Where have we been and where are we going?

By: Yue Yin, Ph.D., Co-PI

Our Goal and Plan:

Our project aims to improve computational thinking skills as well as physics and engineering learning through maker activities and formative assessments in both informal and formal educational settings.

As shown in the diagram, we take three major steps to achieve our project goals: Develop and refine activities and formative assessment strategies, provide professional development to educators including mentors and teachers, and ask educators to scaffold students to implement the activities. During this process, we need to constantly go to back to refine the activities and assessment strategies and try them out, so that they can better fit educators’ and students’ needs.

 

Where have we been?

Since January 2016, we have been having weekly internal meetings with researchers, informal educators, internal reviewers, graduate research assistants, and project managers, to make plans, discuss problems, and reflect on what has been done.

Jan 26 to May 29: We had been working with three high school physics teachers, three informal educators, and five high school students to develop maker activities that can facilitate computational thinking and physics learning. We had biweekly, four hour meetings. During the meeting, we brainstormed, explored different ideas, eliminated the non-working ones, and selected the working ones.

June 2016: Based on the activities we tried out, we developed six activities for more students to further try out: Simple circuits, e-texiles, solenoids, simple motors, Makey Makeys, breadboard circuits, and Arduinos.

June 6 to June 10, 2016: We organized a professional development training to 13 informal educators in Chicago Public Library. We introduced them to computational thinking, cultural responsiveness, formative assessment, and our developed maker activities. Three of the 13 informal educators were invited and agreed to join our summer academy as mentors.

June 27 to July 8, 2016: We organized a summer academy in Chicago Public Library, that ran for 9 days, 4 hours each day. Sixteen high school students participated in the study. Pretest and posttest showed that students significantly increased their achievement, interest in physics and engineering, computational thinking dispositions, and frequency of using computational thinking. Overall, students were very engaged in the process and they thought highly of the summer academy.

September 2016 to February 2017: Based on the activities we tried out in the summer academy, we wrote and refined lesson plans for each maker activity we tried out and decided on which ones to keep.

February 2017: We observed four high school physics teachers’ classrooms to understand the environment of each school and how teachers use computational thinking in their teaching practice. Among the four teachers, three of them participated in our activities development team and one served as our consultant in year 1. Observing the classrooms prepare us to transfer the maker activities from informal educational settings to formal educational settings.

February 25 and February 26, 2017: We invited the four high school teachers to join a two day focus group meeting to review the maker activities and lesson plans we had developed. We received a lot of helpful feedback from the teachers.

March 1, 2017 to now: We are revising the lesson plans for the activities based on teachers’ feedback to further improve them.

 

Where are we going?

April, May, and June 2017: The four teachers will implement part or all of the maker activity unit in their classrooms by the end of spring semester 2017. While they implement the lessons, we will observe their classrooms to help us better understand how teachers implement the maker activities to enhance students’ computational thinking skills.

June 28 and 29, 2017: We will have a two day meeting with the teachers to further reflect on their using of the maker activities in their classrooms and refine the lesson plans.

June + July 2017: We will organize a two-week summer camp to try out the refined activities. We will invite the high school physics teachers as the mentors this time to implement the lessons. By doing so, we wish to further refine the curriculum and develop more instructional and formative assessment strategies.

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