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The goal of this project is to get computer science back to middle schools. Our strategy is to reform middle school IT education at a systemic level exploring the notion of scalable game design as an approach to carefully balance educational and motivational aspects of IT fluency. The iDREAMS project (Integrative Design-based Reform-oriented Educational Approach for Motivating Students) is designed to spark an interest in IT through students' natural attraction to game design. By game design we mean the active process of students collaboratively engaging in problem solving, creativity, modeling and communication. Game design develops a rich set of skills consistent with STEM and IT competency frameworks such as the National Academy of Sciences Fluency with IT and the International Society for Technology in Education NETS standards. By scalable game design we refer to a low threshold, high ceiling curriculum. This gentle learning slope curriculum allows students and teachers to quickly start with game design activities producing simple classic games but then continue to sophisticated games exhibiting artificial intelligence. The systemic aspect of this project explores an IT training ecology integrating four regions of decreasing affluence. The partners working on this project, CU Computer Science Department, School of Education, Science Discovery outreach program, and AgentSheets Inc, have already established collaborations in all four regions:

  1. Technology-hub: Boulder, CO featuring a high density of IT companies and education opportunities.Our AgentSheets tool has already been introduced to all middle schools in the district because of its potential to address IT fluency and standards, equity, and motivation.
  2. Inner-city: Aurora, CO where we ran an IT education pilot study exploring issues of universal accessibility regarding gender and ethnicity.
  3. Rural: Pueblo CO, southwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services, a 10000 square mile integration of school districts.
  4. Remote/Tribal: Ignacio, CO, and Oglala, SD, Native American reservations: Southern Ute, and Oglala Sioux. An existing mobile science lab will enable us to reach these areas.

Our immediate objective is to provide teacher and student training in the four regions. Our long-term objective is to create educational ecologies that integrate these regions. We will employ existing programs including the CU Upward Bound, Women in Engineering, and the High School Honors Institute to bring students to the technology-hub region and will work with community and tribal colleges to train local teachers

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This project is supported by the National Science Foundation