Computational Thinking in English classes

English always has been one of my favorite subjects in the school. English classes allowed me to learn more about American literature in depth and become a better writer by writing researches and essays. A good writer should be observant, analytical and be able to make connections and have strong problem-solving skills. These qualities can apply not only to be a good writer but also being a good computer scientist.

At first, English and Computer Science seem like two absolutely different fields, which cannot be comparable, however, that is not entirely true. Like in English writer tries to deliver a certain idea with the use of English grammar and arguments, in programming, a user needs to have knowledge of the grammar of programming language (“syntax”) to be able to reach a certain goal.

For this reason, I strongly believe that problem-solving skills are important for any type of classes or fields and one of the ways of improving student's writing and grammar skills can be computational thinking.



What is Computational Thinking (CT)?

Computational Thinking (CT) can be defined as a process of formulation of a problem and expressing its solution in such a way that a computer can effectively carry out.

Generally, specialists defined computational thinking as the combination of the following:

  1. Decomposition is breaking problems into smaller, easier to manage problems.

  2. Pattern recognition is identifying themes and finding connections between ideas.

  3. Abstraction means removing parts that are unnecessary and make one solution work for multiple problems.

  4. Algorithm Design is step-by-step instructions which help to solve a problem.

Computational thinking can help students to find new approaches in writing and analyzing literature pieces of different genres. It can help to improve reading comprehension and level of writing.


What are examples of implementation of the Computational Thinking in English classes?

  • Using the Scratch (MIT) to create algorithms and replicate scenes from literature pieces. The Ignite My Future suggests using algorithms to examine narrative’s structure using the MIT’s visual programming language Scratch [1]. With the use of Scratch, a user can create animated stories by choosing character’s actions from panel and customization tools. Using Scratch can teach students algorithm design and make the process of learning about a new piece of literature more fun and interactive!

  • Use of Abstraction and Pattern recognition to analyze literature piece. DISSECT (DIScovering SciEnce through Computational Thinking) project examined the possibility of the introduction of the Computational Thinking concepts into English Literature Course [2]. Such computational thinking strategies such abstraction and pattern recognition were used to help students to understand symbols in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”. Students worked collaboratively on a single Google Document in which they listed every instance of eight symbols in the novel and then formed groups to write an one-paragraph summary of the development of a symbol.

Upon completion of all lessons connected with Computation Thinking, researchers of DISSECT project discovered that students who participated in this project performed better in writing test, then students of other classes who did not participate in the project [2].


For these reasons, I believe that Computational Thinking can positively benefit students by helping to develop problem-solving skills which can improve the quality of writing and grammar. I hope that Computational Thinking activities will be successfully integrated into English classes in future and I think that our upcoming CT activity for English classes is the next step forward!


If you would like to learn more about Computational Thinking how it can be integrated in English classes, I suggest reading materials from the following list!

Additional Reading:

  1. Computational Thinking for Educators - - Unit 1 - Introducing Computational Thinking.” Google, Google. This source has general information about Computational Thinking.

  2. “Ignite My Future. English Language Arts & Literacy Curriculum Connector.Ignite My Future. Includes great examples and suggestions for implementation of Computational Thinking for English classes.

  3. N. Nesiba, E. Pontelli and T. Staley, "DISSECT: Exploring the relationship between computational thinking and English literature in K-12 curricula," 2015 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), El Paso, TX, 2015, pp. 1-8. More information on the DISSECT project with examples of implementation of Computational Thinking with results of the research.

  4. Lockwood, James, and Aidan Mooney. “Computational Thinking in Education: Where Does It Fit? A Systematic Literary Review.” ArXiv. This source has systematic review of done work connected with implementing of Computational Thinking in education. To learn more about CT in English classes go to the page 19.


Sources:

  1. “Ignite My Future. English Language Arts & Literacy Curriculum Connector.” Ignite My Future, www.ignitemyfutureinschool.org/sites/ignitemyfutureinschool.org/files/activities/IMFIS_CurriculumConnector_ELA.pdf.

  2. N. Nesiba, E. Pontelli and T. Staley, "DISSECT: Exploring the relationship between computational thinking and English literature in K-12 curricula," 2015 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), El Paso, TX, 2015, pp. 1-8. doi: 10.1109/FIE.2015.7344063

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