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Acquiring Computational Thinking with Coding and Robotics

Advancements in technology are growing at a dynamic speed. Schools across the nation are preparing students with the critical skills needed for future academic and career success.  Computational Thinking (CT) is believed to be the highest order of problem solving and many feel it should be the new educational mindset. 

CT is one of the five main tenets in the NYS K-12 Computer Science and Digital Literacy Standards that will be fully implemented by September 2024. 

The standards designate Computational Thinking with the following main components:

Modeling & Simulation: Modeling involves representing a system that enables you to observe, understand or simulate it. These models can be used to simulate real world phenomena.

Abstraction & Decomposition: Abstraction is focusing on key elements and only keeping relevant information.  Decomposition is breaking down a problem into smaller parts so it is easier to comprehend.  

Data Analysis & Visualization: Data Analysis allows you to study the information so you can draw conclusions and make informed decisions. Visualization is when you use graphs and charts to help convey results.

Algorithm & Programming: An algorithm is a sequence of steps used to complete a specific task.  Programming is the process of creating and developing code to perform a specific task. 

By mastering these standards, students will develop the foundational skills needed to solve problems and create solutions.

In a recent eSchoolNews podcast titled, Robotics Plays a Key Role in STEM Education, Jason Innes of Kinderlab Robotics discusses how early childhood education can support STEM learning. He feels, “The best way to teach coding and Computational Thinking in pre-K and Kindergarten is robotics.” He further states, “Seeing a physical robot move around the class makes coding into something concrete.” 

Another study conducted on Educational Robotics for Developing Computational Thinking in Young Learners also found, “Robotics activities for young learners can be versatile and purposeful to achieve the intended CT skills.” It further found,“The five most frequently developed CT skills in young learners are Sequencing, Conditionals, Loops, Debugging and Algorithmic Thinking.” 

These are all components used in coding and robotics. 

Recently, an upstate NY school became the first in the state to fully implement the NYS Computer Science and Digital Literacy Standards with a K-12 coding and robotics program.

With the help of educational apps such as Scratch, Scratch Jr., Kodable, Bee Bot and Photon, students are developing the initial skills of computational thinking. 

But can computational thinking only be developed in computer science classes?

An article published in the “Journal for STEM Education” stated that Computational Thinking should be a “model of thinking” and suggests that it is not only for the students who study computer science. “The development of CT can then be truly integrated into all education for everyone to succeed in STEM education.” (Committee on STEM Education 2018).  

Teaching computational thinking skills across the curriculum encourages innovation, exploration and critical thinking.  

At Prep Academy Tutors, we incorporate strategies that enhance computational thinking across the curriculum, enabling our students to use these critical skills in real world applications. 


*Written by our staff author and teacher, Maryann Moriarty. Maryann has 15 years of teaching experience in New York City and is a contributing author at the Educator’s Room.