As an example, Papert offered mathematics. He argued that many children never see the point of the formal use of language, which is what much of mathematics teaches. They also rarely, if ever, have the experience of designing a formalism of their own adapted to a particular personally meaningful task. But anyone who programs a computer does these things routinely. Through the construction of specialized formal microworlds, the LOGO environment is intended to provide appropriate terminology and concepts that facilitate the formal use of language and the child-driven extension of that language in useful ways. By programming the computer to do interesting things, Papert argued, children can become highly sophisticated and articulate in the art of developing models and developing formal systems.
A number of workshop participants, Uri Wilenksy among them, also pointed out that although many of the intellectual ideas introduced by the LOGO movement are quite similar to those underlying the advocacy of computational thinking, there are many significant differences in the larger environment in which these activities were and are embedded. Forty years ago, when LOGO was first introduced, computational infrastructure was expensive, and access to networking and personal computing was non-existent for all practical purposes. Today, computational devices are everywhere, and access to networking and personal computing are quite commonplace. Moreover, the idea that computational technology could have a deep impact on everyday life for most citizens—outlandish then—is now easily accepted, and thus the ubiquitous presence of computational devices in our lives is an important motivator for systems of formal education to provide individuals with appropriate intellectual tools for managing and using such devices effectively.
The 1999 report Being Fluent with Information Technology, also known as the FITness report or the fluency report, was an effort by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council to articulate what everyone should know about information technology.2
In formulating the relevant knowledge base, this effort identified three equally important categories of knowledge: cognitive/intellectual capabilities, computational concepts, and IT skills. Capabilities focus on logical reasoning and problem solving such as debugging. Concepts rep-
NRC, 1999, Being Fluent with Information Technology. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=6482. Accessed December 28, 2009.