Integrated Computer Science in Elementary Classrooms (iCS)
Fifteen teachers of grades 3-5 will design and develop project-based instructional units for "Integrating Computer Science in Elementary Classrooms" using a user-interface-focused design process with more than 450 students in downtown Atlanta.
This collaborative project between the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Georgia Technical Institute, and Georgia State University will develop and test a model curriculum for grades 3-6 that aligns with ISTE's standards and computational thinking goals. The strategy is to leverage three existing computational environments (Scratch, Alice, and MAD-learn) to build upon the activities and materials for them that exist, to create an elaborate curricular guide. Teachers will collaborate regularly over three years with computer science mentors and science educators to iteratively create this curricular guide, which will be based on their own efforts and experiences implementing the computer science activities in their classrooms. The activities will aim to teach students computational thinking, as well as increase their motivation and interest in computer science related fields. Each year the program will culminate with an annual fair at which student products will be displayed. The population of the charter school where the project will be implemented includes a majority of students from underrepresented groups and from low-income families.
This curricular effort will be augmented with mentor networking among teachers and students with professionals in computer science industries. Research will be of two forms: (1) Design research approach will collect quantitative and qualitative data on the curriculum development process, including summative measures of learning and attitudes toward science as well as general academic ability. Data will also include qualitative results of an existing observation protocol for instruction that supports computational thinking, qualitative ethnographic field notes of meetings and classroom instruction, and video recordings of select events. (2) Data from quantitative instruments will be compared to another school with similar demographics that employs a project-based curriculum but does not use the technological environments or curriculum developed here. This project has potential for considerable impact, first immediately on the 452 students that will experience this innovative program, and then indirectly on others based upon the documented results of this innovative effort to integrate computational thinking support into elementary education, and to document curriculum and instruction that achieves this.