From Computational Thinking
to Computational Participation
in K– 12 Education
Seeking to reframe computational thinking as computational participation.
thinking. 7 Computational participation
involves solving problems, designing
systems, and understanding human
behavior in the context of computing.
It allows for participation in digital activities. Many kids use code outside of
school to create and share. Youth-gen-erated websites have appeared to make
and share programmable media online.
These sites include video games, interactive art projects, and digital stories.
They are inherently do-it-yourself (DIY),
encouraging youth programming as an
effective way to create and share online,
Jobs who said, “everyone should learn
how to program a computer because
it teaches you how to think.” Compu-
tational thinking has garnered much
attention but people seldom recognize
that the goal is to bring programming
back into the classroom.
In the 1980s many schools featured
Basic, Logo, or Pascal programming
computer labs. Students typically received weekly introductory programming instruction. 6 These exercises
were often of limited complexity, disconnected from classroom work, and
lacking in relevance. They did not deliver on promises. By the mid-1990s
most schools had turned away from
programming. Pre-assembled multimedia packages burned onto glossy
CD-ROMs took over. Toiling over syntax typos and debugging problems
were no longer classroom activities.
Computer science is making a
comeback in schools. We should not
repeat earlier mistakes, but leverage
what we have learned. 5 Why are students interested in programming?
Under what circumstances do they do
it, and how? 2 Computational thinking and programming are social, creative practices. They offer a context for
making applications of significance
for others, communities in which design sharing and collaboration with
others are paramount. Computational
thinking should be reframed as computational participation.
This idea expands on Jeannette Wing’s
original definition of computational
Students in a Makey Makey workshop conducted by volunteers from Robogals Wellesley.