NSF CE21 Solicitation
FAQ
Deadline: April 27th, 2011

NSF CE21 Type I Proposal.

Project Description:

We will provide the resources and support for teams consisting of a middle or high school science teacher, a STEM graduate student, and a science education graduate student to develop computational thinking (CT) learning modules based on applications in the STEM graduate students’ discipline. These applied computational thinking learning modules will support student learning of the AP-CS principles and big ideas (College Board, 2010) in a level-appropriate sequence. As a whole they will form the basis of a new pre-AP course and will be designed to fit into the ACM-CSTA recommended series of computational thinking courses (ACM, 2003, 2009).
Through this project we will recruit and train high-quality STEM teachers to teach the new AP-CT course. By incorporating the applied CT learning modules into the standard STEM courses as well, we will be able to more effectively recruit students from traditionally underrepresented groups into the CS track, including into the new AP-CT course. We will test strategies for improving persistence of underrepresented groups within CS, including improving classroom climate, targeted recruitment of friend-groups, and the promotion and support of learning communities.

Goals:
-Recruit teachers for CS10K initiative
-Develop and test curriculum for pre-AP CT courses
-Test skills transfer between STEM and CT coursework
-Recruit students from groups traditionally underrepresented in CS to the CS track
-Develop and test retention strategies
-Create CT learning communities for teachers, students, and school administrators

Education research questions:

- By providing training and support for STEM teachers to incorporate CT modules into their STEM classrooms, do we increase their interest and motivation to become AP CT instructors (i.e., become part of the CS10K initiative)?
- Are the CT learning and attitudinal gains greater for a student who receives CT instruction within a CS course? Within a single STEM course? Within multiple STEM courses?
- Does STEM learning transfer from within a CS course into a STEM course?
- Do applied-CT learning modules support traditionally underrepresented groups’ persistence in CS?
- What is the age/level appropriate sequencing for CT concepts?

Teacher training and teacher buy-in:

The Computer Science Teachers Association (2006) lamented that professional development opportunities for secondary school CS teachers are sorely lacking (also see Goode 2007). We have technology rich, curriculum poor schools (Warschauer 2000, 2006; Fox 2005, Trotter 2007; Margolis et al. 2008, p30). Margolis et al. (2008) make a strong case that this training should go beyond content issues and provide engaging pedagogical techniques that make CS exciting and meaningful for a diverse student body, including how teachers can make their classrooms places of respect and inclusion (p98, p102).
In response, we will provide a weeklong teacher training program for not just our GK12 partner teachers, but teachers in the community whom we recruit to incorporate the CT modules into their STEM classrooms and who are potential AP CS10K teachers. We have applied for a google CS4HS grant to offset the cost. In addition to what the teachers will learn in their partnership with the graduate students, this summer workshop will provide them further familiarity with one or two programming languages and capabilities of different existing applets/interactives.
They will also read articles and participate in discussion on creating a supportive and inclusive classroom culture and what they can do to recruit female and minority students. The idea is that these teachers could become 'change agents' within their schools with respect to diversity within CS. We would learn from the experience of Sanders (2002) in which half time curriculum development, half-time reading literature on gender and CT. No increase in enrollment by girls after teachers increased their equity strategies (6APT project at CMU).

Table in teacher-friendly format showing correlations between the state/national standards for their STEM discipline and computational thinking. West & Tooke (2001) and West & Vasquez-Mireles (2006) found this to be a successful method for overcoming some of the barriers to integrating mathematics and science. The tabular format allows ease in lesson planning in regards to documentation and coordination.

Administrator buy-in:

An underlying theme of Margolis et al. book “Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing” is that buy-in by principles and administrators is essential for long-term adoption of additional computer science courses in a school’s curriculum. In the first year of their study, the group had not sufficiently developed the understanding and commitment on the part of the administrators, and so despite a rigorous teacher-training summer workshop, the new CS course was not included in the master schedule. In subsequent years, in addition to the teacher-training workshop, district officials, principals, counselors, teachers, and university CS educators gathered for a daylong seminar at UCLA to discuss the need for institutional support for their CS initiative (p105). A major focus was on the wide spread misunderstanding of what CT is, especially in contrast with computer literacy. While a number of schools have a computer literacy requirement (low-level word-processing), this does not prepare students for high-level computational thinking careers nor does it engage them in considering a CS-track in college (CSTA 2005). As part of the seminar, principals (in schools whose teachers attended the training workshop) signed a contract committing them to scheduling the CS course for the following academic year (p105).
We will provide a day long seminar for administrators based on this model of success. We will similarly have principles sign a contract committing them to schedule the CS course for the following academic year. To further support this initiative, we will urge principals to adopt a technology requirement, indicating to their students that they value CT in their education (Margolis 2008, p72).
Here we can put in how the Niles west administration and teachers will be our leading advocates. Their example of it working within a local school will be one of our most powerful arguments.

