1. Diley Hernandez
  2. https://www.ceismc.gatech.edu/about/staffdirectory/dr-diley-hernandez
  3. Senior Research Scienctist/ CAPACiTY Program Director
  5. Georgia Tech CEISMC
  1. Meltem Alemdar
  2. Senior Research Scientist/Co-PI
  4. Georgia Tech CEISMC
  1. Douglas Edwards
  2. Research Associate II
  4. Georgia Institute of Technology
  1. Michael Helms
  2. Research Scientist
  4. Georgia Tech CEISMC
  1. Mike Ryan
  2. https://ceismc.gatech.edu/about/staffdirectory/mike-ryan
  3. Senior Research Scientist
  5. Georgia Institute of Technology
  1. Marion Usselman
  2. CAPACiTY Principal Investigator
  4. Georgia Tech CEISMC

Culturally Authentic Practice to Advance Computational Thinking in Youth (CAP...

NSF Awards: 1639946

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12

CAPACiTY is a STEM+C project to create, pilot and assess a new curriculum for the Georgia high school Introduction to Digital Technology (IDT) course. The curriculum promotes the development of rigorous computational thinking (CT) skills by engaging students in authentic and culturally relevant projects. Using these projects as guides, students draw upon their own experiences, settings, and culture to iteratively and digitally narrate stories to develop awareness and agency. During the two-semester course, students progress from digital literacy to digital research and computational problem solving. They start by creating basic narratives using static documents and slides. They then advance to creating more dynamic, interactive narratives using web pages, mobile applications and computationally generated music using a variety of computational tools such as Powerpoint, EarSketch, and App Inventor. The research explores how this problem-based, inquiry driven and culturally relevant CS curriculum affects student engagement, motivation, content understanding, and persistence in CS courses, particularly among student traditionally underrepresented in CS. The research will also focus on determining how teacher professional development activities influence classroom practices among participating IDT teachers.

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Original Discussion from the 2018 STEM for All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Irene Lee

    Irene Lee

    May 14, 2018 | 09:39 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing information about your project.  Can you tell me more about the connections made to other STEM topics (other than CS)?  What is the intersection of student relevant project themes and STEM content?

  • Icon for: Diley Hernandez

    Diley Hernandez

    Lead Presenter
    Senior Research Scienctist/ CAPACiTY Program Director
    May 14, 2018 | 02:13 p.m.

    Thank you, Irene for your question. As part of the project, the students are given the choice to select a topic that is relevant to them personally, socially, or culturally, so the project is authentic and motivating to them. Currently, the range of themes selected by the students is quite diverse. Many of the STEM connections in our program are embedded within the PBIL practices and the students’ learning experience. When students engage in researching, developing and iterating the research on their topics within their computer science course, they are reinforcing STEM learning practices that exist in other STEM courses they might be taking in school. Also, another goal of our project is to reinforce the connection between computer science skills and practices and three of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) crosscutting concepts (CCs): structure and function, patterns, and systems and system models. Our hypothesis is that integrating these CCs into the PBIL units could improve both computational thinking and science learning by increasing cross-disciplinary connections and promoting conceptual abstraction.


  • Icon for: Katie Rich

    Katie Rich

    May 14, 2018 | 10:16 a.m.

    Hi Diley and all,

    Thanks for sharing your work. I was interested to hear the student in your video describe the sequence of activities, starting with a research project, then building a website, then creating music. There seems to be an implicit ramping up of computational ideas in that sequence. Was that intentional? How does the program aim to build students' computational competencies across time?

  • Icon for: Michael Helms

    Michael Helms

    May 16, 2018 | 07:10 p.m.

    Hi Katie. Thank you for the question. We do ramp up the computational thinking over the two semester course. We start with a soft introduction using familiar tools like presentation and video production software. This helps situate the students as they explore the topics they will work on for the semester, and gives us some breathing room to talk about general digital technology concepts. We move into Web design after that using Google Sites, where we transition from drag-and-drop type web design into HTML. As we explore the technology, the students are able to create and manipulate meaningful technical products that promote their own agency with respect to their topic of interest (e.g. creating a website that informs others or advocates for their topic).

    Next we move into EarSketch and music, where students become very engaged. Students love making music!  We leverage that excitement to explore core coding concepts like data types, conditionals, loops, etc. Finally we move into mobile app development, which reinforces those core concepts while letting us go even deeper, exploring object oriented design, user defined functions, and event-driven design.  

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Katie Rich
  • Icon for: Katie Rich

    Katie Rich

    May 17, 2018 | 03:04 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing. This is a thoughtful progression. I know the field really emphasizes that CS/CT is more than just using technology tools, and sometimes I think in our scramble to expand students' conceptions of CS, we lose opportunities to build on what they already know. I like the way you're thinking about familiar tools as providing some "breathing room."

  • Icon for: Diley Hernandez

    Diley Hernandez

    Lead Presenter
    Senior Research Scienctist/ CAPACiTY Program Director
    May 14, 2018 | 01:15 p.m.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to watch our video and for your interest in learning more about CAPACiTY! We are very excited to hear from you and having some stimulating discussion.

  • May 14, 2018 | 02:20 p.m.

    Great project, and thank you for sharing!

  • May 19, 2018 | 11:50 a.m.

    Diley, I wonder if there is some means we can consider trying to adopt some of your approach.  Do you know Wendy Newstetter at Georgia Tech, by any chance?  She is our project evaluator.

  • Icon for: Marion Usselman

    Marion Usselman

    May 19, 2018 | 02:51 p.m.


    Yes to both questions.  I am the PI on CAPACiTY, and I have known Wendy for many years here at Georgia Tech.  And we will be happy to share approaches and material.  Right now we are in the process of modifying the instructional materials based on data collected this past year in the schools.  After the summer we should be in a position to let other interested folks see lessons.  We will also have a poster at the upcoming STEM+C/DRK12 PI meeting, if you will be there.  I would be happy to talk about both the successes and challenges of the project.

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.

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