Article

The 5 new Cs of education

The 5 new Cs of education

The 5 new Cs of education - critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and character are well established and rewarded in this century. The everchanging global ecosystem and workforce requirement has created a demand for a new ‘C’ - computational thinking (CT). In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, CT is identified as the fourth fundamental skill by new National Education Policy (NEP). When I shared this with my peers, they wondered if it is something related to computer science or computing. Surprisingly, this is bigger than computer science and can be applied to all domains of life.

CT is a thought process involved in formulating problems and solutions in ways that computers or humans can effectively execute. It helps the students to thrive in an increasingly technology-focused world.

The four major components of CT are:

Abstraction – Identify important details to solve a problem and hide unnecessary information while representing a problem or solution.

Problem Decomposition – Breaking down a problem into smaller components.

Pattern Recognition – Looking at patterns in the objects that are different and alike.

Algorithmic Thinking – Building set of instructions or sequence of steps to solve problems or execute ideas.

These set of techniques help you sustain in a rapidly changing world. Abstraction and problem decomposition help to generate ideas. Consider the idea of gravity, Sir Isaac Newton saw the idea of apple falling on the ground. When he formulated the concept of gravity, he must have decomposed his thoughts, what objects and events are involved? Which of them to abstract? The process of decomposition and abstraction inherently are creative. The idea of gravity was further generalized by rigorous observations and identifying patterns in nature. Algorithmic thinking aided in understanding the gravity phenomenon and formulating the concept. While each of the above skills have their own purpose, when combined can generate novel ideas and transform them into marvellous applications. These skills help you train to be the workforce to take on - jobs that don’t even exist today. CT helps you to get acclimatized to novel ideas. More the exposure you gain to working with new ideas, the better future-ready you are.

The important question to ask is how do we integrate CT in schools? If you are a teacher, you can teach students but skilling to teach themselves is a challenge. The concept of learning to learn can be addressed by CT. It is a map from curiosity to direct learning. In an environmental science class, the topic to be taught is footprint and biocapacity. One way to teach is to give them the definition and the statistics.

The second way is to redirect them to the websites like global footprint network [1], our planet [2] and ask them to provide a critical analysis of the data available, their personal footprint and measures to reduce it. CT helps them do such analysis, provides them a platform to learn, analyze and develop solutions. Such techniques will not only help students understand the concept and definition but also help realize that we are the first generation to identify that our nature is at stake and we will be the first and last generation who can conserve and rebuild it.

Computational thinking is used by tech companies like Google to resolve their problems, for instance, landing the pegman at a famous location in the city rather than it is getting dropped at a random place [3]. There are several courses floated on computational thinking at the universities like MIT, University of Michigan, EPFL etc. Computational Thinking has been integrated into curriculum by other countries like USA, Finland and UK almost more than a decade ago. India has joined the league by introducing it through the new National Education Policy. In order to transform our education system, the policy says it will focus on rigorous teacher training. In the meantime, till the Government enforces or designs training programs for instantiating computational thinking there are several resources one can refer to - Google for Education [4], Hello Ruby [5]. There are several foundations and organizations that strive to instantiate CT in schools such as Computational Thinking Alliance, Code.org, CS Unplugged, Kurious EduTech. In addition to all these efforts, it’s time for us to train and upskill ourselves, to understand how we can integrate computational thinking with core subjects. We need continuous professional development programs to help us in achieving the goal.

Transforming the teachers would be the key.

References:

[1] https://www.footprintnetwork.org/

[2] https://ourplanet.com/en/schools-and-youth

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVVB5RQfYxk

[4] https://edu.google.com/resources/programs/exploring-computational-thinking/

[5] https://www.helloruby.com/

About the Author

Binathi is the Founder and CEO of Kurious Edutech - a startup with the intent to instantiate computational thinking in schools. She has industry, academic experience and has worked under government projects to promote school education.