Session information

The current trend is to focus on STEM and Coding. However, focusing on Digital Age Problem Solving in all content areas instead requires students to think critically, systematically, and logically and become digital problem solvers. Learn about Design Thinking, Data Literacy, and Computational Thinking and find ways to use in any classroom with your students.

This session will look at the three aspects of Digital Age Problem Solving: Design Thinking, Data Literacy, and Computational Thinking. Attendees will find ideas for implementing these into any classroom and find tools that teachers and students can use.



In teaching, we ask ourselves “What am I going to teach?”
In learning, we ask “What should my students be able to do with what they learn?”

Digital-age problem solving combines three key skills essential to understanding and solving problems in the information age: data literacydesign thinking, and computational thinking. Computational thinking is the thought process involved in taking a problem and breaking it down into small components that a human or computer can use to analyze or create solutions.

Data literacy

  • Collect, analyze, interpret, and tell stories using complex sets of data.
  • Data is used to help identify the problems to be addressed
  • Collection, analysis, interpretation,and action
  • Infographic – compelling way to display and share data
  • Focus should be on data analysis

Data literacy sources:


Data visualization sources:


Data sources:

Find all kinds of data sources in this government clearinghouse:

Design thinking

  • Think like a designer. Design thinking focuses more on understanding problems and developing creative solutions for people than on implementing generic solutions. Uses empathy in the process.
  • Design thinking goes through phases of collecting feedback and data, using the data to identify the problems to be solved, developing prototypes, and testing solutions. Feedback from key stakeholders should be used often.
  • Phases of the design process are iterative and cyclical — revision after feedback is critical. In design thinking, failure isn’t an end, it’s an opportunity to refine and create something better. Rapid prototyping gives feedback for design.
  • Design thinking focuses on divergent thinking — generating and exploring as many ideas as possible before narrowing down to a solution. Even the infeasible should be listed (Throwing things against the wall). Use SCAMPER (substitute, combine, adapt, modify, rePurpose, eliminate, reverse/rearrange) when stumped look at Biomimicry – nature has solutions to all sorts of problems
  • Point of View madlibs to focus on human-centered:
  • As a (persona), I want to (action), so that I can (reward).
  • Replacing KWL with why, what, how
  • Why – reason to care or purpose (what students believe)
  • What – elements to explore (problems or questions (dissatisfaction with evidence of their beliefs)
  • How – How we will explore or gather evidence. Leads to
  • Question – scientific process
  • Problem – engineering process
  • Design Thinking resources from TeachersFirst

Computational thinking

Computational thinking is expressing solutions so that humans and computers can understand them. A great way to visualize how to embed it in your classroom is to have the students think like the physicist, economist, artist, mathematician, etc. to identify the problems that need explored. This is not programming computers but logical ways for problem solving. It is a problem solving tool for every classroom that has students think like a problem solver and use higher level cognitive skills.


  • What is computational thinking?
  • Why is it important to think about?
  • How might it different from what we do now?
  • How can it enhance learning for students?
  • What can happen in your classroom to implement computational thinking strategies?

What its not

  • It’s not just more technical details for using software
  • It’s not thinking like a computer
  • It’s not programming (necessarily)
  • It doesn’t always require a computer
  • It’s not yet one more thing to add to your curriculum

Why is it important

  • It moves students beyond technology literacy
  • It creates problem solvers instead of software technicians
  • It emphasizes creating knowledge rather than using information
  • It presents endless possibilities for creatively solving problems
  • It enhances the problem-solving techniques you already teach

It fits with the ISTE NETS

  • Teachers apply technology to develop students’ higher order skills and creativity. (III)
  • Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology enhanced models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works. (4)
  • Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world. (6)


Promotes these attitudes

  • Confidence in dealing with complexity
  • Persistence in working with difficult problems
  • Tolerance for ambiguity
  • The ability to deal with open ended problems
  • The ability to communicate and work with others to achieve a common goal or solution

ISTE Standards for students

Standard 5: Computational Thinker: Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.

5a. Students formulate problem definitions suited for technology-assisted methods such as data analysis, abstract models, and algorithmic thinking, in exploring and finding solutions.
5b. Students collect data or identify relevant data sets, use digital tools to analyze them, and represent data in various ways to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making.
5c. Students break problems into component parts, extract key information and develop descriptive models to understand compex systems or facilitate problem solving.
5d. Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.
Core Computational Thinking Skills
  • Decomposition: Breaking down a problem into its component parts.

  • Abstraction: Removing extraneous/irrelevant details from a problem to define the elements of a solution that are consistent.

  • Pattern Recognition: Looking for common elements among different cases of a problem to help us define the rules that we can use to solve it.

  • Creating Algorithms: The detailed, step-by-step rules we use to solve a problem in a consistent and replicable way.

