Computational Thinking: What is it Really and Why Should We Care?
- Panelists: Artemis Papert, Brian Silverman, Cynthia Solomon, Lynda Colgan
- Moderators: Brenda Sherry, Peter Skillen
We’re hearing a lot about computational thinking. What is it exactly? Where did it come from? How might it be different from other kinds of thinking? Why should we care? Reflect on the origins of this work along with pioneers in the field: Dr. Cynthia Solomon—the co-creator of LOGO (the first programming language developed for children); Artemis Papert—artist and co-creator of Turtle Art; Brian Silverman—computer scientist and ‘coder’ of many of the world’s most famous versions of LOGO; Dr. Lynda Colgan—mathematics professor at Queen’s University and a LOGO programming trailblazer.
- Speaker bios for the 4 panelists and 2 moderators are provided in the slider below:
Artemis Papert is an artist creating art in both traditional, mainly acrylic and pastel, and digital media, using code as the medium. After a first career as a research biologist she retrained in the healing art of shiatsu. With an interest in dream and fairy tale interpretation and as a lifelong learner, she is currently training to become a Jungian psychoanalyst. Artemis has led TurtleArt workshops for a wide variety of groups in many countries.
Since the late 1970s, Brian Silverman has been involved in the invention of learning environments for children. His work includes dozens of LOGO versions (including LogoWriter & MicroWorlds), Scratch, LEGO® robotics,TurtleArt, the PicoCricket, and the Phantom Fish Tank. Brian has been a Visiting Scientist at the MIT Media Lab, enjoys recreational math, and is a computer scientist and master tinkerer. He once even built a tic-tac-toe playing computer out of TinkerToys.
Dr. Lynda Colgan has been a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educator for almost four decades, and is in the unique position of having taught STEM subjects formally in all panels: Elementary (Kindergarten to Grade 6), Middle School (Grades 7 – 8), Secondary (Grades 9 – 12) and Post-Secondary (Undergraduate and Graduate), and informally through the worldwide web, television, children’s literature and public education events.
Her research over the last 22 years has been in STEM knowledge mobilization: supporting pre-service, in-service teachers and administrators in their efforts to implement mathematics curriculum through front-line mentoring, the development of shared on-line repositories, and extensive resource development. Her most recent project is called The Roots of Coding—a collection of sensorimotor tasks to promote computational thinking in K-Gr 1 children. The activities are designed to nurture children’s learning through their senses (e.g., touching the faces of a rectangular prism) and actions (e.g., filling in shape outlines with pattern blocks). The activities encourage children to reflect on and talk about what they are doing and why. Children are asked to produce drawings and diagrams as they work to record these tasks, and teachers are urged to use the children’s artifacts to engage them in discussions about their thinking processes and procedural strategies.
Cynthia Solomon is an American computer scientist known for her work in artificial intelligence and popularizing computer science for students. She is a pioneer in the fields of artificial intelligence, computer science, and educational computing.
While working as a researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cynthia took it upon herself to understand and program in the programming language Lisp. As she began learning this language she realized the need for a programming language that was more accessible and understandable for children. Throughout her research studies in education, Dr. Solomon worked full-time as a computer teacher in elementary and secondary schools. Her work has mainly focused on research on human-computer interaction and children as designers. She created the first programming language for children, Logo, along with Wally Feurzeig and Seymour Papert. Logo was created to teach concepts of programming related to Lisp.
Cynthia worked on the program committee of Constructing Modern Knowledge and the Marvin Minsky Institute on Artificial Intelligence in 2016. She has published many writings based on research in the field of child education and technology in the classroom, and has conducted workshops on Academic research and writing at all levels of education. She continues to contribute to the field by speaking at conferences and working with the One Laptop Per Child Foundation.
Brenda is an Ontario educator interested in engaging and empowering students using constructivist learning environments that bring learning and technology together in powerful ways. She has 32 years experience in public education as a teacher, instructional coach, vice-principal and Education Officer with the Ontario Ministry of Education’s 21st Century Learning Unit.
Brenda serves a global community through educational consulting with organizations in need of coaching, facilitated professional learning, learner-focused curricular programming, instructional design, and strategic planning. Her most recent projects include working with Taking IT Global in the federally funded CanCode Code To Learn Project, as well as Connected North and Girls Who Game, a Minecraft partnership between Microsoft, Dell and Advanced Learning Partnership that empowers girls to explore STEM activities and the possibilities of careers in STEM.
Peter Skillen is currently Curriculum & Project Leader for CanCodeToLearn—a federally funded Taking IT Global project that introduces computational thinking and coding to educators and students Canada-wide. His particular passion is to ‘draw’ students into ‘being mathematicians’ through the use of turtle graphics—an artistic aspect of the coding platform he has helped develop. He is a member of the Lynx Coding design team. He has been coding with kids and teachers since 1977.
Peter, an Ontario educator, has been involved in technology supported, project-based learning since the late 1970s, has traveled and spoken extensively in many countries and continues to explore and support knowledge-building environments for students and teachers.
A longtime member of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO), Peter has served in many leadership roles since 1980. He has received two awards from ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education)—the more recent being the Making IT Happen award.