“The purpose of the ACTMA project is to create a formative assessment of computational thinking (CT) in STEM that can be used both in makerspace and physics classrooms. The group that will develop this assessment consists of myself and other teachers and students.” Having known only this and having read the readings provided to us, I did not know what to expect on day one.
However, the first ACTMA meeting was an absolute success. Going into the designated meeting room, I was immediately greeted with kindness and openness from all the students and teachers. The environment was enjoyable and knowing what the purpose of the meeting was made it all the more interesting.
After our introductions and lunch, our group went into a separate room for a team building activity. The idea looked weird as we entered the room to find two big circles on the floor, but after doing the exercise for a bit and learning about everybody’s interests and fears, I felt more open with the new team. We learned each other’s names and even what they’d want as a future invention. One teacher thought having coffee appear out of thin air would be great, which was funny (and true).
After we finished, we headed back into the other room. There, our Principle Investigator, Roxana, gave us an overview of the project and asked us what we knew about various topics such as CT and makerspace. After that we split into two groups and started a discussion of our readings, which was very insightful as teachers and students gave opinions on what they read. I was in the first half of the group and tried to contribute from what the reading taught me, and others did a great job at doing the same
Later, when all of us had gotten back together again, we started the main course: activity design. Splitting into little groups, the purpose of this activity was to create a mini project that implemented both computational thinking and physics. This was really fun as all the small teams ended up working against each other for supplies. In the end, we shared our magnificent creations to the whole group, asking questions and learning about different ways Computational thinking can be incorporated into physics and vice versa.
The debrief was the next thing on the list, where we discussed the activity and then listened to a presentation on computational thinking elements of abstraction, automation, and analysis. After that, Dominica, one of our external evaluators, led a discussion on culturally sensitive assessment. This turned out to be a very important topic, as the variety of cultures in even a city such as Chicago should be considered when coming up with any idea on a scale such as of this project.
When we discussed our next steps and future meeting times, the realization set in. This was one of the greatest meetings I’ve been to. The amount of work we put in into knowing each other and sharing ideas is a definite predictor of the good things that will come out of this project.