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Teaching Social Justice Through a Computational Thinking Lens

Location: Posters; Level 3, Skyline Ballroom Pre-function, Table 39

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Monday, June 25, 11:00 am–1:00 pm
Location: Posters; Level 3, Skyline Ballroom Pre-function, Table 39

Eli Sheldon  
Explore how computational thinking skills can be applied to real-world social justice projects, inspiring students to change the world in wonderful ways. Get an introduction to computational thinking and learn about concrete examples of lessons and integration points common across most middle and high school curricula.

Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Computer science and computational thinking
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
For Students:
Computational Thinker
  • Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.
  • 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.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Our students tend to perk up a bit and demonstrate a willingness to dive into a wider range of topics in class when viewed under the lens of computational thinking, as they are able to connect these ideas across disciplines. My goal with this session is both to introduce computational thinking to those who may never have heard of it, and to provide concrete examples of lessons and integration points common across most middle and high school curricula.

Attendees will be able to:
1. Understand the power of computational thinking in helping students tackle complicated, controversial problems with no clear answers
2. Leverage modern tools and platforms to invest students in social issues they may otherwise not feel personally invested in
3. Apply the concepts of algorithms, pattern recognition, abstraction, decomposition and iteration to disciplines beyond computer science


This poster session will include a quick overview of the relevant definitions to understand computational thinking and a few simple example CT lessons that span math, science, social studies and ELA. The focus will be on specific CT social justice projects implemented over the past three years. One was a multi-week unit evaluating the US criminal justice system and allowing students to design their own laws and apply them to real world cases; another was a simulation of the Scramble for Africa in which each student team took on the role of a different colonizer; a third was a web design project that asked students to select, research and design for a social justice topic of their choosing. I'll provide several processes that can enable teachers to integrate CT and social justice into their lesson planning, and will gladly brainstorm and discuss any early ideas that arise.

Supporting research

Computational Thinking in K-9 Education:

Infusing Computational Thinking into Middle and High School Curriculum

More [+]


Eli Sheldon, Green Dot Public Schools

Eli Sheldon spent four years in the software engineering world before joining Excel Public Charter School in its inaugural year to serve as the Computational Thinking Program Manager. Now working with Green Dot Public Schools Washington, he collaborates with teachers across three schools to develop computational thinking powered lessons to help students tackle challenging problems in new ways. He teaches or co-teaches many of these lessons and ensures all CT curricula is freely available online.

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