Sociocultural Approach to Integrating Computational Thinking and Data Analysis into an Online Citizen Science Program Linking Rural Educators in Maine, Mississippi, and Alabama
This project will engage students in nine rural coastal schools in Maine, Mississippi, and Alabama, linking students around the Gulf of Maine with students near the Gulf of Mexico. This innovative approach of linking an online to classroom learning community will engage students in citizen science activities and will result in the design of curriculum modules that integrate computational thinking skills with standards-based instruction. An advisory group of teacher leaders, scientists, and a specialist in using computational analysis tools will co-design three learning modules for students and professional learning opportunities for teachers that will support classroom groups in developing investigations. The modules will use a data analysis tool designed specifically for students to integrate computational thinking skills with the citizen science investigations, enabling students to work with both existing, large-scale datasets related to their investigations, and local datasets that they and their peers have constructed. The project will also develop and implement a 3-day summer institute for teachers that will focus on inquiry-driven, place-based learning that integrates computational practices and thinking. Following each summer institute, participating teachers will work in teams to align a citizen science with components of computational thinking, with a focus on data collection and management, and data analysis. During the academic year, participating teachers, scientists, and participating community members will meet monthly to develop computational thinking skills, formulate questions to guide investigations, and consider topics related to student leadership, highlighting the work of scientists, and using science to inform actions. The modules to be developed and the supporting materials will be incorporated into learning management system that will be used to manage resources as well as facilitate interactions among students, teachers, scientists, and interested community members. This project will use a design-based research approach to iteratively develop and test learning modules that engage students in computational thinking through active participation in citizen science investigations in school classrooms. This work will be guided by two research questions: 1) What are the key design elements and levels of implementation to consider when integrating computational data analysis skills in the context of place-based problem solving in co-designed citizen science in the classroom? And 2) What supports do rural educators need to increase their confidence and ability to teach computational data analysis in grades 3-8? To answer these questions, the project will: 1) Implement a co-design process to identify where and how computational thinking can be aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for mathematics while addressing the unique needs and interests of rural schools and communities through citizen science involvement, 2) Develop a set of modules and associated professional development resources that support rural educators in using computational data analysis to interpret and share findings with peers and relevant communities, and 3) Identify ways to support rural educators in the implementation of computational thinking skills through the lens of citizen science, thereby making learning relevant and meaningful to students in their local communities. A range of classroom level data and student data, both quantitative and qualitative, will be collected to examine project impacts using ongoing, grounded theory-based analysis. This project is being supported jointly by the STEM+Computing program and the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program. As computing has become integral to the practice of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the STEM+Computing program seeks to address emerging challenges in computational STEM areas through the applied integration of computational thinking and computing activities within STEM teaching and learning in early childhood education through high school (PreK-12). This project will advance efforts of the ITEST program to better understand and promote practices that increase student motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by developing a technology-rich, out-of-school time STEM program for underserved middle and high school youth. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.