How Board Games Lead to Computational Thinking

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How Board Games Lead to Computational Thinking

Computational thinking is a fundamental skill for everyone. It is a unique combination of thinking skills that, when used together, provide the basis of a new and powerful form of problem solving. Everyone should understand how, when, and where digital tools can help us solve problems, and how to communicate with others who can assist us with computer-supported solutions. In order to do this we will set aside time for students to play strategizing board games within the classroom in order to promote computational thinking. For example, the students can play the game RaBit EscApe.

Three Facts

1. Board games are apart of five categories of computational thinking. These five categories are: conditional logic, algorithm building, debugging, simulation, and distributed computation. In a board game conditional logic is demonstrated when players predict what might happen in the game based on the game rules. Algorithm building involves planning out your moves in the game with a long-term goal that it is a strategy that can be used again in the future. Debugging involves clarifying the rules or strategies during the game. Simulation takes place when a player commits to their move in the game. Lastly, distributed computation is the social aspect of computational thinking, when different pieces of information are contributed by other players over just a few players during the process of debugging, simulation, or algorithm building. 2. “Patrick was trying to figure out if he could receive a blue city card from Michael on the immediate turn. In order to straighten out what was or was not permitted, Michael had to refer to a written rule and translate that into permissible actions for card exchanges.” 74This is an example of computational thinking, debugging of a rule. Throughout the game players challenge other players on their decisions they make during the game. When they question another player they must have a reason why. This bug was resolved by referencing written rules. 3. Another thing we learned from the article is the difference between local logic and global logic and what each type of logic are. According to the text, “Local logic relates directly to immediate actions being taken and the structure of the logic or processes is not identified as applicable to a future course of action.” (p. 77) On the contrary, players can use global logic, which involves ‘higher order’ thinking to make predictions of potential actions in the game and to act on those predictions. As the players learn the game better (the more they play), their ability to make global logic connections within the game improves.

Two Questions

Question 1: Are there occurrences where game-players ability to make ‘global’ logic does not improve over repetitious game-play? The article discusses that a higher frequency of game-play usually improves a player’s ability to make higher-order, global logic predictions. The article mentions the necessity for further experiments to uncover more information about global logic; but, I can infer that there is some percentage of game-players that struggle to make predictions (for the next move in the game) even if they’ve been playing the game for a while.Question 2: Do inventors of board games have higher levels of computational thinking skills compared to the average person? Or would their high-level computational thinking only apply to the board game they invented? It’s obvious that the inventor of a board game has a high level of global logic, since he or she knows the ins and outs of the board game (he or she created). However, maybe a study can be done to show if game inventors naturally have higher level computational thinking skills over the average board game player.

How Board Games Lead to Computational ThinkingBy: Lauren Kregel and Aaron Wolf

One Application

Students using a board game to promote computational thinking

Berland, M., & Lee, V. (2011). Collaborative strategic board games as a site for distributed computational thinking. Preview the documentView in a new windowJournal of Game-Based Learning, 1(2), 65-81.

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