Image Credit: Thinking… Please Wait, by Karola Riegler. CC Licensed on Flickr.
Following last week’s posts about Computational Thinking across the Curriculum both Glyn Rogers and Anthony Rhys raised some concerns about whether it was something we should be aiming for in schools. Glyn in particular expressed concerns that many subjects have their own domain specific thinking frameworks and trying to force one discipline onto another was at best counter productive for both.
For me, there are two parts to this. Firstly, I’m in agreement that we shouldn’t forcing anything into a subject domain where it doesn’t belong. However, one of the things I got from completing the course was the sense that there were actually a number of natural cross-overs that could, and should, be explored. Most academic and professional disciplines have, to some degree, been influenced by the computing revolution that has gone on, often uncommented, over the last thirty years or so. Certainly in the case of History the emergence of the analysis of big data sets is one that we should perhaps be bringing into our school history syllabus anyway, and if we do it makes sense to use the terminology and thought processes involved in computational thinking.
I’d actually extend this principle to other cross curricular work. In Wales that is largely currently driven by the Literacy and Numeracy Frameworks. One of the most fascinating conversations I had a TLAB earlier in the year was with Dr Steve Wilkinson, who argued (very convincingly) that there are literacies within subject domains, and by ignoring them (and assuming that “Literacy” applies equally across the curriculum) we are missing opportunities to help our students develop a deeper understanding of both literacy and our subjects.
On the flip side, there is (I would argue) a tendency in secondary schools for teachers of specific subjects to over-emphasis the uniqueness of their own subjects. I still think that student would get a better understanding of the world in which they live (and perhaps of the nature of some of our disciplines) if we spent more time exploring the areas of cross over (has I believe has been the tendency in Higher Education over the last twenty years or so).
Maybe the new post-Donaldson structures will give us a chance to think again about what connects our subjects just as much as about what makes them different. And in the mean time, we could start by being more transparent with each other about what we’re doing behind those classroom doors. Who knows what we might stumble upon by accident!