any of the elements of its framework and then continue through the rest of the thinking elements. As Troy Strand (2019) explains, “Unlike the design thinking process, these techniques don’t need to be completed in order. They’re often used in conjunction to solve particular facets of a complex problem. Students can begin to explore computational thinking by applying a ‘use, modify, create’ structure” (n.p.). In addition to the flexibility of which element to begin with in this problem-solving framework, computational thinking offers the ability to integrate this framework across the curriculum. In their article Computational Thinking: A Digital Age Skill for Everyone, David Barr, John Harrison, and Leslie Conery share several examples of what computational thinking looks like across K-12 classrooms. What is represented through all of their examples is that in each of the situations students are asking what element of computational thinking does this connect with? Is this problem requiring me to decompose it, or to identify a pattern? Do I need to think abstractly about this problem or is there an algorithm I can develop to increase my problem-solving efficiency? These are some of the critical thinking questions that computational thinking presents to learners.
As educators explore using computational thinking in problem-solving with their students, it is important that they have resources to help build their skills. ISTE has developed a list of competencies connected to computational thinking, which is a helpful guide in identifying computational thinking areas for educators to learn and grow in. The outlining of these skills can assist educators in integrating computational thinking into their instruction, and serve as a roadmap to identify professional areas of strength and growth within computational thinking.
Refining My Understanding
Although I am continuing to grow in my understanding of both design thinking and computational thinking, this inquiry question has helped me refine what both of these models look like in the context of the classroom. For me, the first step was in learning more about the elements of design thinking and computational thinking and recognizing when each of these frameworks would prove useful. As I grow in my knowledge of each of these frameworks, I am seeing multiple ways they can connect cross-curricular in my classroom. It is my hope that in diving deeper into these two thinking models, I have also helped other educators to gain a better understanding of how they can utilize them in their own classrooms.
If you have other resources you’ve found to be useful in understanding design thinking and computational thinking I would love to hear them. Please share in the comment section below!
Estapa, A., Hutchison, A., & Nadolny, L. (2018). Recommendations to support computational thinking in the elementary classroom. Technology and Engineering Teacher, 77(4), 25-29. Retrieved from https://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.spu.edu/docview/2036401488?accountid=2202
ISTE computational thinking competencies. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/computational-thinking
ISTE Standards for Students. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students
Schrock, K. (2020, January 8). Computational Thinking, Design Thinking and Innovation. Retrieved from https://www.schrockguide.net/computational-and-design-thinking.html
Strand, T. (2019, January 15). How to Effectively Use Thinking Models in the Classroom. Retrieved from https://medium.com/innovate-624/how-to-effectively-use-thinking-models-in-the-classroom-2d3317002d77
Vallance, M., & Towndrow, P. A. (2016). Pedagogic transformation, student-directed design and computational thinking. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 11(3), 218–234. doi: 10.1080/1554480x.2016.1182437