By Miran Lee, Principal Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia
It’s incontrovertible that technology is changing the face of education. Today, students throughout the world conduct research online and complete their school assignments digitally. Many students have access to laptops or tablets provided by their school. But to truly realize the full educational power of the computer age, we need to move beyond mere IT technology. Students will benefit most when they learn to use computational thinking (CT), applying the principles and best practices of computing to solve all sorts of problems.
That’s the message that Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president at Microsoft Research and renowned educator, brought to the 2015 World Computer Congress (WCC) in Daejeon, South Korea. A pioneer in and tireless advocate of computational thinking, Wing maintains that CT is for everyone, not just computer scientists—which is why she and Microsoft are promoting the adoption of computational thinking in K-12 education as well as in higher education.
“CT is a concept universally applicable in designing ways to approach problems,” said Wing. “CT is a fundamental, basic ability that all people will be using, just like everyone learns to read, write, and multiply.”
At WCC, Wing met with influential academics and gave the keynote at the conference’s Computational Thinking Forum, which brought together all of Korea’s education stakeholders, including policymakers, academics, and K-12 teachers, along with educators from around the world, all eager to learn how to apply computational thinking to their courses.
Jeannette Wing, Microsoft corporate vice president; Miran Lee, Microsoft Research principal research program manager; and Jungyun Seo, president of the Korean Information Science Education Federation and the Korea Association of Information Education of Elementary School Teachers, and professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Sogang University
Wing discussed how CT involves solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior by drawing on the concepts that are fundamental to computer science. “Thinking like a computer scientist means more than being able to program a computer,” she explained. “It requires the ability to abstract and thus to think at multiple levels of abstraction.”
She then provided direct examples of how computational thinking is a universally applicable skill, appropriate for problem-solving in any area. The forum highlighted several current projects that utilize CT, most notably Yonsei University’s curriculum for higher education, which teaches CT skills to all freshman students.
Wing completed her trip by meeting with stakeholders, university leaders, and a wide base of supporters who applaud her efforts to transform education through computational thinking. Events like this reinforce Microsoft Research’s central goal of using computer science to solve some of society’s biggest problems. With skills like computation thinking, students won’t just be given access to new technology, they’ll learn how to use it to transform their learning, their schools, and the world around them.