Understanding the difference between Coding and Computational Thinking

What is Computational Thinking, and how does it differ from Coding and Computer Science — especially when it comes to classroom practice and instruction? Sheena Vaidyanathan, a computer science teacher, explains everything.

In her last article for EdSurge, "Computer Science Goes Beyond Coding," Sheena Vaidyanathan wrote about the difference between Coding and Computer Science (CS). The K-12 standards for computer science, set by the Computer Science Teachers Association, defines the discipline as "the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their applications, and their impact on society."

Coding is just one part of what computer science comprises. Whereas computer science is about solving problems using computers, coding (or programming) is about implementing these solutions. However, coding is definitely the most visible component of computer science.

"It is the magic that turns ideas into products and it provides the motivation to learn computer science. Kids want to learn so they can make cool stuff that is meaningful to them," writes Sheena Vaidyanathan.

As for computational thinking, it "is a strategy that uses many of the powerful ideas in computer science to solve problems." A computational thinker collects data and analyses it to understand a problem. That person then breaks it down into simpler problems. Instead of solving only that problem, you look for patterns, remove details and abstract in order to solve all problems of that type. You define the steps to solve the problem (the algorithm) and if possible, build a model to simulate, test and debug the solution.

The sketch below, done by Sheena Vaidyanathan, explains the components of computational thinking.

If you want to learn more about computational thinking, read the full article here.