Thursday, September 30, 2010

Required Exercise: "Computational Thinking" --listen to the lecture and write your comments on the blog

Here is a "guest lecture" for this course--titled "Computational Thinking". In this, Jeannette Wing, who was the chair of CS in CMU and was, until recently the head
of National Science Foundation's  Computer and Information Science and Engineering, talks about how computational thinking--that Computer Scientists do for a living, 
is going to play a major part in everyone's  (not just CS students') life (just like philosophical thinking is not just for philosophy students).  

I would like you to either read either the article, or  the slides or hear the youtube lecture (they are not exactly identical but
close enough). Once you do, I would like you to comment on any points that caught your attention. 

You will have to do this by 8th October (i.e., you have a full week)

Video (on youtube; 65min):



  1. -My first thought to this was that I thought we've been doing this type of thinking for a while. I thought it was common sense to think like that. Does she mean that we have to concentrate and work more on thinking this way?

    - I want to know more about machine learning. Overall, I just want to know what it's all about and what we can do with it. She talks about all the stuff we've been able to do with it but I guess she assumes we know what it is. She explains it by saying that we're able to analyze large sets of data. How is it that we're able to do that?

    -This is a random question that arose while watching. Will we ever get to the point in which they will make types of courses that concentrate on using computational thinking for multiple subjects?

    -Can I have an example of a complex system being created in a simple manner or are we currently trying to delve deeper into that question?

    -Overall I think the main subject of computational thinking isn't all that new. It's just that now we're putting emphasis on it. I was more interested in the stuff I had no clue about. I'd like to see this video again some time along the road just to get an idea of what she is talking about...

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  3. After reading this article, I think that "thinking like a computer scientist" is not something new in my perspective it seems very common sense. This is more or less just teaching us about analytical thinking which all people who encounter problems do to some extent already on a daily basis whether they realize it or not. The question is, To what extent do people use, or realize they use this type of problem solving and abstraction. I too was also unsure as to the direction of this article... do most people not already think this way, or is this a way of saying this way is better than others?

    I would have liked to see her do a contrast between the different styles of thinking highlighting the pros and cons of computational thinking. (if any)

    I also noticed that she really focused in on relating this to how computer scientists think. I think this might be narrowing it down too finely. Engineers, I imagine break down problems in the manner, not just computer scientists.

    My thinking on this would almost be that you could break down all thinking methods into this form in one way or another... Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, that's why I don't have a published article and she does?

  4. It seems she is trying to go beyond the concrete and the finite limitations. Trying to expand the horizons in how we think about computers and computational thinking.
    That it is not just a tool like other engineering or sciences like biology etc. Plus it could be for everyone.
    It is not the computer as a tool but as a way of thinking. But she seems a little lost.
    I believe it is a tool. A way of thinking but not an end all. I asked a few people not into computers and well the answers were bland.
    Yes the computers can solve large problems yet they are still locked into the finite. She just to me cannot make the leap at this point from the finite tool to the large mass way of thinking. She has not convinced me of any glimmer like I see in my young sons eyes when he solves something. He uses way more than any computational thinking even at 5 years old.
    The abstractions and methods are just one set of mental tools. They are a tool not the glimmer of my sons eyes. Yes maybe underappreciated and new to the scene but just one tool.
    Then at one point I believe she sees humans and computers as a network. Well you just added the glimmer.
    There are physicists and astronomers that ponder earth shattering questions. Questions on time and space and other things that break known molds and ways of thinking. To me her way is just one solid tool not any breaking of the mold.

  5. computational thinking as discussed in the video is nothing new i think. People do most of this stuff in everyday life especially thi pipeline thinking or process that she talks about. The coffe table, the cups, the creamers and sugars and all that. People do that everyday for example dropping the kids off at school driving to work and having a wife or someone else pick up the kids from school while they go and do the grocerry shopping and other activities or students planning their classes so they dont have too much time in between classes and dont have to walk too far. People use the type of thinking everyday to try to come up with more efficient ways to plan their day and save time.
    THe most intruiging part of the video i think was the machine learning and detecting patterns in very large amounts of data i am interested in learning more about this.

  6. But the machine learning now is still more of putting known statistics and math to work on the large scale computers can handle. It is not machine learning. It is still bounding by solid rules and concrete at this stage. Just that computers are good at taking what we tell them to do and apply it to mass amounts of data. It is still the users glimmer not the computers.
    Her idea of the software freeing the computer from hardware is not here yet.

  7. After reading the article i believe that all of this is already in the present. At first i thought that computational thinking was when we try to think like computers but its not. I learned that its just humans using computers to tackle harder problems. Computers do most of the work for us, but because we have programmed them too. I think as the world progress more and more the level of systems increase the more we would relie on computers to do the work for us. Because there are problems out there that cant be solved by humans so we use computers to help figure it out. but overall i think that the article was interesting.

  8. After reading the article, I think people already think computationally. From my understanding, it is about a process to which people complete task. As the article stated, people do it every day without even thinking about it. Before reading the article I never really thought about the process that I go through to complete a task or problem but I have realized that it can protein to almost everything.

  9. What I got from the presentation is that thinking abstractly is the best way to deal with problems. If one can abstract a problem to one that has already been solved, why waste time resolving it?