  • Evaluation: Determining the effectiveness and efficiency of a solution and whether the solution accurately and precisely solves the problem.


  • Tinkering – experimenting and playing
  • Creating – designing and making
  • Debugging: finsing and fixing errors
  • Persevering: keeping going
  • Collaborating: working together
These thinking skills are what we already do in the classroom. You should expand on the use of critical thinking and problem solving. One great suggestion is to use the terminology often in the classroom. For example, instead of using the word steps or procedure, use the word ALGORITHM.




  • It is a set of instructions or rules that computers understand. People write the code to imagine a process, the code runs the computers, and computers power the devices (anything that actually uses electricity runs on code). 
  • Reading sheet music and morse code is coding
  • Learning to code is like learning a language. At the most basic, the language resembles binary (series of 1’s or 0’s). Some computer languages are easier to work with. 
  • A program is a set of instructions written as a text file in a particular programming language.
  • coding vs. programming… Coding is the special set of instructions or direct commands specifically written to make a program do something , programming is all aspects of having a computer do what you want. In other words, it is the coding, the internet, the interactions…the study of coding plus everything that goes with it
  • Two types of coding :Text based: Basic, Python, C, Javascript, Java, PHP or Visual- what you would use to introduce coding.programming
  • Easier to start with visual- you just focus on logic.  IN text based you also have to teach syntax
  • All beginning uses visual- start with concrete kinesthetic

Why teach computer science: Coders are the architects and the engineers of the digital age.

  1. Makes their thinking visible
  2. Learn basic logic
  3. Programming is communication and computational thinking- test, reflect, and adjust
  4. Kids become empowered in experience, and confidence and becomes part of learning – best in elementary
  5. Not limited to any field of study- integrated into all
  6. All can contribute—struggling readers, ESL can still collaborate- level playing field
  7. Empowers students to take action
  8. Not limited to technology class- every subject
  • Known as the “new literacy” and prepares kids for their world

  • Collaboration- learn to listen and talk effectively, listen and rethink

  • Creativity

  • Persistence- failure provides an avenue for learning

  • Prepares for more rigorous programming later

  • “By year 2020 there will be one million more computer science  jobs than there are students- “

  • Currently Only 20% of software programmers are women

  • 2013 as the U.K. passed a plan to educate every child how to code. In 2014, Barack Obama made history as the first U.S. president to program a computer. Yet critics claim that often only the more affluent schools offer computer science courses, thus denying minorities potential to learn the skills required by the 1.4 million new jobs that will be created during the next ten years.

Where to Start
  1. Unplugged Activities

  • Kinesthetic Activities

  • Begins concrete and uses familiar context for teaching logic and computational thinking. Focus on logic!

  1. Why teach unplugged activities

  • Puts all on equal playing ground

  • Technology limited at school, home, internet problems, testing period- no computer use

  • Understanding that these are thinking skills first and not all limited to computers

  • Use coding vocabulary as often as you can to understand that these are thinking skills.

Different courses and includes professional development, Teacher sign up and class sign up, dashboard to monitor student work, other online courses, tutorial apps

Preparing for a CodeStudio lesson

Student login: Older students use an email to register, younger students use a word or picture. Creates a special URL for each particular class

Various courses age groups:

  • Course 1 for early readers K and 1: learn mouse drag and drop, write programs that draw patterns, get angry bird move to pig, bring a bee to get nectar and get honey, spelling bee- write programs to move letters to spell words
  • Course 2 for grades 2-5: for students who can read and new to computer science, programs with same and new characters
  • Course 3 for grades 4-5:  Move on from course 2: write programs, bounce game
  • Open ended sections in all courses- use concepts learned and create an art, story, or game…etc
  • Middle 6-8
  • CS in Algebra- algebra and geometry to develop video games
  • CS in Science-complex scientific models through agent based programming
  • Exploring computer science
  • Computer science principles (future AP)
  • Hour of Code
  • Frozen
  • Infinity play lab
  • Flappy Code
  • Accelerated
  • 10-18: Intro to computer science



Build an animated character (even zombies) and then animate it. Students will learn to code by dropping blocks of commands into the correct sequence. You can even track students progress.

  • Visual programming language designed to help kids learn programming as they solve puzzles and build interactive apps and games

  • It’s Scratch, but organized into a “package”

  • Only six free lessons, but freemium options available.

  • 200+ puzzles

  • Build games, stories, and interactive animations

  • Web and mobile access to all projects with sync

  • Work offline without Internet access

  • Create classrooms (student accounts)

  • Create and publish a class showcase with best student projects

  • Monitor student progress

  • Tutorial that walks you through using the app: Codey’s Quest

  • Integrates with school subjects

  • Tynker lesson plans/curriculum:

Google CS First




Gamestar Mechanic