Computational thinking utilizing visual arts, or maybe the other way around

Mie Buhl*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingArticle in proceedingResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
113 Downloads (Pure)


Abstract: This paper is a theoretical discussion about the extent to which school subjects can contribute to teaching students computational thinking. Or is it the other way around and, perhaps surprisingly, how computational thinking might transform existing school subjects? The discussion takes as its point of departure the national experimental project Technology Understanding, which is the Danish response to a worldwide interest in bringing digitalization to students in primary and secondary schools and the Danish governmental initiative regarding implementation of digital literacy as a new school subject and as an integrated part of existing school subjects in primary school (Ministry of Education 2018). Visual arts education is one of the subjects chosen for the integration of technology, and this paper follows up on the ministry's intention by considering visual arts as the starting point for computational thinking. At issue is how visual art may be informed by computational thinking and how computational thinking may be informed by visual art. I argue that teaching students to understand algorithms and data processes can be inspired by practices from contemporary art and the ideas of new materialism (Barad 2008). Contemporary art may be characterized as conceptual, distributive, and interventional in life practices, and programming principles may illuminate how human activities and algorithms intertwine. I also argue that the teaching of contemporary art can be inspired by principles from programming and algorithms. These practices can illuminate how artistic concepts may be planned and designed for human interaction. However, programming for contemporary art requires openness regarding use, while programming for data processes requires the opposite. Thus, the integration of computational thinking into visual arts education is more than a means for understanding programming and algorithms; the dynamic also works in reverse. This paper will bring a wider societal perspective to bear on teaching computational thinking by bringing school subjects into the center of discussions and drawing on current discussions of STEAM education and contemporary art
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 18th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2019
EditorsRikke Ørngreen, Mie Buhl, Bente Meyer
Number of pages7
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International
Publication date8 Nov 2019
ISBN (Electronic)9781912764426
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2019
Event18th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2019 - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 7 Nov 20198 Nov 2019


Conference18th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2019
SeriesProceedings of the European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL


  • Computational Thinking
  • visual arts education
  • Contemporary arts
  • technological understanding


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