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Culturally Authentic Practice to Advance Computational Thinking in Youth
This project is funded by the STEM+Computing Partnership (STEM+C) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the integration of computing in STEM teaching and learning. This project will contribute to that effort by developing and assessing a new curriculum for a high school course, Introduction to Digital Technology. This course is an entry-level Career Technical Education (CTE) course for high school freshmen and sophomores that can lead them to an academic pathway that culminates in students taking an Advanced Placement (AP) course in computer science. The updated course will be implemented in two schools having large populations of students from groups underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and the course will promote development of computational thinking skills by engaging students in authentic and culturally relevant, problem-based, inquiry learning (PBIL) projects. Student-created multimedia digital narratives consisting of mobile applications and computationally generated music will showcase student learning and student solutions to PBIL challenges. The project will investigate the factors associated with successful implementation of the updated course and its expected outcomes, including the impacts of integrating computer science and computational thinking within STEM disciplines at the high school level. The outcomes of this project will: 1) contribute to the knowledge base for current efforts to integrate computer science and computational thinking in STEM courses for K-12 students nationwide; 2) facilitate greater participation of students traditionally underrepresented in STEM, including girls, in educational pathways to careers or advanced work in IT fields; and 3) impact current instructional programs in the state of Georgia, and potentially nationwide.
This project will employ a design-based research approach to develop and validate a pedagogical model for integrating instruction and learning of computational skills with science practices and crosscutting concepts. The feasibility of the model will be tested through a pilot study in two Atlanta-area schools having culturally diverse student populations. The project will provide teachers with teaching resources, the technology needed to implement the new curriculum units, and professional development opportunities to support their implementation of the curriculum. A mixed-methods research strategy will be used to characterize and estimate the level of student gains in understanding and applying computational thinking skills, understanding targeted crosscutting concepts associated with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and increasing development of 21st Century skills, sense of belonging, and persistence in computer science. Data will be gathered from classroom observations, pretests and posttests of knowledge, embedded assessments within activities, interviews with teachers and students, and analyses of student work. Statistical models will be tested to explore the school and district-level factors that positively or negatively impact successful implementation and outcomes of the new courses.