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Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

CYNTHIA BLITZ

Rutgers University
Public
Choice

Addressing Issues of Equity and Engagement in CS through a Research Practice ...

NSF Awards: 1837305

2020 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12

The goal of the Computer Science Teaching and Learning Collaboratory (CS-TLC) is to broaden the participation of historically underrepresented student populations in CS. The CS-TLC is a researcher-practitioner partnership between around 20 districts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Rutgers University’s Center for Effective School Practices, and Rutgers’ Department of Computer Science. Structured as a professional learning community, the project’s partners collaborate to design, develop, and implement resources and tools to equip educators with relevant content and pedagogical knowledge to help districts, schools, and teachers deliver equity-driven, culturally-sensitive, rigorous, and engaging CS education to all students.

This video highlights some of the major activities of the CS-TLC during this past year, including a 5-day Summer Institute on rigorous and equitable practices in CS education, community outreach and engagement efforts, school events, and more!

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Original Discussion from the 2020 STEM For All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 5, 2020 | 08:54 a.m.

    Welcome to our Showcase Video!!

    As you well know, sustained participation and performance gaps are key indicators of continuing inequities in STEM, more generally, and in computer science education (CSE), more specifically. Our Rutgers University (RU) project team joined the CSforAll movement through an NSF-funded initiative which seeks to increase the capacity of high schools in the NJ and PA regions to provide relevant, meaningful, inclusive CSE through ongoing collaboration and support via a researcher-practitioner partnership (RPP) with a focus on equity and social justice. We are currently in the 2nd year of this project, and our RPP has grown to include schools serving over 80,000 students with many teachers and administrators representing their schools/districts by participating as members of our RPP team. Districts, schools, administrators, and teachers within our RPP, the Computer Science Teaching and Learning Collaboratory, CS-TLC, have begun to implement new or refined high-school courses, special events including family evenings (connected to curriculum and other components of CSE), and summer programs to support their diverse learners. We are optimistic that these interventions will boost enrollment (and most importantly engagement with and interest) in CSE especially for student populations who have been and continue to be underrepresented in CSE.                                                

     
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    Richard Kick
  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 5, 2020 | 08:56 a.m.

    We enthusiastically invite you to connect with us with any questions and/or suggestions and are always looking to make meaningful connections! Specifically, we are seeking to (a) engage in dialogue around ways in which to create/increase relevant meaningful online, hybrid, and in-person CSE; (b) explore productive collaborative research practice partnerships (in all forms, RPPs, CoPs, NICs, etc.) and adapt best practices to our particular situations; and (c) brainstorm ways to harness the overwhelming number of free (and paid) CSE resources, and collaboratively identify useful items for us as individuals/as groups and then organize them in a meaningful way. We can't wait to connect with you soon and hope you enjoyed our brief video!!

                                                

  • Icon for: Ed Liu

    Ed Liu

    Researcher
    May 5, 2020 | 09:18 a.m.

    Hi, Cynthia. I was on the faculty of the Rutgers GSE between 2004-2010 and am happy to see this initiative in New Jersey. I'm now working in Boston, and we have an ITEST project building three career pathways at an open-enrollment Boston public high school. The first formally launched this fall in Computer Science. Our model has been to engage with industry partners to give feedback on program design and also provide mentors/coaches. For instance, this fall, students took a course on game design, where they studied a video game, proposed a possible sequel to that game with a storyline, and then formed teams to develop a prototype of the sequel. We had folks from Ghost Story Games, a local company, serve as coaches, and they would "meet" online to give feedback, help, etc. In terms of equity, has your RPP wrestled with some of the challenges of designing programs that are accessible for students who might still have gaps in their core academic skills (i.e., students behind in math, or English Learners)? Any promising practices or curricular designs? The school we're working with has realized they need to do more around data science, but of course, students need to have some solid math skills to engage that. 

  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 5, 2020 | 11:32 a.m.

