Project summary

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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 original iDREAMS project (Integrative Design-based Reform-oriented Educational Approach for Motivating Students) was designed to spark an interest in IT through students' natural attraction to game design. The second phase of the project, called CT4TC (Computational Thinking for Teaching Computing) continues the original project by looking deeper into how game design helps students learn STEM concepts through collection and analysis of performance data. The third phase of the project, called oDREAMS (onnline Design-based Reform-oriented Educational Approach for Motivating Students) compares student impact between teachers who receive curriculum training face to face, online, or a combination of the two. These data will be used to improve the curriculum and also to increase the effectiveness of teacher training.

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 continues to explores an IT training ecology integrating four regions of decreasing affluence, and an ever expanding national and international teacher group.

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 and beyond:

  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.
  5. National: Teachers from more than 12 states have implemented the curriculum with students in classrooms, with more being trained yearly.
  6. International: Brazil, Switzerland, Germany.

Our continued goal is to provide training to teachers in the four regions and beyond through our Summer Institutes held on the University of Colorado, Boulder campus in June. Our long-term objective is to create educational ecologies that integrate these regions.