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no end in sight. The computer science
community was wringing its hands,
worried about the survival of its departments on campuses. Unlike many of
my colleagues, I saw a different, much
rosier future for computer science. I saw
computing was going to be everywhere.
I argued the use of computational concepts, methods, and tools would transform the very conduct of every discipline,
profession, and sector. Someone with
the ability to use computation effectively
would have an edge over someone without. So, I saw a great opportunity for the
computer science community to teach future generations how computer scientists
think. Hence, “computational thinking.”
I must admit, I am surprised and
gratified by how much progress we have
made in achieving this vision: Computational thinking will be a fundamental
skill used by everyone in the world by
the middle of the 21st century. By fundamental, I mean as fundamental as reading, writing, and arithmetic.
The Third Pillar
I knew in the science and engineering
disciplines, computation would be the
third pillar of the scientific method,
along with theory and experimentation.
After all, computers were already used
for simulation of large, complex, physical and natural systems. Sooner or later,
scientists and engineers of all kinds
would recognize the power of computational abstractions, such as algorithms,
data types, and state machines.
Today, with the advent of massive
amounts of data, researchers in all disciplines—including the arts, humanities
and social sciences—are discovering
new knowledge using computational
methods and tools.
In the past 10 years, I visited nearly
100 colleges and universities worldwide
and witnessed a transformation at the
undergraduate level. Computer science
courses are now offered to students not
majoring in computer science. These
courses are not computer programming
courses, but rather focus on core concepts in computer science. At Harvard,
this course (CS50) is one of the most
popular courses ( http://bit.ly/1SZLuqe),
not just on its campus but also at rival
Yale’s campus. And what about computer science enrollments? They are
skyrocketing ( http://bit.ly/1Tt909p)!
Perhaps the most surprising and gratifying result is what is happening at the
K– 12 level. First, the U.K.’s grassroots
effort Computing At School (http://
the Department of Education to require
computing in K– 12 schools in England
starting September 2014. The statutory
10 Years Later
March 23, 2016
“Not in my lifetime.”
That is what I said when I was asked
whether we would ever see computer
science taught in K– 12. It was 2009, and
I was addressing a gathering of attend-
ees to a workshop on computational
thinking ( http://bit.ly/1NjmcRJ) con-
vened by the National Academies.
I am happy to say that I was wrong.
It has been 10 years since I published
my three-page “Computational Thinking” Viewpoint ( http://bit.ly/1W73ekv)
in the March 2006 issue of
Communications. To celebrate its anniversary, let us
consider how far we’ve come.
Think back to 2005. Since the dot-com bust, there had been a steep and
steady decline in undergraduate enrollments in computer science, with
the HPC Community
Jeannette Wing considers the proliferation of
computational thinking, while Dan Stanzione
hopes to bring more HPC practitioners to SC16.