to controlling complexity—that of automation. Peter Lee argued that computational thinking is about “magnifying people’s intelligence through automation and problem solving, as well as managing complexity.” Others pointed to the role of modeling and simulation in enabling automation of the management of complexity.

To complement this view, Andy diSessa argued that abstractions must be paired with grounding if people are to understand the significance of those abstractions. In diSessa’s words, “Abstraction has to connect with their concerns, whether they are menial or whether they are grand. It has to be grounded in people’s beliefs and feelings some way or other.” Owen Astrachan echoed this point, saying that “without the grounded examples, we’ll be talking too abstractly, which might work in a room full of abstract thinkers, but it’s not going to work in rooms full of less abstract thinkers because they need to see what they are really going to do.” Ken Kahn made a related argument that computational thinking provides a concretization—the creation of something concrete and tangible—of subjects that are typically dominated by abstract concepts. Kahn felt that an example of such concretization is computer games—“They are virtual, of course, but they feel very concrete. The important idea is that there is a one-to-one mapping from these concrete things to computational abstractions that are much more difficult for most people to grasp.” Uri Wilensky concurred and described how students interacting with models or participatory simulations of disease spread developed with NetLogo learn to understand logistic growth of infection as an emergent pattern that results from the concrete actions of individuals.


David Moursund saw computational thinking as how to think about tools, a view inspired by Donald Norman and David Perkins. In 1988, Norman wrote The Design of Everyday Things,3 which talks about “the design of everyday objects and affordances—not just physical capabilities of the actor, but also their goals, plans, and values, and so on.” An example of affordances created through technology innovation is mass communication through the creation of the printing press, radio, television, and so on. Information technology and the computer are a set of new tools with affordances of their own, and Moursund noted that realization of affordances depends on the education, training, and experience of the user as well as the design of the tool. Some tools, such as a word processor, require more formal training and skills in order to access the affordances they offer. Others, through their very design or through


Donald Norman, 1988, The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.

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