Academic journal article Technology and Engineering Teacher

Fostering Computational Thinking in Technology and Engineering Education: An Unplugged Hands-On Engineering Design Approach: This Article, through the C-Boat Lesson Model, Shows How an Engineering Design Task Can Promote Computational Thinking in an Engineering Design Context

Academic journal article Technology and Engineering Teacher

Fostering Computational Thinking in Technology and Engineering Education: An Unplugged Hands-On Engineering Design Approach: This Article, through the C-Boat Lesson Model, Shows How an Engineering Design Task Can Promote Computational Thinking in an Engineering Design Context

Article excerpt

Introduction

Computational thinking has been popularized in the last decade, particularly with the emphasis on coding education in K-12 schools. The core idea of computational thinking has a close relationship with technology and engineering education (TEE). Jeannette Wing (2008) introduced the term computational thinking as, "taking an approach to solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior that draws on concepts fundamental to computing" (p. 3717). Wing holds the view that computational thinking is a universal attitude and skill set that facilitates a human thought process similar to the approaches taken by a computer scientist. The concept of computational thinking is not a completely new idea. Similar concepts, such as computer literacy and information computer technology (ICT) education, have already been discussed and practiced in K-12 education (Papert, 1980).

It is obvious that the increasing interest in computational thinking brings great opportunities to technology and engineering educators. Hacker (2017) argued about the relationship between computer science and technological literacy and concluded that technology and engineering teachers can contribute to enhancing students' computational thinking skills and knowledge without major modifications of the TEE content. In fact, TEE has emphasized the use of computing skills to solve problems, and integrative STEM education encourages the adoption of math and science to solve engineering problems. Therefore, this article will examine the relationship between computational thinking and TEE and address a way to teach computational thinking using an engineering-design instruction model.

Computational Thinking in TEE

Technology and engineering education (TEE) has a long connection with the concept of computational thinking. K-12 TEE inherently associates with various fields of industry, including computer science. ITEA/ITEEA (2000/2002/2007) defined the term technology as, "the act of making or crafting, but more generally it refers to the diverse collection of processes and knowledge that people use to extend human abilities and to satisfy human needs and wants" (p. 2). Using the broader meaning of technology, computing is an application of technological activities, and computational thinking is a process and skill set that people have developed and accumulated to solve real-life problems.

Many researchers argued that computational thinking is a mental process, and therefore not necessarily obtained through learning computer programming or computer science (Lu & Fletcher, 2009; Lye & Koh, 2014; Wing, 2008). Voogt, et al. (2015) suggested that teaching computational thinking could be implemented through several forms in K-12 education, such as: an entirely separate subject, within cross-curricular practices, or as an afterschool program.

Computational Thinking in STEM Education

Standards for Technological Literacy [STL) did not directly mention the term computational thinking (ITEA/ITEEA, 2000/2002/2007). Instead STL used the term mathematical thinking as a concept similar to computational thinking. For example, STL Standard 2-W endorsed systems thinking, explained how technology education can use computational thinking to improve technological systems, and noted: "Students should have opportunities to use simulation or mathematical modeling, both of which are critical to the success of developing an optimum design" (p. 41). In addition, Standard 3-J described the relationship between computational thinking and mathematical thinking: "The mathematical and scientific ideas applied in the development of these digital devices promoted further developments that resulted in new tools, such as computer modeling" (p. 52). Although these standards did not mention directly the term computational thinking, they showed that the nature of TEE encourages students to develop and use computational thinking approaches. …

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