Middle School Pathways in Computer Science
There is a growing recognition of the need to engage youth in meaningful experiences with computing. This ITEST Strategies project will create a partnership of the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML), the Tri-City Technology Education Collaborative Inc. (TRITEC), and the urban school districts of Medford and Everett, MA to bring project-based, socially-relevant computing experiences to district middle school students. The project will have immediate impact on the Medford and Everett districts' students and teachers. The project will result in a sustainable program with ongoing benefits for the districts. The project will contribute to the growing literature on computational thinking and appropriate ways to assess that learning in middle school students.
The project will result in a 15- to 20-hour computing curriculum that is integrated with existing district technology and engineering courses. By the second project year, the curriculum will be in all seven district middle schools, and will be delivered to 450 students per year. In addition, the team will conduct intensive 30-hour summer camps attended by 140 students per project year. Over the project's 3-year period, 1,100 students will participate during the school day, with 360 students also receiving a summer-intensive experience. Project curriculum will include creative project work and career awareness activities. Using MIT App Inventor, a blocks-based design environment for building mobile apps, students will develop their own apps that support socially relevant activities in their communities. University computer science students and industry professionals will visit project classrooms and work with middle school students. The team will investigate (1) student learning outcomes: how the project's school-day and summer-intensive project work and career awareness activities influence students' attitudes toward computing and ability to engage in computing practices; (2) teacher outcomes: how the project's collaborative professional development model leads to teacher content learning and curricular adoptions; and (3) broadening participation outcomes: how the school-day intervention leads to students' choice of continued involvement in computing, including the summer camps and future opportunities beyond middle school.