When it comes to finding answers to questions or problems, we often feel challenged and overwhelmed – as individuals, as businesses and as a society. I believe computational thinking is a methodology that can not only help us now, but also prepare the next generations to meet future challenges.
The complexity of certain problems can result in a difficulty to address them in a solution-oriented way. What’s more, the rate of change in the environment and customer requirements is constantly accelerating. At Swisscom, we meet this challenge head-on with new thinking and work models; we are increasingly implementing agile collaboration methods and exploring computational thinking.
The objective of computational thinking is to formulate problems and solutions in a way that both humans and machines can understand them. A problem is broken down into smaller parts, so patterns can be identified and rules formulated to enable an efficient solution. Individual stages of the solution process are simplified to the extent that they can be implemented fully or in part by a computer. We are convinced that this methodology can create effective collaboration between humans and machines.
As Switzerland’s leading ICT company, we need employees who tackle problem-solving by thinking innovatively, that is why we provide training in computational thinking. In the first half of 2019, about 120 colleagues attended a training course offered in collaboration with the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). We plan to run this professional development course again this year. Wherever feasible, we try to apply computational thinking to our everyday operations.
Future generations will be far more affected by the increasing complexity of our world than today’s workforce. Digitalisation is changing every aspect of our lives and businesses – fundamentally, in some cases. But what do children need to learn now to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow?
Various studies have tried to come up with precise skills for the jobs of tomorrow. But assumptions about future job requirements obviously involve a lot of guessing. It is therefore crucial for children and young people to acquire skills and abilities that will enable them to adapt easily to different types of workplaces and manage a variety of work conditions. I believe that computational thinking introduced through play can make a real contribution.
The new school curriculum in German-speaking Switzerland, Lehrplan 21, includes – possibly unintentionally – important elements from computational thinking. Schools are required to provide more informational education, with a subject matter like “Media and Informatics” spanning holistically throughout different grade levels. But where do you start? And how? Understandably, many schools find it difficult to embrace new approaches and tackle subjects such as programming, robotics and computational thinking.
This is why we, together with digitalswitzerland and other partners, have launched the Computational Thinking Initiative. The Swiss schools project ‘Thymio geht in die Berge’ is part of this initiative. It supports and inspires Swiss school children to truly embrace digitalisation rather than approach it in a haphazard way. By making learning fun, the project sparks children’s curiosity about the key skills required for the future. The project complements current curricula in a useful and future-oriented way, while both harnessing and encouraging children’s creativity.
I believe that the ‘Thymio geht in die Berge’-project and learning the ropes of computational thinking is an investments in the future that will benefit everyone. We also endeavour to ensure and encourage skills training, preserve jobs and increase the appeal of Switzerland as a place to do business. But it’s not just about robots, programming and promoting IT courses. More importantly, it’s about ensuring that for our children, the future is bright – both for them as individuals and all of us as a society.
Roger Wüthrich-Hasenböhler, Chief Digital Officer, Swisscom