Integrating Computational Thinking into Middle School Science through Co-designed Storylines.

In the proposed workshop we will describe the professional development process and resources used to support teachers when integrating computational thinking (CT) practices (Weintrop et. al., 2016) and computer science principles into middle school science and STEM classes. This process includes the collaborative design (co-design) (Voogt, et. al, 2015) of storylines (Reiser, Novak, and Fumagalli, 2015; Reiser et. al., 2016) aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013) that utilize programmable sensors such as those contained on the micro:bit. Participants will examine a co-designed CT integrated NGSS aligned storyline as one possible exemplar for integrating CT into mainstream science instruction. Additionally, participants will learn how to guide students to use Micro:bit sensors and a block based programming language through the MakeCode site to program the sensors on the micro:bit to collect and analyze relevant data to answer questions that students develop about a scientific phenomenon being investigated.

As more science classrooms are transitioning to standards based on the three dimensions outlined in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012), more students are engaging in 3D-Learning (Krajick, 2015) that engages students in practicing science and engineering in a way that mirrors how scientists and engineers work. One central goal of science education is for students to become “scientifically literate citizens” who understand the basic nature of science (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Additionally the two goals set forth by the National Research Council in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012, p. 10) include: “(1) educating all students in science and engineering and (2) providing the foundational knowledge for those who will become the scientists, engineers, technologists, and technicians of the future.” In this context it is important for science teachers to have the tools and resources to successfully integrate CT into science instruction.
Scientists and engineers are increasingly utilizing computational tools to program sensors and other instruments to collect, analyze, and visualize streams of data to develop models to explain phenomena and create solutions for problems (Foster, 2006). Engaging students in Computational Thinking (CT) in a 3-D Learning context can help students “develop an understanding of the enterprise of science as a whole—the wondering, investigating, questioning, data collecting and analyzing” (NGSS Lead States Appendix H, p. 1). Compelling arguments exist for integrating CT into mainstream science and mathematics classes to provide an engaging and realistic context for the development of authentic CT skills and practices as well as to promote all students’ ability to engage in challenging scientific inquiry (Sengupta et al., 2013; Sherin, diSessa & Hammer, 1993). An important missing component is the design of curricular units that engage students in specific computational and data practices while developing their interest in this fundamental aspect of contemporary scientific inquiry.
The proposed ASTE workshop will engage participants in learning about strategies, tools, and resources developed in a project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF Awards 1742046 and 1742053). SchoolWide Labs is a three year research and practice partnership project focused on integrating CT into middle school science in a way that complements and enhances students’ science learning. This is accomplished by providing year long professional development and support to middle school teachers in the partnering school district. One important aspect of this work includes working collaboratively with practicing science teachers to co-design storylines (Reiser, Novak, and Fumagalli, 2015; Reiser et. al., 2016) that integrate CT practices and sensors.

Computational thinking skills and practices are called for explicitly in the Framework (NRC, 2012) and in the NGSS (NGSS Lead States, 2014). Many science teachers may not have experience with computational thinking practices and need additional support, strategies, and curriculum to help facilitate CT integration into their science classrooms (Weintrop, et, al, 2016). This workshop will include activities such as examining a CT integrated science curriculum, utilizing an anchoring phenomena routine and driving question board to elicit students questions that can be investigated using CT and sensors, using sensors and block based programming to code sensors to collect and analyze relevant data, and strategies to engage students in investigations using CT practices and sensors. This workshop is primarily directed toward science teachers seeking to integrate CT into their mainstream science classrooms and inservice science teacher educators and curriculum coordinators and developers supporting teachers as they learn to integrate CT into science instruction such as. Science education methods instructors may find this information valuable as they prepare preservice teachers to enter the science teaching field where CT integrated science instruction will be more commonplace. Additionally, informal science educators may find value in understanding CT integration in science education as they engage students in meaningful learning experiences in novel settings where CT could reinforce connections between what they do and the NGSS.

This workshop will be facilitated by Dr. Quentin Biddy and Alexandra Gendreau Chakarov. Dr. Biddy is a Research Associate and Science Education Specialist at the University of Colorado Boulder. Ms. Gendreau Chakarov is a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Biddy and Gendreau Chakarov have facilitated workshops highlighting CT integration into mainstream science classes and 3D science learning for two years in both Colorado and Utah as a part of the Schoolwide Labs project. Biddy and Gendreau Chakarov recently presented findings and resources from this project at the American Education Research Association (AERA) international conference (Gendreau Chakarov, et. al, 2019). Gendreau Chakarov presented findings and resources from the project at Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGSCE) international conference (Gendreau Chakarov, et. al, 2019). Additionally, Biddy has prior experience working with science teachers transitioning to 3D-Learning and 3D assessment.

This workshop will have the following objectives:
Participants will increase their understanding of how CT can be integrated into science curriculum and instruction.
Participants will increase their understanding of how to utilize anchoring phenomena and driving questions boards to generate and identify questions that can be investigated through CT integration and programmable sensors.
Participants will increase their understanding of how to utilize simple block coding to program a user friendly sensing platform to collect , analyze and visualize data to answer questions and explain phenomena.
Evaluating the success of this workshop in achieving these objectives will be conducted through three means:
Participants will provide feedback on the CT Integrated NGSS aligned storyline concerning usability, CT integration, and alignment to NGSS.
Participants will engage with anchoring phenomena and driving questions for the purpose of identifying which sensors and what type of coding would best be utilized to investigate and answer these questions.
Participants will complete an exit ticket survey focused on engagement, comfort level with CT and programmable sensors, understanding of basic coding skills and sensor usage related to science inquiry, and motivation to integrate and/or support teachers to integrate CT into science instruction.

Participants of this workshop will gain an overview of CT integration, helpful strategies to facilitate CT integration into science, and the creation of CT integrated NGSS aligned storylines. We will briefly discuss the project context in which these resources and processes were created, field tested, and researched. First, we will examine one CT integrated, NGSS aligned storyline as a possible exemplar of what CT integrated curriculum could look like. During this time a brief overview of the co-design process used to create and revise this curriculum will be discussed. Next, participants will engage in an immersion experience to explore basic CT practices congruent with NGSS Science and Engineering Practices. To begin this immersion experience participants will take part in an anchoring phenomena routine used to generate questions that can be investigated using programmable sensors and CT practices. During this immersion experience participants will gain a sense of what the Micro:bit sensor platform looks like and its capabilities in the science classroom by investigating the various Micro:bit’s onboard and attachable sensors. They will also get hands on experience with programming the Micro:bit to collect relevant data using a simple block coding system. At the end of the immersion experience participants will engage in generating driving questions centered around a new unrelated phenomenon.
As a formative assessment participants will discuss and identify what sensors and programming would best be used to answer these driving questions. Participants will experience an example of the process of unpacking a performance expectation and brainstorming viable anchoring phenomena that could generate questions that can sustain student investigation affording the use of CT practices and sensors around the disciplinary core idea(s). Lastly, participants will debrief their experiences with CT, sensor usage and programming, and CT integrated curriculum.

Three-dimensional CT integrated NGSS aligned storylines, CT integration strategies, CT resources will be available on a website hosted by the University of Colorado Boulder. Project team contact information will be provided to participants of the workshop as well.