What’s the Big Idea?

I was reading Mark Guzdial’s blog just before sitting down to write tonight and came across this post. Mark was musing about the parallels between the Common Core standards of English Language arts and those of Computing Literacy. He also mentioned the CS:Principles program – an AP course designed to give an understanding of fundamental principles, the breadth of application and the way that computing can change the world.

I want to talk more about the parallels that Mark mentioned but I’ll do that in another post because I read through the CS:Principles Big Ideas and wanted to share them with you. There are seven big ideas:

  1. Creativity, recognising the innately creative nature of computing;
  2. Abstraction, where we rise above detail to allow us to focus on the right things;
  3. Data, where data is the foundation of the creation of knowledge;
  4. Algorithms, to develop solutions to computational problems;
  5. Programming, the enabler of our dreams of solutions and the way that we turn algorithms into solution – the basis of our expression;
  6. Internet, the ties that bind all modern computing together; and
  7. Impact, the fact that Computing can, and regularly does, change the world.

I think that I’m going to refer to these with the NSF Grand Challenges as part of my new Grand Challenges course, because there is a lot of similarity. I’ve nearly got the design finished so it’s not too late to incorporate new material. (I don’t like trying to rearrange courses too late into the process because I use a lot of linked assessment and scaffolding, it gets very tricky and easy to make mistakes if I try and insert a late design change.)

For me, the first and the last ideas are among the most important. Yes, you may be able to plod your way through simple work in computing but really good solutions require skill, practice, and creativity. When you get a really good solution or approach to a problem, you are going to change things – possibly even the world. It looks like someone took the fundamentals of computing and jammed together between two pieces of amazing stuff, framing the discipline inside the right context for a change. Instead of putting computing in a nerd sandwich, it’s in an awesome sandwich. I like that a lot.

It turns out that there are a lot of images when you search for “Awesome Sandwich”.

Allowing yourself to be creative, understanding abstraction, knowing how to put data together, working out to move the data around in the right ways and then coding it correctly, using all of the resources that you have to hand and that you can reach out and touch through the Internet – that’s how to change the world.

 



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