ET-ECS: Electronic Textiles for Exploring Computer Science with High School Students and Teachers to Promote Computational Thinking and Participation for All
This project advances 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 by producing empirical findings and/or research tools that contribute to knowledge about which models and interventions with K-12 students and teachers are most likely to increase capacity in the STEM and STEM cognate intensive workforce of the future.
The project will develop implement, and test an expansion unit using electronic textiles for the Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum that is currently implemented in high schools across the nation by providing an alternative to the existing robotics unit that can appeal and recruit larger group of girls and address the longstanding lack of women and minorities in computing. Over the last decade, there has been a steady decline in the number of women earning bachelor's degrees in computing, with the percentage decreasing from 27.5% in 2002 to 18.2% in 2012, continuing a trend where in some US states no female high school students took the Advanced Placement in CS exam. With the current push to re-introduce CS education into the K-12 schools, there is a great need for carefully developed curriculum materials that introduce high school students to key CS concepts and practices that are also rich and diverse in content that can broaden high school students' perceptions of computing and CS career aspirations coupled together with teacher professional development. The project will mainly take place in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in addition to the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), two of the largest public school districts in the country with high percentages of underserved students. The study also uncovered that high numbers of low-income students of color were offering courses labeled as CS, but their coursework included little other than keyboarding and other basic rudimentary computing skills. Rarely did schools offer rigorous computer science courses, but when they did, they were located in affluent communities and included few girls or students of color. Los Angeles Unified School district (LAUSD) students in ECS reveal high participation rates that closely mirror District demographics. In 2013-14, over 2500 LAUSD students enrolled in ECS; 73% of the students were Latino, 11% African American, 7% Asian, 8% White, and 46% female. There are no other nationwide computer science programs that have attracted such diverse students.
The grant's goals will be (1) to develop robust curricular materials that are accessible to a large group of teachers and students, particularly in underserved communities, (2) to provide evidence that students not only can learn key CS concepts and practices with electronic textiles but also broaden their perspectives of computing and STEM career aspirations, (3) to illustrate an alternative model to competitions for showcasing and disseminating students' final e-textile designs and (4) to pilot teacher professional development. Our interdisciplinary team, versed in addressing issues of equity and diversity in CS, will bring together expertise from curriculum design, computer science, and learning sciences. The CS curriculum will be consisted of six units covering: Human-Computer Interaction, Problem-Solving, Web Design, Introduction to Programming (Scratch), Computing and Data Analysis, and Robotics. The instructional design of the course will adopt inquiry-based teaching practices so that all students are given opportunities to explore, design investigations, think critically, test solutions, and solve real problems. These links to computational thinking will also connect ECS to the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. A key part of ECS will be a professional development (PD) program that builds and supports an on-going teacher learning community. The ECS PD program will spans two years with a combination of two summer week-long institutes and quarterly Saturday workshops. The key features of ECS PD will include: (1) immersion into inquiry and equity-based practices; (2) a focus on teachers' instructional practice done through a teacher-learner-observer model, where teachers take turns planning and delivering lessons in teams with feedback in debrief sessions with fellow teachers; and (3) development of an on-going professional learning. The proposed development of the ECS curriculum and teacher professional development will use electronic textiles with middle and high school students to support their learning of computer science CS concepts and practices and their broadening of perceptions of computing. The project will be leveraged with previous foundational work that developed and piloted introductory and advanced electronic textile activities to introduce CS concepts and practices in line with the existing ECS curriculum to promote computational thinking.