Modern information technology is at least as much about dispersed, real-time communication as it is about automation. Edward Fox noted that “what we see happening a lot today, especially with the Web and multimedia and other things, is that the [computational thinking] reflection takes place with the help of other people, too. We can share videos and we see what other people did and we comment on those. We have Web 2.0 and so forth, where these become social processes, and debugging becomes part of our society, as well as of solving our problems.”

Building on this notion, a number of participants suggested that computational thinking could be regarded as a group phenomenon as well as an individual one. That is, groups, too, can engage in computational thinking to develop representations, debug processes, and so on, resulting in a collective process of discovery that is richer than that of any single individual. Ursula Wolz argued this point when she said that “one of the things that annoys me is when we talk about some of the great discoveries that happened by an individual—they never happened by an individual. There is a huge body of literature emerging, for example, in terms of what Leonardo did and who was around, and the same thing about Newton…. We have to keep reminding ourselves that it isn’t about ownership. It’s about the community and the culture that’s around you that allows you to have the ideas.”

Allan Collins related collaboration to the notion of computational thinking as a fundamental skill analogous to reading and writing literacy. He pointed out that developing reading and writing literacy is not simply a matter of technical skills, but also arguably entails a social community. In Collins’ words, “We learn from the company we keep…. People will learn to read and write if the people they admire and care about, the communities they belong to, are readers and writers.” Thus, he argued, achieving a comparable literacy with respect to computational thinking will require the fostering and development of communities that value computational thinking—some of which exist today, though not in large numbers and not widely accessible.

Kevin Ashley introduced an example of collaborative computational thinking from the legal field. Over time, the legal community performs testing and adaptation of laws in response to changing social contexts. He pointed out, “Often the hypotheticals are informed by changes in societal values over a period of time; this is dynamic. The old law has to be reevaluated, reinterpreted in the context of the changing social values. The hypotheticals—the specific examples that they try out to see how that would be dealt with under the proposed rule and whether that is a

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement