Broadening Participation in Computer Science Through Music, Dance, and Coding Across Learning Spaces

Project: Research project

Project Details


This CSforAll:RPP Medium submission in the PreK-8 strand proposes a partnership between Northwestern University, Georgia Institute of Technology, the Evanston/Skokie School District 65, and the Evanston Public Library System. This proposal builds on an existing partnership between Northwestern University and District 65 to develop a shared platform and professional development framework that supports computational learning across a network of schools, community centers, libraries, and homes (DRL-1824551). This platform, called Evanston Learns in-school, out-of-school, and online (EL3) was used to support a month-long coding campaign that resulted in 85% of 3rd-8th Graders registered and using the platform. However, while we have both technology and community infrastructures in place to support creative computational thinking experiences for young learners, we lack documented examples of how to curate and structure learning activities across settings in ways that keeps youth engaged in longer-term projects, that demonstrate both the personal and professional value of coding, and that demonstrate computation as a means to achieve creative and personally fulfilling goals. This proposal will expand and integrate two successful existing learning platforms that we developed through prior NSF support that combine music and coding: TunePad (DRL-1612644) and EarSketch (CNS-1138469). Using these platforms, we will develop a continuum of music-themed CS learning opportunities deployed through the EL3 platform and designed to work between and across a variety of school and out-of-school spaces. The proposal will address the following research questions: • How can music as a cultural form of literacy engage youth across learning environments? • How can music+coding learning experiences interact with youth’s identity-related needs and motivations? Does it lead to broader participation in foundational computer science experiences? • How we can design authentic ways for youth to document and share their learning experiences to serve identity formation, community building, and career preparation? Keywords: Music, coding, dance, learning ecosystems, computer science education, informal learning Broader Impacts: By decade’s end, one out of every two STEM jobs in the United States will be in computing (ACM, 2014). And yet, participation rates of women and underrepresented groups in post-secondary computer science programs remain discouragingly and persistently low (Zweben & Bizot, 2016). One of the most important findings from research in computer science education is the degree to which a diversity of computational experiences (at many ages and in many settings) shape young people’s trajectories through high school and into undergraduate degree programs. Students draw on the wealth of these experiences to define themselves, to persist in college, and to move on to careers in computing (e.g. Margolis & Fisher, 2003; Margolis, 2008; DiSalvo et al., 2013). Just as early language and mathematics literacy begins at home and is reinforced throughout childhood through a variety of experiences both in school and out, this proposal argues that we cannot rely on formal experiences with computational literacy alone to develop the next generation of scientists, engineers, and citizens. Findings from this proposal will serve as a concrete model that can be adopted by other communities to broaden participation in CS. The technology, curriculum, and activities developed through this work will be freely available. Intellectual Merit: Young people’s cre
Effective start/end date9/1/188/31/22


  • National Science Foundation (DRL-1837661)


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