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  5. Gresalfi, M. and (Ed.)
    Teachers in K-12 science classrooms play a key role in helping their students engage in computational thinking (CT) activities that reflect authentic science practices. However, we know less about how to support teachers in integrating CT into their classrooms. This paper presents a case of one science teacher over three years as she participated in a Design Based Implementation Research project focused on integrating CT into science curriculum. We analyze her professional growth as a designer and instructor as she created and implemented three computationally-enriched science units with the support of our research team. Results suggest that she became more confident in her understanding of and ability, leading to greater integration of CT in the science units. Relationships with the research team and co-design experiences mediated this growth. Findings yield implications for how best to support teachers in collaborative curriculum design.
  6. Integrating computational thinking (CT) in the science classroom presents the opportunity to simultaneously broaden participation in computing, enhance science content learning, and engage students in authentic scientific practice. However, there is a lot more to learn on how teachers might integrate CT activities within their existing curricula. In this work, we describe a process of co-design with researchers and teachers to develop CT-infused science curricula. Specifically, we present a case study of one veteran physics teacher whose conception of CT during a professional development institute changed over time. We use this case study to explore how CT is perceived in physics instruction, a field that has a long history of computational learning opportunities. We also discuss how a co-design process led to the development of a lens through which to identify fruitful opportunities to integrate CT activities in physics curricula which we term computational transparency–purposefully revealing the inner workings of computational tools that students already use in the classroom.
  7. In the decades since Papert published Mindstorms (1980), computation has transformed nearly every branch of scientific practice. Accordingly, there is increasing recognition that computation and computational thinking (CT) must be a core part of STEM education in a broad range of subjects. Previous work has demonstrated the efficacy of incorporating computation into STEM courses and introduced a taxonomy of CT practices in STEM. However, this work rarely involved teachers as more than implementers of units designed by researchers. In The Children’s Machine, Papert asked “What can be done to mobilize the potential force for change inherent in the position of teachers?” (Papert, 1994, pg. 79). We argue that involving teachers as co-design partners supports them to be cultural change agents in education. We report here on the first phase of a research project in which we worked with STEM educators to co-design curricular science units that incorporate computational thinking and practices. Eight high school teachers and one university professor joined nine members of our research team for a month-long Computational Thinking Summer Institute (CTSI). The co-design process was a constructionist design and learning experience for both the teachers and researchers. We focus here on understanding the co-design process and itsmore »implications for teachers by asking: (1) How did teachers shift in their attitudes and confidence regarding CT? (2) What different co-design styles emerged and did any tensions arise? Generally, we found that teachers gained confidence and skills in CT and computational tools over the course of the summer. Only one teacher reported a decrease in confidence in one aspect of CT (computational modeling), but this seemed to result from gaining a broader and more nuanced understanding of this rich area. A range of co-design styles emerged over the summer. Some teachers chose to focus on designing the curriculum and advising on the computational tools to be used in it, while leaving the construction of those tools to their co-designers. Other teachers actively participated in constructing models and computational tools themselves. The pluralism of co-design styles allowed teachers of various comfort levels with computation to meaningfully contribute to a computationally enhanced constructionist curriculum. However, it also led to a tension for some teachers between working to finish their curriculum versus gaining experience with computational tools. In the time crunch to complete their unit during CTSI, some teachers chose to save time by working on the curriculum while their co-design partners (researchers) created the supporting computational tools. These teachers still grew in their computational sophistication, but they could not devote as much time as they wanted to their own computational learning.« less
  8. Teaching science inquiry practices, especially the more contemporary ones, such as computational thinking practices, requires designing newer learning environments and appropriate pedagogical scaffolds. Using such learning environments, when students construct knowledge about disciplinary ideas using inquiry practices, it is important that they make connections between the two. We call such connections epistemic connections, which are about constructing knowledge using science inquiry practices. In this paper, we discuss the design of a computational thinking integrated biology unit as an Emergent Systems Microworlds (ESM) based curriculum. Using Epistemic Network Analysis, we investigate how the design of unit support students’ learning through making epistemic connections. We also analyze the teacher’s pedagogical moves to scaffold making such connections. This work implies that to support students’ epistemic connections between science inquiry practices and disciplinary ideas, it is critical to design restructured learning environments like ESMs, aligned curricular activities and provide appropriate pedagogical scaffolds.