The “coincidence” that two of my Twitter circle know each other (I’ve known one for years from home & met the other at the CAS Wales Technocamps Conference) started me thinking about Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Douglas Adams’ book has coincidence at its core & led a friend & I to track coincidences for a year at uni (I know, the innocence of youth). Of course the fact that my friends know each other isn’t a coincidence really. They’re both teachers in the same county with a strong interest in literacy. But as I’m 150 miles away and know them for different reasons it feels like one.
Anyway, subsequent Googling brought me this quote from the book which sums up exactly WHY we must teach computational thinking:
“What really is the point of trying to teach anything to anybody?” This question seemed to provoke a murmur of sympathetic approval from up and down the table. Richard continued, “What I mean is that if you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else. That forces you to sort it out in your mind. And the more slow and dim-witted your pupil, the more you have to break things down into more and more simple ideas. And that’s really the essence of programming. By the time you’ve sorted out a complicated idea into little steps that even a stupid machine can deal with, you’ve learned something about it yourself.
Getting a student to teach a peer is something we use a lot in teaching for exactly those reasons. So why not extend this to computing? If you have a complex idea you need students to understand, get them to break it down as if they were going to program a computer to do that.
I like coincidences, mainly because I like to break them down into little steps and I like the subconscious tricks our brain plays on us. Of course I’ve also learned a bit about my own ability to jump to conclusions.