skip to main content


Title: Steerable Environmental Simulations for Exploratory Learning
This paper presents the software design for three interactive simulations on the subject of Earth and Environmental science in grades 5, 6 and 7. These simulations together with some programming activities have been successfully integrated into a series of instructional modules for local New Jersey elementary and middle schools. The goal of these modules was for the students to explore the steerable parameters of the simulations and develop their computational and mathematical thinking. In this paper, we present three simulations we developed, discuss their design and examine student assessment results that were collected and analyzed using statistical inferences. Our findings illustrate the effectiveness of such enticing exploratory learning processes for developing students’ reasoning of Earth and Environmental science, computational thinking and mathematics.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1742125
NSF-PAR ID:
10108102
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Date Published:
Journal Name:
In Proceedings of E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education
Volume:
1
Issue:
1
Page Range / eLocation ID:
83-92
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. We articulate a framework for using computational modeling to coherently integrate the design of science and engineering curricular experiences. We describe how this framework informs the design of the Water Runoff Challenge (WRC), a multi-week curriculum unit and modeling environment that integrates Earth science, engineering, and computational modeling for upper elementary and lower middle school students. In the WRC, students develop conceptual and computational models of surface water runoff, then use simulations incorporating their models to develop, test, and optimize solutions to the runoff problem. We conducted a classroom pilot study where we collected students’ learning artifacts and data logged from their use of the computational environment. We illustrate opportunities students had to integrate science, engineering, and computational thinking during the unit in a pair of contrasting vignettes. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Contemporary science is a field that is becoming increasingly computational. Today’s scientists not only leverage computational tools to conduct their investigations, they often must contribute to the design of the computational tools for their specific research. From a science education perspective, for students to learn authentic science practices, students must learn to use the tools of the trade. This necessity in science education has shaped recent K–12 science standards including the Next Generation Science Standards, which explicitly mention the use of computational tools and simulations. These standards, in particular, have gone further and mandated thatcomputational thinkingbe taught and leveraged as a practice of science. While computational thinking is not a new term, its inclusion in K–12 science standards has led to confusion about what the term means in the context of science learning and to questions about how to differentiate computational thinking from other commonly taught cognitive skills in science like problem-solving, mathematical reasoning, and critical thinking. In this paper, we propose a definition ofcomputational thinking for science(CT-S) and a framework for its operationalization in K–12 science education. We situate our definition and framework in Activity Theory, from the learning sciences, in order to position computational thinking as an input to and outcome of science learning that is mediated by computational tools.

     
    more » « less
  3. Computational thinking is identified as one of the “essential skills for 21st-Century students.” [1] Studies of CT in school programs are being funded by many organizations, including the United States National Science Foundation. In this paper, we describe “lessons learned” over the first two years of a research program (PREDICTS: Principles and Resources for Educators to Infuse Computational Thinking in the Sciences) with the goal of developing knowledge of how to integrate CT into introductory high school biology and chemistry classes for all students. Using curricular modules developed by program staff, two in biology and two in chemistry, teachers piloting the program engaged students in CT with computational evidence from authentic tools in order to develop understanding of science concepts. Each module, representing about a week of instruction, addresses science ideas in the prescribed course of study for high school programs. Project researchers have collected survey data on teachers’: (1) beliefs about effective science teaching; (2) beliefs about their effectiveness as a science teacher and their students’ ability to learn science, and; (3) content preparedness. In addition, we observed module implementation, collected and analyzed student artifacts, and interviewed teachers at the conclusion of module implementation. Preliminary results indicated some challenges (access to technology, varying levels of experience among students) and cause for optimism (student and teacher engagement in CT and the computational tools used in the modules). Continuing research efforts are described in this paper, along with descriptions of the curricular modules and the use of observations and “CT check-ins” to assess student engagement in, application of, and learning of CT. 
    more » « less
  4. In this brief paper, we will share preliminary results of a study of how elementary-school teachers take up computational thinking (CT) ideas and incorporate them into their mathematics and science teaching. We describe the teachers’ school contexts, the professional development experiences in which they engaged, and our preliminary analyses of how they used computational thinking within their enacted lessons. In brief, the seven teachers in this study exhibited three patterns of implementation: (1) using computational thinking to guide their own planning and thinking; (2) using computational thinking to structure their lessons; and (3) presenting computational thinking concepts to students as general problem solving strategies. 
    more » « less
  5. Computational materials modeling has been emerging as a very important aspect in materials science research. At the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, our faculty team at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, as part of the Strategic Instructional Initiatives Program (SIIP) of the university, have integrated comprehensive computational modules into multiple MatSE undergraduate courses and have created a collaborative teaching environment to improve these modules iteratively. Each year, a dedicated teaching assistant has been involved to communicate between faculty members, to ensure the quality of the computational modules, and to offer additional office hours. After three years of effort, we have now established a stable and systematic environment for computational education in MatSE undergraduate courses. The students initially involved in the program are now approaching their senior years. Thus we now investigate the influence of the computational experience in the SIIP classes on the performance of the students in the senior classes. In this paper, we present the recent progress of our computational curriculum and we focus on the influence of the program on the performance of students in senior computational modelling classes and senior classes with computational modules. 
    more » « less