1.5 Computational Thinker

Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.

“Everyone should know how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”-Steve Jobs

To be . . . a computer, or not to be a computer. Maybe it would be better to say “think like a computer or not to think like a computer.” It would be best, in this 21st century, though, to think like a computer. There are so many complex problems in the world and no matter what the problem is, being able to solve them through computational methods could be an easier way, maybe even a faster way.

I used to work at a potato chip factory in my early twenties. Because there was so much machinery taking care of all the chip-making and packaging, the employees who learned how to run those machines could make a very good living. As I look back on it now, many times, when there was an issue with a machine, it took computational thinking to figure out the problem. For example, in the packaging department, if a bag of chips was not sealing correctly and a person saw crumbs in the seal, the air was certainly leaking also. This meant, too, that the bag would not have air in it and the chips would be crushed in transportation. They would also go stale quickly. There is a reason, sometimes several reasons, why chips are getting into the seals. Through computational thinking, the machine operator could break down the problem into several possible reasons and then solve each of those smaller problems to eliminate the main problem.

While technology was not always how the “chip problem” was solved, the person attempting to solve the problem was trained on thinking computationally to find a solution. So too, students might take a problem provided to them and use specific software maybe to record data, which they can then use that data to possible solve an issue.

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