Using hyperlocal and networked strategies to support computer science education for middle grade students in Chicago

Project: Research project

Project Details


We are submitting a proposal to the CS for All RPP NSF program solicitation for a 2-year medium class size research and practice partnership grant at the K-8 level. The proposed work entails expanding an existing research practice partnership, the EvanSTEM Network (ESN), focused on increasing computational making (i.e. the integration of design, coding, and making to create interactive artifacts) learning opportunities for middle grade youth living in Evanston, by adding a school-day component that focuses on curating, developing, and implementing instructional materials that integrate computational making learning activities into middle grade (6-8) classrooms. This RPP team finds itself at an opportune moment, as we are positioned to contribute to national efforts to collectively define best practices for integrating computer science and computational thinking (CS/CT) into K-8 classrooms and local urgency to develop a middle school CS plan due to the district’s recent establishment of a high school CS graduation requirement. Our contribution to the conversation, in addition to CS/CT tools and curriculum, is the creation of a toolkit used to design the BFN living lab that makes visible the collaborative design process for creating a community learning ecosystem of overlapping formal and informal contexts for engaging underrepresented middle school age youth and their families, in CS/CT learning opportunities. Creation of opportunities to develop and use developing literacies across formal and informal contexts is essential if the goal is to create an interest, passion, and/or identity related to CS/CT that can persist through the middle grade years where youth often disengage in activities not deemed “cool” by their peer groups or recognized by their wider community. Our RPP approach is grounded in the prior work of the Digital Youth Network (DYN) to create an ecosystem to support student development of of digital media literacies that is documented in the MIT book entitled The Digital Youth Network: Cultivating Digital Media Citizenship in Urban Communities (Barron, Gomez, Pinkard, & Martin, 2014), focusing on creating differential overlapping learning and showcase opportunities that can be accessed from all the spaces where students spend time (e.g.home, school, community, online). Our contention is in order for youth to put in the amount of time and energy to develop sustained interest in activities that develop CS/CT literacies those activities need to be accessible (cost, location, and warm environment), relevant, and viewed as a valuable form of social capital. By creating a learning ecosystem that creates a context where CS/CT literacies are accessible, relevant, and valued we create the motivation for students to seek opportunities to deepen and showcase their developing CS/CT skills within a supportive community of peers, mentors, teachers, and families. The core team has over 10 years of experience working collaboratively on ecological strategies for supporting middle school computing and engineering opportunities in formal, informal, and online networked learning spaces. Our partnership team include academic researchers at DePaul University with expertise in the learning sciences, computer science, and predictive analytics, designers from DYN with expertise in the development of learning platforms and learning opportunities across formal and informal environments, EvanstonPublic School (E65)) representatives at school (teachers and principals) and district (Chief of Teaching and Learning for CPS) levels, and local commu
Effective start/end date9/1/178/31/21


  • National Science Foundation (DRL-1824551)


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