Computational Thinking as a Practice of Representation: A Proposed Learning and Assessment Framework

Camilo Vieira, Manoj Penmetcha, Alejandra J. Magana, and Eric Matson

Volume 7, Issue 1 (April 2016), pp. 21–30

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  author={Camilo Vieira and Manoj Penmetcha and Alejandra J. Magana and Eric Matson},
  title={Computational Thinking as a Practice of Representation: A Proposed Learning and Assessment Framework},
  journal={The Journal of Computational Science Education},
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This study proposes a research and learning framework for developing and assessing computational thinking under the lens of representational fluency. Representational fluency refers to individuals ability to (a) comprehend the equivalence of different modes of representation and (b) make transformations from one representation to another. Representational fluency was used in this study to guide the design of a robotics lab. This lab experience consisted of a multiple step process in which students were provided with a learning strategy so they could familiarize themselves with representational techniques for algorithm design and the robot programming language. The guiding research question for this exploratory study was: Can we design a learning experience to effectively support individuals computing representational fluency? We employed representational fluency as a framework for the design of computing learning experiences as well as for the investigation of student computational thinking. Findings from the implementation of this framework to the design of robotics tasks suggest that the learning experiences might have helped students increase their computing representational fluency. Moreover, several participants identified that the robotics activities were engaging and that the activities also increased their interest both in algorithm design and robotics. Implications of these findings relate to the use of representational fluency coupled with robotics to integrate computing skills in diverse disciplines.