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December 12
2016 年 12 月 12 日

運算思維時代來了,
我們還應注意什麼?

Way Cool Blog


 

11月15日,參加「賽馬會運算思維教育」(Cool Think@JC)計劃啟動典禮。這項計劃獲香港賽馬會基金撥款2億多港元,資助32所本地小學添置課室設備及研發實證為本教材,並為100多名教師安排運算思維培訓。

聽了各位講者的發言和討論,不由想起香港的大學中提倡的「全人教育」概念。所謂全人教育,即是強調德、智、體、群、美全面發展,除了傳授專業知識和技能之外,還要培育學生的個人修養、理性思維、文化認知、社會意識和體能發展。我一直認為,一個人的世界觀、人生價值觀從小就開始養成了,要是到了十七、八歲讀大學時才開始提倡全人教育,似乎已經有點晚了。做一個不甚恰當的比喻,童子雞肉質鮮嫩甜美,就因為只養了幾十天就被屠宰了。要是養了幾年再屠宰,雞肉哪裏會如此鮮嫩?

思維是人用頭腦進行邏輯推導的屬性、能力和過程,運算思維與我們的生活密切相關。我們在日常生活中都會用到運算思維,如外出旅遊計劃路程、組織大型活動時安排各項程序、食譜中羅列各個步驟等等;在數學、物理、建築、人文、商業等專業領域也會用到以邏輯思考和系統化思考為特色的運算思維。因此,在互聯網覆蓋日益普及、資訊科技發達的廿一世紀數碼時代,推廣從小培養運算思維能力,可以說是世界先進潮流。賽馬會資助的「運算思維教育」計劃稱得上是一個富有遠見的創舉,全港16,500多名小四至小六學生因此可以受惠,從小就接受編寫程式(編程)訓練,藉此提升運算思維能力,即用資訊方法解決問題的能力。

同時我又想到,倡導推廣運算思維的想法2006年就有人提出來了。截止2015年10月,歐洲已有16個國家或地方將運算和編程教育列為中學或小學必修課程;美國和澳洲一些城市也計劃從2018年起逐步推出編程教育。在亞洲,將運算和編程教育納入或計劃納入中小學課程的有日本、南韓、新加坡和台灣等國家和地區。

香港直到賽馬會推出「運算思維」計劃才算是與世界潮流接了軌。是因為香港人不夠聰明、沒有想到嗎?看來似乎不是。根據美國網媒 Gazatte Review 2016年的最新統計,香港人的平均智商(IQ) 在世界上排名第一。抑或是因為香港地方太小、人口太少?似乎也說不通。世界上第一個將運算思維和編程教育列為中小學必修課的國家是東歐的愛沙尼亞,人口僅僅1.3百萬。依我看,主要還是心態問題。很多人缺乏冒險、創新精神,寧可安心做「老二」,也不願承擔風險做第一。如果這樣的心態不改變,談論香港的創新和創意只會是一句漂亮的口號。

如今,雖然運算思維很重要,也很熱門,我們卻不能忘了,包括電腦、程式、互聯網在內的科技只是一種工具,一種達到目的的方法。運算思維固然可以幫助我們用電腦的邏輯來解決問題,但是年輕人仍應多讀一點歷史和文學,要培育自己的獨立思考和評判是非的能力,才能正確使用這些工具和方法,促進社會進步。

我們必須強調心物並重,心為物主,役物而不役於物。倫理是民主與科學的基礎,在我們努力學習這些科技工具、培養和提升邏輯思考能力、解決問題能力和創新能力的同時,不可忘了培育心件,樹立正確的人生觀。


What else should we heed when pursuing computational thinking education?

I participated in a launching ceremony for the Cool Think@JC scheme on 15 November. With funding support of HK$216 million from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the scheme will enable a total of 32 local primary schools to purchase classroom equipment, develop evidence-based teaching materials and provide over 100 teachers with the necessary training in computational thinking.

The speakers' comments and discussion at the ceremony reminded me of the "whole-person education" concept widely promoted in Hong Kong universities. By definition, whole-person education refers to a holistic approach that fosters spiritual, intellectual, physical and human development among students in addition to providing them with professional knowledge and skills. It has always been my belief that a person's worldview and values develop from childhood. It might be too late if we wait till kids are in their late teens to promote whole-person education. For lack of a better comparison, it is like spring chicken, which is known for its tenderness and delicious taste. It is usually butchered when it's about one month old. How can we get tender meat if the chick is to be butchered when it's older?

The ability and process of using one's mind to consider or reason about something is a human attribute. Computational thinking is closely related to our life. We resort to computational thinking for planning our travels, arranging a long sequence of events, listing different steps in a recipe, for instance; we also use computational thinking, characterised by its logical and systematic thinking, in various professional areas, such as mathematics, physics, architecture, humanities and business, etc. In the digital era of the 21th century, with increasing internet coverage and advanced information technology, it is definitely a new world trend to promote computational thinking among youngsters. In that sense, the Jockey Club-supported Cool Think@JC project is undoubtedly a visionary initiative. The over 16,500 upper primary school students who stand to benefit will be able to receive the necessary training, including coding training, and enhance their computational thinking capabilities, i.e., their capabilities to solve problems using informational methods.

But at the same time, it also dawned on me that computational thinking was proposed as early as 2006. By October 2015, 16 countries and regions in Europe had made computational thinking and coding compulsory in secondary and primary schools. Some cities in the US and Australia also have plans to launch coding education starting from 2018. In Asia, countries and regions that have incorporated computational thinking in schools include Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

Hong Kong will keep abreast of this world trend thanks to The Cool Think@JC scheme. But why has Hong Kong come relatively late to this idea? Is it because Hong Kong people are not intelligent enough to welcome something new? It doesn't seem to be the case. According to latest 2016 report from Gazette Review, an American online media company, the average IQ for Hong Kong people is the highest in the world. Or is it because Hong Kong is too small a territory and doesn't have the population scale? This view doesn't make sense, either, since the first country to embrace computational thinking in its secondary and primary school curriculum is Estonia, an Eastern European country with a population of merely 1.3 million.

As I see it, it is still a matter of mindset. Many people in Hong Kong are adverse to taking risks and shy of innovation, happy to be Number Two rather than taking the risks to become the leader. Innovation and creativity will simply be a buzzword without a change in the mindset, I'm afraid.

Even if computational thinking is trendy nowadays, we should not forget that science and technology, including computers, coding and the internet, are only tools for achieving our goals. While computational thinking may help us solve problems by using computing logic, it is essential that young people learn some history and literature and cultivate their critical-thinking ability, too. By doing so, they can promote the advancement of society.

We should give dual emphasis to the mind and matter, putting mind before matter and making it serve us rather than being enslaved by it. Ethics is the basis for democracy and science. While we are trying to learn scientific and technological tools and cultivating and enhancing our logical thinking, problem-solving and innovative capabilities, we should not forget that the cultivation of the mind is important for establishing a correct view of life.

 

12 December, 2016

 

 

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