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Exploring Computational Thinking in the IB

When we hear the term "computational thinking", most of us immediately think of computers, digital technology or anything that has a technical aspect. We often think of and evaluate computational thinking as a process only used by intellectuals. However, the truth is that almost all of us use this thinking in our daily lives. Whether it's finding the shortest route to our destination, calculating the stitches when knitting a jumper, or creating a study chart to achieve our learning goals, we all use computational thinking in one way or another. So what exactly is computational thinking?

Let us find out and also explore it in relation to the curriculum and classrooms of IB:

What is Computational Thinking?

Computational Thinking is an interrelated set of practices and skills for solving different types of complex problems. Computational Thinking is considered a 21st century skill that equips anyone with the ability to learn topics from different disciplines and makes one future-ready to successfully engage in the modern computing world. In other words, it can be described as a "smart and intelligent thinking process" that takes a variety of skills and concepts from computer science and applies them to other frameworks or domains such as core academic subjects (mathematics, science, arts, social sciences, language, etc.) and, of course, to the everyday demands of solving various complex problems.

Breakdown of Computational Thinking

Shadrach Pilip-Florea (Middle Years Programme Design Curriculum Manager) has presented a simple but very powerful breakdown of computational thinking, which is described below:

Decomposition - This involves breaking down a complex problem/system into smaller parts so that they are easily manageable.

Pattern recognition - This involves finding similarities in different data sets.

Abstraction - Abstraction is about finding the most relevant information for simulation or model representation. It also allows the data to be managed and analysed with this information or abstraction in mind.

Algorithms - These comprise a solution strategy that includes all the essential steps to solve a problem

Debugging and iteration - Algorithms are tested and necessary changes are made so that solutions can be found with absolute efficiency and usefulness.

Exploring computational thinking in IB

The IB learner profile motivates candidates to develop deep critical and creative thinking skills. To support them in their approach to complex problem-solving skills and to support IB 's mission of developing students who create a better and positive world, computational thinking has been emphasised in several programmes of IB.

PYP or Primary School Programme (Kindergarten to Grade 7)

Various diploma and certificate programmes under the PYP include processes that are important components of computational thinking. These include techniques such as discovering patterns, breaking down various problems into manageable smaller parts, incorporating puzzles, computer games, flowcharts, robotics and introduction to algorithms.

MYP or Middle Years Programme (Grades 8 to 10)

To promote computational thinking in the MYP diploma and certificate programmes, techniques such as in-depth study of algorithms, use of data management, understanding of interrelationships in designs and integration of programmable environments, technologies and numerical/computational problem solving approaches have been included. In addition to incorporating various techniques to stimulate and enhance students' computational thinking, teachers also support IB students to make the thinking processes more visible and explicit to them. Furthermore, various activities like creative projects, literature study and analysis, social science topics that require investigation and deep understanding, mathematical modelling, etc. are regularly conducted so that students can learn and develop the essential skills of modern age, 'Computational Thinking' - an interdisciplinary set of skills that will help the students of IB solve a comprehensive range of problems in different contexts as they grow up and do their best to make the world a more positive and better place!

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