    Ed, great to hear from you! The ITEST project sounds fantastic with such great potential, I cannot wait to hear additional details and to learn from your process and impacts. It would be helpful to know more about the career pathway itself and what courses it involves so to better understand if there are ways to incorporate more math and then data science elements within the existing program (or even to add a data science course, if there is not one yet, with a tutorial section for extra support, or otherwise). I'm also wondering if you all have provided extra support to ELLs in terms of ensuring vocab was clear with special sessions, hand outs, and short videos. Would be great to talk further about data science and additional scaffolding that might be doable within your context. Look forward to continuing the conversation.... Cindy  

     
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    Sarah Young
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    Dawn Aiello

    K-12 Administrator
    May 5, 2020 | 09:27 a.m.

    Rutger's CS-TLC is a high-quality computer science professional development partnership with k-12 school districts.  This partnership has helped my school district expand computer science course offerings.  Thank You!   

     
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    Sarah Young
  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 5, 2020 | 11:34 a.m.

    There is nothing better than an enthusiastic, caring, informed, dedicated, and, just overall awesome partner such as you, Dawn!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Icon for: Sarah Young

    Sarah Young

    Facilitator
    May 5, 2020 | 11:06 a.m.

    What a great name "CS-TLC"! I think everyone needs some "CS-TLC" in their life.

    I would love to know more about the make-up of the group of participants. I noted that your video called out the teachers, but also provided a list for other school personnel such as principals. Did you note any differences between involvement of schools where the principal attended vs. where they did not?

  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 5, 2020 | 12:12 p.m.

    Absolutely. Having administrators involved in this work alongside teachers is key to its success! In our first round of implementation, we split teachers and administrators (who included Sups, Principals, Directors of Curriculum, STEM Directors, and many others) into two separate groups within the greater researcher-practitioner partnership - and while helpful (provided specific information and support to admins versus teachers, etc.), we felt that it made more sense to have more integration. So, in our second iteration, we have our entire team participate (as they are able) in our RPP meetings - and had the groups together during our summer institute - except for some specific PD for teachers when the administrators were no longer on-site at RU.

     

     
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    Sarah Young
  • Icon for: Sarah Young

    Sarah Young

    Facilitator
    May 5, 2020 | 12:26 p.m.

    Thank you! I really appreciate you sharing the two different iterations and outcomes for the involvement of principals. I find it very valuable that the strategy of integration was successful, and feel that is an important outcome for the field to incorporate into future work. 

    When the teachers and principals apply, do they apply as a team? I am curious about the logistics to support that engagement. 

  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 5, 2020 | 04:26 p.m.

    Great question and honestly without careful attention to the logistics -- and the recruitment or partnership process going two ways - for practitioners to want to be involved with us and for us to feel that it is a good fit  - there would be no moving forward! And, yes, when we started to speak to district/schools/educators about our work in CS-TLC, we tried to make it clear that the work required a team from each district or school (a minimum of one administrator although in many cases we had more than one, at least 2 CS teachers although in the case of larger districts especially, we had many more, and a guidance counselor, as possible). In most cases this has worked out great, for small districts though it can be problematic to require a team inclusive of an administrator given there are so few administrators and part of the expectations for the entire team was spending a week with us over summers at Rutgers in New Brunswick, NJ. So, we have made exceptions in a few cases when we're partnering with committed districts/schools that are very small and just cannot pull that piece off. In those cases though, we have found that one of the teachers who attends from those schools generally can 'put on the administrator hat' if and when helpful.

     
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    Sarah Young
  • Icon for: Jennifer Vermillion

    Jennifer Vermillion

    Facilitator
    May 5, 2020 | 03:39 p.m.

    This is inspiring work! I love the idea of summer sleepaway camp for teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors and appreciate the focus on developing a sense of community. Virtual collaboration can be so challenging. Are there features of the Mobilize platform that facilitate ongoing collaboration, exchange of ideas, and feedback between practitioners and researchers? 

  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 5, 2020 | 04:57 p.m.

    First of all, thank you! We had so much fun and learned so much from each other over the past 2 summers holding our in-person summer institute where the majority of us were based out of an RU dorm, and, spent days and evenings together. We are so disappointed that we had to call it off for this summer - although we will do some online work together, it certainly won't be the same....

