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Coding for Educators

This project is funded by the STEM+Computing Partnership (STEM+C) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the integration of computing in STEM teaching and learning and broadening participation in computing and computing-intensive fields. This project will contribute to that effort by integrating computer science and computational thinking with science and mathematics coursework in a teacher preparation program for elementary and middle school teachers of science and mathematics. This curriculum integration will be accomplished through two initiatives: 1) incorporating computing and computational thinking into mathematics and science courses for pre-service elementary and middle grades teachers; and 2) developing two new courses required for teacher licensure: An introductory computer science course that will focus on using a variety of technologies combined with computational thinking and coding to teach science and mathematics concepts, and a capstone course where students will develop a project using computational thinking concepts concepts from previous courses. The goal is to enable pre-service teachers to later incorporate computational thinking, coding, and use of various technologies into their own teaching of science and mathematics in grades 1-8. The Science and Engineering Practices described in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) include "using mathematics and computational thinking" as one of the eight practices that are essential for students to learn, and this project will enable new teachers to facilitate that learning. The biology, physics, and mathematics courses in this teacher preparation program are part of an interdisciplinary undergraduate bridge program linking a community college to a university. An important aim of the partnership is to recruit diverse minority, non-traditional, and other underrepresented student groups whose backgrounds mirror those of the urban students they will be teaching. This program is additionally well aligned with the priorities of the White House Computer Science For All initiative, and has the potential to influence teacher preparation programs nationwide.
This design and development project will modify both the curriculum and the classroom learning environments of a teacher preparation program for elementary and middle school teachers. Computational thinking will be integrated into five existing courses for pre-service teachers: biology, physics, algebra, geometry and a science teaching methods course. Two new courses will be developed for the teacher preparation program: An introductory computer science course and a capstone course that will increase engagement with computational thinking by providing a coherent sequence of learning opportunities, with pre-service teachers learning the basic concepts of computational thinking and coding in the introductory course, learning various applications in the disciplinary courses, and applying what has been learned in a capstone experience where students will develop their own projects with educational applications. The classroom environments for all the courses in the teacher preparation program will be modified by including use of the same technologies, coding procedures, and computational thinking concepts introduced during the initial computer science course. The basic tools that will be used throughout the program include robots built using Lego Mindstorm kits during the initial computer science course, the Scratch programming language, and various Android applications that will be used on tablet devices in each course. During that development process, the project will seek answers to two research questions: 1) What strategies for teacher preparation in computational thinking and coding are most effective for teachers and students from diverse backgrounds, and 2) How can we best use different technologies to help visualize mathematical and scientific concepts?