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Education Programming

Stephen Wolfram Reveals Ambitious Plan to Teach Computational Thinking (stephenwolfram.com) 76

Can we teach future generations how to solve their problems with computers? Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes: Doctors, lawyers, teachers, farmers -- whatever the profession, it'll soon be full of computational thinking. Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha creator Stephen Wolfram argues on Backchannel that it's essential we start teaching kids to talk to computers today to ensure their success in the future -- and he's got a comprehensive lesson plan.
Arguing that Wikipedia popularized "a more direct style of presenting information," Wolfram writes that computer-assisted education continues the trend, "taking things which could only be talked around, and turning them into things that can be shown through computation directly and explicitly." Wolfram's 11,000-word essay adds that "with all the knowledge and automation that we've built into the Wolfram Language we're finally now to the point where we have the technology to be able to directly teach broad computational thinking, even to kids.." (And without having to start off with loops and conditionals...)
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Stephen Wolfram Reveals Ambitious Plan to Teach Computational Thinking

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  • If only (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10, 2016 @12:50PM (#52862729)

    This were how learning occurrs. Sigh. The tech sector just will never get it. Computational thinking is actually the *problem* we are currently having, it is absolutely the wrong way to teach. I would put the energy and money into tech literacy, instead. It is astonishing to me how people like this miss the mark again, and again, and again. We are already starting to reap what we've sown with a generation that is incapable of critical and abstract thinking. We are not robots, and life is not an algorithm. Disappointing.

    • Re:If only (Score:4, Interesting)

      by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @01:20PM (#52862887)

      Tech literacy? That is not a source of critical and abstract thinking skills. We should be putting most our money into literacy, speaking, writing, debate and learning history. All those things a typical tech education leaves behind, and also people who use social media as their main information source leave those things behind.

      Tech? those that like it can it, most tech jobs are droid jobs anyway.

      • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

        people who use social media as their main information source

        Those kind need to be stuffed back into AOL where they can't hurt themselves or anyone else.

    • Re:If only (Score:5, Insightful)

      by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @01:28PM (#52862931)

      This were how learning occurrs. Sigh. The tech sector just will never get it. Computational thinking is actually the *problem* we are currently having, it is absolutely the wrong way to teach. I would put the energy and money into tech literacy, instead. It is astonishing to me how people like this miss the mark again, and again, and again. We are already starting to reap what we've sown with a generation that is incapable of critical and abstract thinking. We are not robots, and life is not an algorithm. Disappointing.

      substitute 'computational thinking' with 'poetic thinking' and see how much sense it makes. The whole idea of 'making sure every kid leaves school able to code' makes as much sense as 'making sure every kid leaves school able to write poetry'.

      Sure, put kids in contact with coding, along with wood work, metal working, cooking, etc. Let the kids find out for themselves which they enjoy and which interests them and then give them opportunities to take them further.

      But don't force kids to all leave school with a bunch of compulsory vocations.

      • I hear your argument, but coding is what the military calls a force multiplier. Coding gives you the ability to teach machines to do the work for you. On their own. This is something none of the other skills do. That gives someone who can think like that a major, major leg up in life.

        • I hear your argument, but coding is what the military calls a force multiplier. Coding gives you the ability to teach machines to do the work for you. On their own. This is something none of the other skills do. That gives someone who can think like that a major, major leg up in life.

          Coding as I knew it at school and college is nothing like coding today and I don't feel that anything I did back then is helpful today (binary on punchcards). Who is to say that coding as you know it today will be helpful by the time the kids leave school? Or even be remotely helpful in any way. Tech marches on.

          In the terms of your argument, leadership skills are a force multiplier, they give you the ability to get other people to do the work for you. This gives someone who can think like that a major leg u

    • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

      Amen!

  • Computer, write me a term paper.

    Computer, get Jennie to like me.

    etc. etc.

    My high school math teacher did it right: She let us use a non-programmable scientific calculator but only AFTER we proved we knew how to do do trig and logarithms by hand. Yes, we had to learn some formulas to estimate them and we had to memorize the "easy" ones like sine(30 degrees). We also had to learn to use log tables. No, we didn't have to learn to use a slide-rule, I was a decade or two too late for that.

    • The kids were forced to copy and recopy the logarithims by hand. If they screwed up or refused, they got paddled.
    • FWIW, using a slide rule taught me a lot about significant digits, including why getting three digits at the 1-end but only two digits at the 9-end makes sense. (It's not just an accidental result of the spacing of the numbers, it really is the case that 99 is nearly as precise as 101.) Also, of course, scientific notation.