    During the summer institutes, we worked hard during the days focused on learning from other educators and researchers re

    • Content pedagogical knowledge (e.g., collaborative learning) and specific applications (e.g., app inventor)
    • Taking culture, equity, and social justice into account when designing and refining content, activities, assessments to make them as relevant and engaging as possible for all students
    • Hearing from RU's internal online course curriculum designers about best practices in designing some online modules - or for those smaller and/or more rural schools - online classes that might be able to be used across schools/districts
    • Speaking with department chairs and deans from RU on expectations for kids coming into CS at Rutgers  and/or into Douglass (the women's college here at RU that has very strong living learning communities) but also to start to make that connection between high schools and higher ed
    • and, much much more

    And spent a lot of time sharing practical knowledge and experiences that different schools and/or teachers had - and began to think about ways that this information could be used in other situations (adapted to different contexts, different populations of kids, etc.).

    Time was spent within school teams working on planning while having different 'experts' available to confer with during these time periods.

    And, finally, we spent a lot of time - especially in the evenings - on team building and just having fun together. Optional activities included things like

    • a sunset canoeing trip
    • a night of bowling
    • a bus ride around RU and then a night out at a local restaurant 
    • a peak at the stars at the infamous RU observatory (although weather seemed to always be against us)  
    • a late night group working session and an hour of code

    We had more ideas for this summer but will keep these quiet so that it can be a surprise for the time!!

    As for mobilize, we really like it and it seems to be the best platform that we have found so far (although we would love to learn about others that people have used successfully) - however, it is by no means perfect, and, it still takes lots of attention to try to keep all engaged and participating. We have found over the years (as I'm certain others have!) that anything that one needs to log into in addition to their regular items/apps/or otherwise, becomes problematic, but we never found a common platform that would work for us. As research tells us, we need something to become habit, to be part of our regular routine for it to be truly valuable to us on a consistent basis. So, I would say that we use posts, discussion boards, polls, the integrated calendar feature, and I'm sure a few more things within mobilize but what it boils down to is ensuring it remains a useful source of information, a place to get a quick response, and just a useful place to be so we take the time and effort (but also remember) to log in!

  • Icon for: Janice Cuny

    Janice Cuny

    Facilitator
    May 5, 2020 | 03:52 p.m.

    Nice project!

    It's interesting that you've better integrated the school principals and administrators into the work of the RRP in its second year. What other aspects of the program have you modified as a result of the RPP?  And how are the researchers involved in the work?

  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 5, 2020 | 07:17 p.m.

    Thanks, Jan. As you know, much of our work has improved thanks to your inspired feedback and continues due to your tremendous support, so I'm thrilled to be able to connect with you through this forum!

    As you mentioned in your post, we certainly have better integrated admins into the work of the RPP and also began to involve guidance counselors in the second year, thanks to what we learned from NCWIT, Angela Cleveland, and others. In year two, we also moved teacher PD from synchronous to asynchronous which we originally thought would be less desirable since one doesn't have the direct interaction and lack of real time ability to ask questions, etc. However, given the difficulty to schedule synchronous PD and teachers' preferences, it seems that the asynchronous PD is preferred and is moving forward (this began before Covid, wonder if synchronous would be preferred now, would be interesting to see but we plan to stick to what we're doing). It will be important to understand how (if at all) outcomes from the asynchronous PD compares to that of the synchronous PD from last year.  

    As far as researchers (like me), we're centrally involved in the RPP as true partners and learn so much from the rest of the RPP team, and, hopefully, bring our specific expertise to the research component of the RPP work as well as exploring how the RPP itself organizes itself to move change forward.

  • Icon for: Janice Cuny

    Janice Cuny

    Facilitator
    May 5, 2020 | 07:49 p.m.

    Are the teachers given stipends for their work with the RPP? And if so, will that affect sustainability?

     

  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 6, 2020 | 08:05 a.m.

    Yes, teachers are given stipends for the work outside of their school day (e.g., PD and summer institute). There are (bi-monthly) RPP meetings during the school day that teachers participate in depending on schedules and subs are used in some cases. As for sustainability, it is certainly a concern but we definitely have teachers who we believe will continue to participate in the RPP for the longer-term. In some newer work, we are thinking about how to identify specific aspects of an RPP that contribute to continued engagement - we certainly believe that a large part of it is the relationships (and, of course, that they find the information and resource extremely valuable).

  • Icon for: Dave Miller

    Dave Miller

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 7, 2020 | 09:05 a.m.

