Improving the Pipeline for Rural and American Indian Students Entering Computer Science Via Storytelling

Improving the Pipeline for Rural and American Indian Students Entering Computer Science Via Storytelling


We will lead middle school students through the process of learning to use Alice to tell their story, through a guided program, and then to let them learn and explore how to create their own story using Alice in primarily Native American communities.


This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).  The project will develop and research storytelling as a culturally responsive way to engage middle school Native American and rural Montana students in learning computer science and computing skills. Instead of creating a new curriculum, the project will infuse computer science across the curriculum, which will help students understand that computing skills are relevant across disciplines and are important for a wide variety of professions in the workforce. The project will use Alice, an object-based educational programming environment, that has been successful by encouraging storytelling in engaging middle school students and others who are not normally exposed to programming. Using Alice, students can tell stories by placing objects in virtual worlds they have created, and then they can program by dragging and dropping tiles that represent logical structures.  By integrating these computational skills, without multiplying the number of topics to be taught, the project will promote a more diverse and comprehensive understanding of the opportunities available to students with an ability to think computationally. The project will develop resources for teachers to meet the requirements of Montana's Indian Education for All (IEFA) Act, which was mandated by the state legislature in 1999 and remains a difficult requirement for many middle school teachers to incorporate in their classrooms.  The project will serve over 300 students when piloting curriculum materials and will engage 50 teachers in professional development workshops on the integration of computer science and computational thinking across middle school curriculum using a storytelling approach.

The project will use a culturally responsive approach to infuse the use of storytelling (using Alice) in the curriculum, guided by Tribal Critical Theory (TribCrit), which maintains that cultural knowledge and academic knowledge are not mutually exclusive but complement each other.  The project tools, which will enable middle school teachers to integrate computer science and computational thinking throughout the curriculum, will be developed using a research-driven, iterative way to be culturally responsive to the communities served.  Project research will address two complementary research questions: (1) Do storytelling and storymaking serve as effective means for engaging middle-school students in computer science?; and (2) Does the integration of computing skills into the core middle-school curriculum increase instruction and student learning of these skills? In addition, the project will document the processes and evaluate the effectiveness of the TribCrit culturally responsive approach taken in integrating computer science and computational thinking into the middle school curriculum. A mixed-method approach will be used in the research, including focus groups, small group instructional diagnosis, surveys, and pre/post measures of computational thinking/computer science knowledge.  Project results will be disseminated through professional journals and conference presentations.  Selected student-created artifacts (i.e., Alice virtual worlds and stories) will be presented in Montana museums.


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2017 - 2021



Montana State University MT

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