There are lots of resources available to help students grow as computational thinkers— and many are free! Some of these platforms begin at basic levels and can be utilized by beginners as young as preschool age, while still others provide interactive experiences that utilize diverse computational thinking strategies.
Here are 10 useful computational thinking resources:
Computer Science Unplugged: Sorting Algorithm Activities
Computer Science Unplugged is a website full of resources that take computer science concepts out of the computer lab and into real life. This library is full of lesson plans, activities and videos that will help students integrate their understanding of computer science principles with other subjects. The series on sorting and searching algorithms includes lots of activities like “lightest to heaviest” that are perfect for middle school students. Educators can download these algorithm lesson plans in a variety of languages. These resources are free and do not require a login to download.
Data.gov is a massive database full of information collected by the United States federal government. These datasets are great resources for predictive modeling and charting trends over time. Students can explore anything from economic growth to the spread of viruses on this free website. There are also many excellent visualizations of data, such as SeaSketch, a tool that allows for marine sanctuary planning. No login is required, but it is recommended that you use a computer with spreadsheet software to take full advantage of Data.gov.
Google for Education: Exploring Computational Thinking
Google offers a robust selection of courses and lesson plans designed to help educators and students strengthen their computational thinking skills. The several short videos included in the Exploring Computational Thinking curriculum are excellent supplements to classroom activities and lessons that are based on computational thinking principles. The Computational Thinking for Educators course is an educator-facing training module that demonstrates how computational thinking can be integrated into a variety of subjects. It allows participants to go at their own pace and is free of charge.
Poll Everywhere is an interactive program that allows students to develop polls, collect data and analyze that data in real time. Its easy-to-use interface integrates easily with most classroom computing equipment and the smartphone application allows students to use their own devices to participate in polling exercises. Poll Everywhere is ideal for increasing classroom participation and teaching the computational thinking strategies of collecting data and analyzing data. To use Poll Everywhere in your classroom, you will have to visit the website, create a free account and download the application to your computer. Students can participate in polls simply by visiting a link and do not need to log in.
The Lifelong Kindergarten group of MIT’s Media Lab created Scratch, a coding platform geared toward younger coders. By using a drag-and-drop block style, students can create animations, games and simulations without any previous knowledge of computer programming. The website includes curriculum guides and an online community with meetups, tips and tutorials for parents and teachers. To view completed projects, click here or view a short video promo to get started.
Thingiverse is an open-source library full of blueprints for CAD and 3D printing software. This online platform makes it easy to integrate 3D modeling into your classroom as students have the option to tweak and refine existing models instead of designing from scratch. Thingiverse is free, but it does require users to create an account before using the platform.
TinkerCAD is a flexible platform for building all kinds of 3D prototypes, from interior design mockups to video game characters. TinkerCAD is available on both web and app platforms, making it a great choice for a classroom with a variety of tech devices. TinkerCAD makes digital drafting easier and is suitable for students from elementary school all the way through high school.TinkerCAD connects easily to 3D printers. Watch your students’ faces light up as the prototypes they design in TinkerCAD software come into real life! TinkerCAD is free to use and students under the age of 18 must register using a family member’s email address.
University of California Irvine Machine Learning Repository
The UCI Machine Learning Repository is a database full of almost 400 machine learning datasets. These sets span everything from forest fires to poker hands. By looking through these databases, students can develop an understanding of how computers recognize patterns and get better at sorting data over time. Students will see the far-reaching applications of machine learning and can practice abstraction by categorizing the information in these diverse sets. The UCI Machine Learning Repository is free to use and does not require a login.
Wemogee is a highly-rated app was created to help those who suffer from aphasia (the inability to speak or understand language) but its uses extend into all kinds of translation.Wemogee translates words into emoji images and vice versa. The Wemogee vocabulary includes over 140 common phrases identified by speech therapists. Use Wemogee to check for student understanding of texts or to demonstrate the power of summarizing or abstracting information. Students will love this free and visually fun addition to your classroom.
Wolfram Computational Knowledge Engine
The Wolfram Computational Knowledge Engine directly connects computational thinking with all areas of the curriculum. This special search engine shows how computational thinking can help us decompose information in order to find the best solutions to problems. Some of the search suggestions provided by the Computational Knowledge Engine include “step by step solutions" and “culture and media”.
7 Steps of
Determine sources from which you will collect data, and decide which qualitative and quantitative data to collect.
Produce and evaluate charts, and use appropriate statistical methods to test a hypothesis.
Identify patterns to make predictions, create rules and solve other problems.
Take large complicated problems, and break them down into manageable pieces.
Identify similarities and remove details to create a solution that works for many different problems.
Test, tweak and refine an object before building it in real life using design software to predict outcomes.
Create solutions using step-by-step instructions that operate like a road map for performing a task.