Proto-computational Thinking: The Uncomfortable Underpinnings

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

  • Deborah Gail Tatar, Virginia Tech
  • ,
  • Steve Harrison, Virginia Tech, United States
  • Michael Stewart, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia , United States
  • Chris Frisina, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia , United States
  • Peter Musaeus
The idea of computational thinking (CT) has resulted in widespread action at all levels of the American educational system. Some action focuses on programming, some on cognition, and some on physical action that is seen as embodying computational thinking concepts. In a K–12 educational context, the observation that computing is usually about some non-computational thing can lead to an approach that integrates computational thinking instruction with existing core curricular classes. A social justice argument can be made for this approach, because all students take courses in the core curriculum.
Utilizing university students in co-development activities with teachers, the current study located and implemented opportunities for integrated computational thinking in middle school in a large, suburban, mixed-socioeconomic standing (SES) , mixed-race district. The co-development strategy resulted in plausible theories of change and a number of different educational projects suitable for classroom instruction. However, a major outcome of the study was to advance the importance of proto-computational thinking (PCT). We argue that, in the absence of preexisting use of representational tools for thinking, proto-computational thinking may lead to enhanced facility in computational thinking per se. At the same time, the absence of opportunities for proto-computational thinking may leave students less open to acquiring sophisticated approaches to computational thinking itself. An approach that values proto-computational thinking may be uncomfortable because it calls attention to implicit ceilings in instruction, especially in low-SES circumstances. We argue for addressing those ceilings through proto-computational thinking.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmerging Research, Practice, and Policy on Computational Thinking
EditorsPeter J. Rich, Charles B. Hodges
Number of pages19
PublisherSpringer Publishing Company
Publication year2017
ChapterPart I
ISBN (print)978-3-319-52690-4
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-52691-1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
SeriesEducational Communications and Technology: Issues and Innovations

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