Pro-active student recruitment:

Horwitz & Roger (2009), in a study of the Emerging Scholar Program, looked at the impact of active recruitment on women enrolling in the major CS course. 70% of the women said they enrolled as a result of a mailed personal invitation (as opposed to an email, seeing advertisements for the program, or attending orientation sessions). By working with the STEM teachers, we will take advantage of their connections and relationships with students to be able to ask specific women and minorities to pursue the AP CT course.
Having the graduate students in the classrooms addresses the need for role models. High school students in three U.S. states said that a lack of role models was the main reason why girls are less likely to pursue technology careers. (Jepson & Perl, 2002).
Partner with the NSF-funded Midwest Girls Collaborative Project[[#_ftn1|[1]]]. In particular, have a booth set up at the annual MGCP STEM conference at Niles West for fifth and sixth grade students and their families. Advertise the Old Orchard Junior High CT course and the Niles West High School CT course. The purpose would be to recruit young students to this track. For students who don’t/won’t attend these schools, encourage parents, teachers, and administrators from other schools to implement new courses like these.


Learning communities:
For teachers
For students
For graduate students


Who:
Groups of 3 (1 teacher, 1 STEM graduate student, 1 Science Education graduate student).
These groups of 3 will be incorporated into the GK12 orientation (and CS4HS-like workshop), mentor meetings, and overall infrastructure.

Enlist the additional 'Potential Partners' to serve on a 'STEM advisory board'. This way they can inform the project, but at a low level of time (and budget) commitment.

What:
Create CT learning modules (phase I - chemistry, physics, math, biology; phase II - humanities, history, economics, social sci, etc.) for both middle and high-school.

The GK12 grad student - teacher pair will develop these modules throughout the year (as they're already doing).
Over the summer, an incoming GK12 grad student would then take one of these rough drafts and work with a GK12 teacher and a sci ed grad student to package it into an easy-to-implement module. The outgoing GK12 fellow would serve as a mentor and help transition the new GK12 fellow into the program. This way the new GK12 fellow would hit the ground running in the fall.

These learning modules would address particular CT themes/driving ideas but put them in the context of each STEM course. In other words, we will be creating "applied computational thinking learning modules".

Students would then receive CT training through their science courses, as part of their regular curriculum. This way all students (not just students taking the AP CS and AP CT course) have the opportunity to develop their CT skills.

In addition to being part of the physics, math, chemistry, etc curriculum, these modules as an ensemble could be a large part of the Old Orchard Junior High CS course and the Niles High School Math-modeling course.

Teacher training: In addition to what the teachers will learn in their partnership with the STEM and Science Education graduate students, they will attend a summer workshop to gain familiarity with one or two programming languages and capabilities of different existing applets/interactives. They will also read articles and participate in discussion on creating a supportive and inclusive classroom culture and what they can do to recruit female and minority students. The idea is that these teachers could become 'change agents' within their schools with respect to diversity within CS.

Time-line:
Develop (1st year), implement (2nd year), iterate and evaluate (3rd year).

Assessment:

Need to address monitoring of enrollment pattern to see if our modules have any impact.

Areas requiring additional thought (well, including all of the above :)

I. Dissemination on larger scale (not just our local school system & through CS4HS-like local workshops):
- Internet dissemination of materials
- Create easy-to-follow teacher guidelines for incorporating CT (in an age/level-appropriate way) across the disciplines

Program officer questions:

1) If this is to be implemented wide-scale, how are we going to reach 3 million teachers (and not just 10,000 CS teachers)?
I think the way to think about this is that our connection with STEM teachers makes them candidates for becoming CS teachers. This is also their hook into CS.

2) Since ss don't take STEM in sequence, we can't build on prior CT knowledge. How do we address this?

3) Is Niles a unique environment. Could this apply (having STEM teachers on-board) in most schools?

Additional miscellaneous information:

Undergrad courses:

Intro to computation for physics.
ISP has computational class, programming only. Freshman.
Compare these 2. Better to have it embedded in science rather than just pure programming? Sophomores.