Public Discussion

  • Icon for: Elc Estrera

    Elc Estrera

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2016 | 06:22 p.m.

    What an interesting idea. What were one or two notable challenges you encountered as you developed the curriculum?

  • Icon for: Harvey Siy

    Harvey Siy

    Presenter
    May 16, 2016 | 09:49 p.m.

    The main issue where we had an ongoing discussion is what exactly is computational thinking and what constitutes a computational thinking practice. For example, the science group that developed the lesson on identifying the safest place to live on earth mostly created artifacts that are Google maps annotated with disaster or disease data and then students had to make some inference from the data to conclude with the safest places to live. It is still a debate whether that is computational thinking or not, as it involved data and abstraction, but not programming. Anyways, would appreciate your thoughts on it. Thanks!

  • Icon for: Elc Estrera

    Elc Estrera

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2016 | 04:07 p.m.

    I find it’s always hard to define big ideas like. But to me “computational thinking” boils down to logical and analytic thinking. :)

  • Icon for: Harvey Siy

    Harvey Siy

    Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 05:04 p.m.

    Yes, we more or less concluded that it is the process rather than the artifact that determines if it is computational thinking, i.e., if critical/logical/analytic thinking was involved in the creation/analysis of the computational artifact.

  • Icon for: Elizabeth Bonsignore

    Elizabeth Bonsignore

    May 17, 2016 | 09:30 a.m.

    This is an interesting project – have you considered also including middle school students in designing questions/problems themselves? Also, did you and/or any of the teachers consider websites like csunplugged.org in their discussions about what constitutes computational thinking? Just wondering about the sources for your discussion. Thanks!

  • Icon for: Harvey Siy

    Harvey Siy

    Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 05:07 p.m.

    That’s a great suggestion. For this project, we wanted to get the teachers’ perspective on what they thought would be relevant and interesting problems for their student population.
    It would be interesting for comparison if we design a study where students get to work together to design their own problems – a great follow up proposal :-) Recruitment could potentially be a problem; if we get the same population of kids that usually come for summer computer camps, we may not see a large variety of interesting problems.
    For this project, several teachers did use the CS Unplugged activities in their class. It is notable that the science group did not. We will push this summer’s cohort to include more of these activities in class.

  • Icon for: Jim Sandherr

    Jim Sandherr

    Research Associate
    May 17, 2016 | 04:38 p.m.

    Great video! We are facing the challenge of training non-CS educators in informal programs to facilitate computational activities. I’m curious to know which online course your educators used during training, and if they found it helpful. Any suggestions for professional development materials from this work would be really useful!

  • Icon for: Harvey Siy

    Harvey Siy

    Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 05:16 p.m.

    Thanks! As part of the training, we adapted materials from Mobile-CSP (http://www.mobile-csp.org). It used App Inventor as the platform. This online course is used as an exemplar for the CS Principles course. The teachers liked it because they could create mobile apps. However, because they were not teaching a dedicated CS class but rather adding the SPARCS lessons to existing classes, they felt unable to devote the time needed to introduce the App Inventor material to their class. Instead, many of them used other resources such as Scratch, using Scratch Cards (https://scratch.mit.edu/help/cards) as the online resource.

  • Icon for: Nicole Reitz-Larsen

    Nicole Reitz-Larsen

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2016 | 12:13 a.m.

    I really like the ideas for the projects. They were engaging for a variety of students. Did the teachers notice a change in students attitudes towards computer science after the course?

    Someone asked for a suggestion on fun topics to study along with cs concepts – this link s a great one with many resources – http://www.cs4fn.org/. I also use csunplugged in my classes and find it helps level the playing field for all students to grasp cs concepts in a tangible way prior to doing something with the concept on the computer.

  • Icon for: Harvey Siy

    Harvey Siy

    Presenter
    May 18, 2016 | 06:01 p.m.

    Thanks for the suggestions! Our evaluator observed most of the classrooms and was impressed with the enthusiasm and energy of the students in engaging with the lesson. We will know more when we get the results of the teacher focus groups in a few weeks.

  • Icon for: Emily Grossnickle Peterson

    Emily Grossnickle Peterson

    Post-Doctoral Scientist
    May 18, 2016 | 01:21 p.m.

    I really like how teachers were involved in the creation and selection of the projects. Will you have any measures of whether the students reported these projects as interesting, perhaps compared to some of the other things they do in school? Given theories of interest development (Hidi, Renninger, Alexander, others), I am wondering if student interest in the specific project selected for their class might be related to whether they start to develop a more enduring interest in CS.

  • Icon for: Harvey Siy

    Harvey Siy

    Presenter
    May 18, 2016 | 06:06 p.m.

    I believe that there is a computing attitudes survey on the STELAR website which we could have adapted for middle schoolers. Unfortunately, restrictions from several of the school districts we worked with meant that we could not collect data from the students directly. Getting district approval is something we plan to work on for next year, though maybe only for some bigger districts.
    Thanks for the reference on theories of interest development!

  • Icon for: Jill Denner

    Jill Denner

    Senior Research Scientist
    May 19, 2016 | 12:49 p.m.

    It is great to see this kind of training for teachers. Can you tell me how it is similar or different from other teacher professional development efforts, such as the one developed for Exploring Computer Science?

  • Icon for: Harvey Siy

    Harvey Siy

    Presenter
    May 19, 2016 | 02:16 p.m.

    The Exploring Computer Science curriculum is meant for a semester or year-long dedicated course in CS. Our goal is to be able to get lessons into existing STEM courses. We are adapting a few ECS lessons from Units 1 and 2 in our summer PD this year. In addition, we are looking at materials from Bootstrap and GUTS which our math and science teachers can incorporate into their classes.

  • Icon for: Barbara Ericson

    Barbara Ericson

    Senior Research Scientist
    May 19, 2016 | 03:40 p.m.

    I really like that you had middle school students come in and try the lessons that the teachers had created. How did you recruit the middle school students? Did you have a gender balanced group?

  • Icon for: Harvey Siy

    Harvey Siy

    Presenter
    May 19, 2016 | 05:44 p.m.

    Hi Barbara, for the summer student academy, we asked our teachers to bring a few students each. We encouraged them to be diverse but did not set explicit requirements. In the end, it was 60% boys and 40% girls.

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.

SPARCS - Sparking student interest in computing careers
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We present an overview of the ITEST SPARCS project being conducted at University of Nebraska at Omaha. SPARCS aims to help middle school teachers incorporate Computer Science lessons into the classes they teach, and inspire their students to consider careers in computing-related industries. We will present our experiences and findings from the first year of SPARCS.