     Great project, Cynthia!  At the risk of being a repeat question, I'm wondering how the outcomes of the summer institute and the program, more generally, is weaving into K-12 curriculum?  Do some of the 20 K-12 partner schools weave it into MS & HS math & science classrooms?  Do any of the schools have dedicated CS curricula? The notion of "fitting in another curriculum" is challenging all K-12 schools, and I'm curious to gather your insights about how your 20 K-12 partners are succeeding in this call-to-action. Many thanks!

  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 7, 2020 | 06:57 p.m.

    Thanks, Dave. Viewed your video as well and feel the same!

    Our work thus far has focused on high schools and the majority of them now have specific classes (although there is still work to do with some sequencing as well as using more recruitment avenues and additional supports to continue to broaden participation).

    As we move forward, we are focusing on integration of CS/CT concepts/skills into existing coursework (because of what you note above - versus adding new courses and/or curriculum) especially in K-5/6 and then testing some options in terms of modules and otherwise in 6/7-8th. We're also starting to delve more and more into AI and are interested in moving that work forward (within high schools but much earlier as well).

    Our districts are dedicated and enthusiastic regarding CSE (but it's a self-selection problem because for them to want to be involved in an RPP they almost have to be), however, it still takes a lot of work to keep RPP members engaged and to sustain their commitment and enthusiasm. Needless to say, it will be important to see how things progress now that kids haven't been and won't be at least for the remainder of this school year physically in classrooms.....

  • Icon for: Janice Cuny

    Janice Cuny

    Facilitator
    May 8, 2020 | 09:33 a.m.

    You mentioned the importance of bringing teachers back to your online site. Now that so much is happening virtually, have you found any tips or best practices for maintaining teachers' engagement in an online learning community? Any best practices?

  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 8, 2020 | 09:58 a.m.

    The social aspect of collaborating/connecting online has been most promising and useful for our RPP team members. Virtual 'office hours' via a chat feature seems productive as well as when teachers are intentionally connected to colleagues to accomplish a task and/or provide a resource - they are more likely to stay engaged with each other and then share virtually with the group and respond to questions/comments on their post(s), etc. Additionally, given we are all online now more than previously, there is certainly an increase in the potential for continued engagement.

  • Icon for: Janice Cuny

    Janice Cuny

    Facilitator
    May 8, 2020 | 11:23 a.m.

    Can you talk a little about the research agenda for the RPP?

  • Icon for: Cynthia Blitz

    Cynthia Blitz

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Director, Professor
    May 8, 2020 | 12:50 p.m.

    Of course! 

    We are looking at the RPP itself to try to better understand if using it as a mechanism to “house” the PD and related activities leads to positive outcomes such as increased knowledge of CS, change in institutional practices, teacher leadership, etc. (based on bi-annual pre and post surveys; brief evals after each PD session or otherwise; observations; interviews/focus groups, and artifacts) - and then to consider how we tease out what aspects of the RPP seem most beneficial (and ideally explore to which teachers/administrators, under what conditions/contexts).  

    We are also focusing on what modes or combination of modes (F2F PD, virtual PD, virtual collaborative platform) have the greatest impact on teacher satisfaction/self-efficacy, content development, pedagogy (which is quite difficult, needless to say).

    Finally, we would like to further investigate the use of research by the members of the RPP - where find, how the information is conveyed, how using the info, etc.  

     

     

  • Icon for: Janice Cuny

    Janice Cuny

    Facilitator
    May 8, 2020 | 06:55 p.m.

    Thanks!

  • Icon for: Janice Cuny

    Janice Cuny

    Facilitator
    May 10, 2020 | 09:42 p.m.

    Thanks Cynthia (and your team) for putting this video together. I love seeing projects that I first saw as proposals develop into really strong efforts.

     
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    Cynthia Blitz
  • May 12, 2020 | 06:34 p.m.

    Great to see such a solid project with outreach to so many participating districts in the first year with more joining.  Thank you for developing this program and especially for providing CONTINUING support to teachers beyond the summer institutes. 

    What kind of data does this project produce?  How does the data answer your research questions? Teacher learning? Pedagogical learning? Content learning? Interests? Motivation? Engagement?  Thanks for sharing this work.  

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