A CT Skills Grid Development Approach

I've been giving some thought on how to proceed from a variety of angles. Thus far much of the discussion has been "top-down", broad, and abstract. The question is whether the education will map to the requirements of industry which historically has not been perceived to be the case.

As we approach CT from various angles to identify and prioritize the CT skills below (list may not be all inclusive) to assist our collective imaginations in creative problem solving, it may be useful for us to work through various methodologies and approaches for the identification of those skills, a mapping of the skills to domains, re-ordering of CT skills for industries, and potential jobs of the future.

  • Abstraction
  • Algorithm
  • Data
  • Decomposition
  • Iterations
  • Query
  • Sense & Feedback
  • Systems
As Bernard has mentioned, we are training students today for jobs that do not yet exist, and as pointed out in his 5 minute video presentation, innovation and technological developments are accelerating. Therefore, this will have to be an ongoing, iterative exercise.

One approach (hopefully among many) would be to extrapolate a bit and explore potential future professions, once identified, decompose the types of CT skills that may be required, and classify that skill.

Admittedly, it's a less abstract approach than a top down methodology, though it might serve us well to have a "bottoms-up" gathering of information.

What dimensions of CT are "timeless"? That is, can we describe not the work (data) itself, but the future job skills (metadata) within "domains", and map to the appropriate CT skills.

Some dimensions of work include integration, scope, time, cost, quality, HR, communications, risk management and procurement.

That is, whether the organizational offerings are products, solutions or services, many if not all of those activities will have to take place. The offering will have to be scoped to be developed, it'll have to be developed within a time frame, cost will be a limitation, components will have to be procured, teams will have to communicate, cross functional personnel will have to be managed (HR) and so on. This will be the case across industries.

For the business sector we may consider strategy, sales, marketing, management, engineering, legal, finance and accounting.

Other industries may have a different list ie. healthcare, government, non-profits, etc.

Naturally, a sub-approach to identify, evaluate, test, etc. of the CT skills may help us focus on key skills.

For example, lets take a look at these top 60 jobs of the future or 10 attributes of next generation IT manager and look at one dimension, time. Deadlines will still exist. What CT skills can we engender within the CT educational curriculum that will lead students to recognize time management / manipulation skills to accelerate completion of the work ie. fast-tracking (parallelism), round-robin, using time zones, crashing (adding resource), etc.

Then we map the CT skill to the dimensions, industry, roles and domains, producing a modular grid of skills we can prioritize within each grid to produce a specific outcome for the corresponding industry and role.

Once complete we can apply to the corresponding coursework in the curriculum for that particular outcome at the college level.

Additionally, the grid should provide insight into a narrower set of "core" CT skills that will be in high demand. Which can then be used as the basis of the K-12 education with an overlay as to the appropriate developmental stage to teach the "core" CT skill.

Your thoughts, comments, suggestions are welcome.

Warmest Regards,


CT Problem for the Team: Organizing this Content

Enough tinkering. I spent the last week and a half scheming on how to make this blog more useful and more engaging. So here's where I got...

  1. The basic blog is the same and retains all historic posts. History is in the right column but you might find things quicker by using the search function at the top of the column.
  2. We still need to complete some housekeeping on the accumulated past material so be patient with us. Linda and I will review the historic linked documents and will bucket them by NSF, CPATH I Product, CPATH II Product, Interesting Stuff and ??? Suggestions are welcome...especially from our administrative team and evaluators. This log of our activity needs to work for the developing community and for program administration purposes.
  3. To the center left column I have added Appetizers, a mashup of tidbits I notice out in cyberspace. Anyone wishing to participate in growing the collection should contact me for more info. So far I have been tagging these tidbits with these keywords/concepts: Applications, Data Visualization, Organizing Data, Design, Interviews & Ideas, and Curriculum. As you can imagine, the tagcloud could grow huge. So another place I need some suggestions from you is on the key buckets I need to establish for sorting and filtering all of our content. Right now I am thinking a lot about team understanding of CT concepts and managing content for required grant administration purposes. We will ultimately need to add coverage for specific programs we launch in pursuit of grant expectations. Your thoughts on the big themes are needed. We will develop our own folksonomy in the discussion process but your help with a few over-riding fixed buckets ("controlled vocabulary" for you KM types) is appreciated.
  4. In order to actually participate in this discussion, you will need to acquire a free google account. Please see my earlier post on How to Participate in this Community. The test will be for you to comment on this post. To acknowledge that you have prepared yourself to comment and participate in the ongoing dialogue, post a comment to this blog. I will be handing out grades at the next team get together.
Note: You're not going crazy... I changed the template to better utilize real estate again on 9.30.

Marketing the CT Cafe: Need Delicious Entrees on this Menu

Our marketing plan may be as important as our topical interests. I confess I am somewhat challenged by the difficulty of explaining the big computational thinking concepts to regular folks...people who have not invested themselves in the mission. How to get from where we've been to a more enlightened future is highly dependent on our ability to explain the mission and component concepts. So when Jeannette Wing asks with a straight face why we don't teach the concept "algorithm" in grade school, I immediately cringe and ask myself how many K-8 teachers does she actually know? I don't fault her, I just have reservations about the capacity of the educational pipeline to embrace and deliver new, and in particular, abstract curricular components. We need to concern ourselves with how to make our little cafe appealing. If we want SRO crowds, that menu posted by the door and the accompanying smells wafting out onto the street better be seductive.

It's not exactly as if we haven't been there before. When I was younger, the New Math initiative (interestingly, another NSF project) attempted to deploy widespread understanding of some of the more conceptual domains that academic mathematics employs. Great idea with mixed results. I happened to have New Math delivered by a real mathematics instructor (with a genuine math background...not a PE or History degree) and maybe I was predisposed to math, technology and the AV squad, so it worked for me. But the New Math program failed...in large part because the people in charge of delivery were ill-prepared to convey the subject matter, at least using the packages delivered by the visionaries. Whether teachers were excited, intimidated or ambivalent may not really matter, but the program was eventually reeled in after years of parental confusion and complaints. (Lesson: If the parents are not "getting it" through osmosis and fail to "see the point," resistance will be encountered). So, we need to think long and hard about how to go about this business of "getting the words right" or spicing up the menu as it were.

After listening to Jon Udell's interview of Joan Peckham, I reviewed the Computer Science Unplugged curriculum generated by a team in New Zealand. I like the way they've named their units and lessons. We would do well to learn from their example and, perhaps, use some of their ideas to build a strategy or help explain our quest. I recommend you take a look and start stewing on how we make our mission palatable, even delicious to the customers and the serving staff we will be trying to influence.

Excerpt from Table of Contents of the Computer Science Unplugged curriculum
Data: the raw material—Representing information

  • Count the Dots—Binary Numbers
  • Colour by Numbers—Image Representation
  • etc.
Putting Computers to Work—Algorithms
  • Battleships—Searching Algorithms
  • Lightest and Heaviest—Sorting Algorithms
  • etc
Telling Computers What To Do—Representing Procedures
  • Treasure Hunt—Finite-State Automata
  • Marching Orders—Programming Languages

Jeanette Wing presentation on Computational Thinking

Here is a recording of her presentation to the Yahoo Big Thinker forum in the Summer of 2009. The pres is aimed at a computer science audience but includes many examples of computational thinking applied to various disciplines. She also approaches some of the practical challenges in pedagogy with respect to embedding CT and STEM in K-80 curricula. Hmmmm. PT