    Secondly, I think that knowing a bit of programming is important to know what a computer can and cannot do. Many people I know may be able to think abstractly like a computer scientist, but always seem to think that a computer should be able to do anything easily -- such as learn from its user.

    I did think that a majority of what was said was common sense when thinking like a computer scientist.

    Keep in mind that the article was written in 2006; thinking like a computer scientist has likely increased since then.

  10. I learned from the powerpoint that the most effective way to accomplish your tasks, is to think out of the box. Everyone can solve a problem the same way, but to solve it differently and more efficiently is a main point.

    I am interested about the programming and software part of computer systems and to seek out the boundaries of what computers can and cannot do.

  11. What got my attention about the article is that computational thinking has always existed and everyone has always thought that way. I think that with out even noticed most humans think that way. I think that what she means is that we should practice more this type of thinking in school since we are kids to increase our computational thinking to a higher level. Also come good points she made is that computer science majors can do a various different jobs.

  12. She must have stolen her ideas from my math teacher... I believe I think in the same manner, but I did not learn to do so in a computer class, but rather in my calculus classes during high school. Problems that others would call hard soon became "interesting".

    As posted earlier by Ivan, this post is quite old and for people within our line of work (ie computer scientists) thinking in such a way has become more "common sense"

    Although it seemed a little long and distracting when I was watching the Yankees game, it was a good read.

  13. From the power point I thought that Computational thinking is already a part of my life and should be a part of many others lives. The main ideas I got from this is of thinking logically, finding the most efficient ways and the idea that we should always be looking to simplify large, tough tasks into smaller, easier ones.

  14. Well, From the article, its clear that from the authors definition of Computational Thinking, it does in fact exist almost everywhere in life. I like to think that i think like a computer scientist, but i don't see nearly all the same things that the author did. The end part was the part that was the most interesting to me though. About what was and what wasnt a computational way of thinking, and then finally about how a CS major can take a person anywhere. I like hearing that, because i enjoy CS at the moment, but what if its not something i want to do forever. I can go do something else.

  15. -so computational thinking is taking large tasks and breaking them down further in order to do them efficiently and effectively.

    -it is preparing for worst case scenarios.

    -we do this daily, like in the provided is second nature to us

    -computer scientists can get jobs anywhere.

    -computer science isn't just computer programming.

  16. I read over the PowerPoint slide. Jeannette Wing explains that Computational Thinking is used in our everyday life, eg Biology, Math, and even Engineering. She also talks about having computational thinking incorporated into all educational levels to increase better level understanding.

  17. From what I read, computational thinking is in everyday life, its about breaking large tasks down into smaller ones. And computer scientists can get jobs in many more places than just with computers.

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  19. For me I was really expecting to have my mind blown by some deep and critical thinking techniques Jeannette Wing was going to unveil, but I reality it seemed to be very similar or identical to my current understanding and thought process. Maybe that is what lead me to computer science? But the one difference I definitely seemed to gather was the fact that It seemed like she wanted us to begin to harness that trait in a more refined method and begin to apply it in ways and fields we didn't think about using it in before. Its also important to note that a master of this computational thinking can achieve good results in about any job position they apply it to, whether its computer related or completely separate from it. Thats why computer scientists are become a very "hot commodity" for companies.

  20. Wow. This is a very inspirational video. Thanks Prof. Kambhampati for sharing this with the class!! There were many points in the video that caught my attention, some that I knew already and she expanded on the concept, and some of her points were new to me, and made me see things from a different angle. I was pretty impressed with all of the fields in education that computational thinking has made a positive impact. Her list was pretty impressive. And as I think about the future, and I can see how mixing computer science concepts would be beneficial for making new discoveries in other fields, such as biology, neuroscience, etc. I also like that she touched on machine learning and cyber-enables discovery and Innovation. These two concepts were new to me, but I will definitely look into them now that I know how important they to today's society. I also like that one of list she mentioned about computer/internet connection
    "Anytime, Anywhere, Affordable, Access, Anything Anyone, and Authorized" and how the two major difference between 90's and now are "Affordable and Authorized" which in an indication that as a society are views and work related to computer are in the right direction. Thanks again for showing us this video. I am truly proud to study a field such as computer science, knowledge I can use for the better of my community, nation and global purposes.
    I will be showing this video to my computer science club,I am sure they will like it as much as did!!

  21. I thought this was pretty interesting. The only problem I see is it seems a little "pie in the sky" if I may call it that. There are a lot of things that should be taught at other levels of education and in more detail that aren't being taught today. I think things like critical thinking, science literacy, and logic should all be core tenants of a younger child's education career, but I don't think there will be any significant changes in that arena any time soon. Let alone trying to get people to think like computer scientists.

    However, if we COULD get more people to think this way, it would be wonderful. Having worked in the business world (for a few modest years) I can tell you that it would be great if people thought this way. Some of the computer scientists at my work have an amazing way of looking at problems. Although, yes, we program, that's not the interesting part. They have a "computer scientists" view of problems. It's been important for me to focus on learning their ideas, and not their implementations. I think this is close to what she was describing. Hopefully we can get more people in the world to think this way.

    It was nice to hear someone talking about the various things that computer scientists have accomplished. One of my favorite examples of this is Folding@Home. It's essentially a program that people can run at home, that helps researchers find cures for diseases by utilizing different computer's computational powers.


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