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University of Nebraska–Lincoln


The Integrated Computational and Creative Thinking Project

The Computational Creativity Exercises Project

What is IC2Think / Computational Creativity?

Two fundamental problems solving concepts which have been used separately in STEM education are computational thinking and creative thinking.

  • Computational thinking involves conceptualizing at multiple levels of abstraction, defining and clarifying a problem by breaking it down into relational components, and testing and retesting of plausible solutions.
  • Creative thinking involves core cognitive competencies of capturing novelty, challenging established thinking and behavior patterns, broadening one’s knowledge beyond one’s discipline, and surrounding oneself with new social and environmental stimuli.
The two projects incorporate both computational thinking and creative thinking into undergraduate STEM courses to better prepare students to be flexible and resourceful problem solvers, interdisciplinary collaborators, and skilled practitioners of both logic and creativity. This is done by using individual lesson modules developed by an interdisciplinary team which consist of creative thinking exercises designed to challenge established thinking and behavior patterns and lay the groundwork for a given topic followed by computational thinking learning objects (LOs) designed to define and clarify that topic in more detail.

  1. The creative thinking exercises consist of a set of activities, some lightbulbs to help students connect these activities to a given topic, as well as a set of analysis and reflection questions for you to discuss and respond to.
  2. The LOs consist are self-contained instructional units on a given topic consisting of a tutorial component which explains that topic using text, figures, and interactive exercises and (2) an assessment component which uses questions to assess student understanding of the topic.
By combining creative and computation thinking, the computational creativity modules lead to cross fertilization of ideas and support interdisciplinary activities, which are key components in today’s industry and education. Furthermore, these modules are more “user friendly”–i.e., accessible to a broader audience of students from many disciplines and easier to adopt by instructors and faculty in a variety of classroom and distance settings.


The two projects draw heavily from two previous projects: (1) Renaissance Computing which resulted in numerous refinements to the core CS curriculum such as CS1 courses designed for particular groups of students (e.g., engineering, business, etc.) and (2) the Intelligent Learning Object Guide which resulted in a collection of learning objects developed for introductory computer science projects.


The IC2Think project started in Spring of 2012 with the development of four individual lesson modules for introductory computer science (CS1) courses. The initial phase was mostly to work out the logistics for deploying the creative exercises to the CS students and to establish the baseline student responses for research purposes. For this reason, the learning objects were not included in the lesson modules. One discovery during this phase was that the students sometimes struggled to grasp the connection between the activities with the CS topics. This prompted the addition of the aforementioned lightbulbs to all four exercises.

The second phase of the IC2Think project was during Fall of 2012. In this phase, the complete individual lesson modules with creative thinking exercises and learning objects were deployed to three different introductory CS courses including a course designed for engineering students and another for CS majors. The actual modules were deployed on a Moodle server at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. In the second phase, we demonstrated that the computational creativity modules could improve student understanding of core CS concepts.

The Computational Creativity project started in Fall of 2014. Currently, we are conducting educational research studies in a host of computer science and engineering courses, plus art and music courses. We have developed a computational creativity course and are evaluating the course in Spring 2016. We are also analyzing the collaborative platform to model learner profiles as well.

Funding for the IC2Think and Computational Creativity projects was/is provided by the National Science Foundation.