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The Essence of Computational Thinking


Today's professional societies, teacher organizations, accrediting bodies, and government agencies are actively promoting the teaching of computational thinking (CT) skills. Although the discourse about the essence of CT continues, a concerted effort has already helped make computer science a high school graduation requirement in many US states. The idea of procedural thinking and programming for children has been floating around for more than three decades, but its successful entry into learning standards as a competency area for everyone is very recent. Yet, because CT is often linked to electronic devices and equated with thinking by computer scientists, a decade-long discourse has yet to produce ways to separate it from programming and computers. Moreover, the lack of such separation continues to preclude us from capturing the essence of CT in a way that narrows down its skill set and links it to cognitive competencies that can be taught to young students. This article aims to do this by building on a viewpoint previously published in this column to advance the state of computational science education.