Surprisingly, there is actually a great deal of computational thinking involved in art. Although music, theater performance, and visual art all require creativity, many of the concepts of computational thinking still apply. The four main branches of computational thinking include algorithmic design, decomposition, pattern recognition, and abstraction. Algorithmic design is creating a step by step strategy to solve any problem. In visual art, this could be seen in a variety of ways. Imagine you are working on a painting of someone’s face but you are stuck on the nose. You may never have painted a nose before or you are having a hard time making it look realistic. To attack this problem, you might practice drawing the nose separately on a smaller scale. Then you might add a soft outline on your canvas, and then proceed to work down the face. This is algorithmic design because you are essentially making a step-by-step plan to solve whatever problem comes your way.
Decomposition involves breaking a task into minute details. An example would be if you are composing a piece of music that has multiple movements. You will most likely decide to work on each individual movement at a time and then break that down into smaller sections such as the main melody and distinct harmonies. Another computational thinking technique, Pattern Recognition is very evident in the arts. In music as well as visual art, there are always themes that are displayed through various patterns such as a repeating harmony or the repetition of a particular color. Lastly, Abstraction is pulling out specific differences to make one solution work for multiple problems. Going back to the previous example, in a drawing class, you may learn how to draw a nose. However, you must use that knowledge and apply it to various situations because each person you draw will have a different nose shape.
Throughout the duration of the CodeNC Fellowship, I have devised activities that incorporate these aspects of computational thinking. These activities can
show students that computational thinking can definitely be applied to the arts and will ultimately make them better artists.