  • To control the way people think, you start by controlling the way they talk. [wikipedia.org]

    • To control the way people think, you start by controlling the way they talk. [wikipedia.org]

      Hence the push for use of 'latinx' to replace 'latina' and 'latino'...

      Its not working out too well in actual Spanish speaking nations.

      • The NewSpeak language in 1984 was developed from a popular linguistic theory whose name I forget, but has a Wikipedia article of its own, if I remember correctly.

        It's based on the concept that words have absolute meaning and that the words you have in your vocabulary shape the way you think. As such, it's a darling of the "Political Correctness" crowd, who think that if you ban discriminatory words, it will result in the extinction of the corresponding discrimination.

        Which isn't entirely true. Ban the use o

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wolfram's Mathematica has been available on the Raspberry Pi educational computer for quite some time.
    How's that working out?
    With 10 million machines, you would think the Mathematica user community for RPi would be really HOT.
    Not so. You'll look far and wide to find it being used - let alone in a classroom environment.
    Creating excitement for computational computing has nothing to do with the language.
    It is based on understanding what students are interested in learning and making the discovery process "nat

    • by ffkom ( 3519199 )
      Mathematica on the Raspberry Pi was a funny little PR stunt to show off Mathematica's abilities without cannibalizing sales of that product for any platform that has appropriate CPU/RAM resources to usefully run it on.
  • Humans learning how to think. Forget the emails, forget the texts, forget instant messaging, forget typing in what your problem is into a search bar and hope something useful comes back, pick the goddam phone up and talk to someone for five minutes to figure out what the problem is and how to get it resolved rather than spending days, if not weeks, doing the other things.

    I'm still waiting for that to happen.

    • Humans learning how to think.

      Democracy, as it exists in the USA, couldn't exist if people could think. Thats why thinking is discouraged.

  • Building too (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Max_W ( 812974 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @02:17PM (#52863123)
    Roads, street signs, traffic signs, elevators, locks, stairs, and so on and so forth should be standardized all over the world to make them suitable for machines.

    As it is now, it is easier to send a robot to Mars that to a local supermarket.

    Even plates and glasses, - it would free from hard manual labor millions of people who prepare plates for dishwashers in cafes and resaurants.
    • "it is easier to send a robot to Mars that to a local supermarket": Untrue! We don't change from pound-seconds to Newton-seconds on the way to the supermarket! (well, unless you live in Lynden, Washington)

    • by esonik ( 222874 )

      Soviet Russia achieved quite a remarkable level of housing standardization. There is even a Russian move making fun of it: The Irony of Fate (1975): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt00... [imdb.com]
      Maybe you want to see it. I leave it up to you to decide whether that level of standardization is desirable or not.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @02:32PM (#52863185)

    How about we teach critical thinking skills first.

  • Wolfram was supposed to become the new Einstein. He burnt himself out more than two decades ago, accomplishing quite little in academia, becoming instead a predatory businessman who takes credit on the work done mostly by others.
  • ... or only need to learn how to best please their AI overlords, who will do all the "computational thinking" required on their own?
    • They won't need it. But wouldn't it be better to help them be on the other side of the equation? ie, being a producer rather than a consumer?
  • Luring children into a dependency on a proprietary software system is not a good way to shape their future...
  • So we all should buy Mathematica?

  • There are seven disciplines medicine needs to learn much from: maths, stats, logic, computation, science, engineering, psychology.

    Medical doctors can't be experts in all these, but the current climate requires them to be, or else fall prey to being persuaded by clever marketing. How one gets from a clinical trial to the 'one-on-one doctor-patient' scenario is a major case in point: how one adds back the significance of all salient features not selected for in the clinical trial is a matter which most doctors look blankly at when pointed out. (This is simple Bayesian statistics: what is the probability that treatment X works, or is most effective, given only that the patient has diagnostic label D? What if they have label D and are between ages of 20 and 40? What if they have diagnosis D and are between ages of 20 and 40 and are a Buddhist who meditates daily? What if they have label D and are between the ages of 20 and 40, are overweight, don't exercise, and eat junk food? and so on. What matters is how the 'best' decision changes as we limit towards a precise description of the patient in front of the clinician, and if that decision can change, the sensible clinician will realise they need more information to make a reliable decision.)

  • by quax ( 19371 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @08:32PM (#52864203)

    ... on crucial adjective the proprietary Wolfram Language.

There's no sense in being precise when you don't even know what you're talking about. -- John von Neumann

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