518 Views
  1. Marisa Wolsky
  2. Executive Producer
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. WGBH Educational Foundation, WGBH
  1. Heather Lavigne
  2. http://cct.edc.org/people/lavigne-heather-0
  3. Research Scientist
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. Education Development Center (EDC)
  1. Jillian Orr
  2. Executive Producer
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. WGBH Educational Foundation

Integrating Computational Thinking into Mathematics Instruction in Rural and ...

NSF Awards: 1640135

2020 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6

Research suggests that embedding CT in basic preschool math instruction could create powerful learning experiences for early learners. To explore this, public media producers from WGBH and Kentucky Educational Television and researchers from Education Development Center teamed up on the project Integrating Computational Thinking into Mathematics Instruction in Rural and Urban Preschools.

The team began the project by developing two foundational documents: a learning blueprint and an alignment document identifying the relationship between the learning goals and preschool math instruction. The team then iteratively developed prototypes of three tablet apps and 12 hands-on activities that focused on the CT concepts of sequencing, debugging, and modularity in ways that leverage children's math skills. 

The apps and hands-on activities were tested with 16 teachers in rural and urban preschools serving low-income students. Researchers observed these testing sessions and then analyzed their notes to identify promising practices and areas for improvement for the prototypes. Videos from the testing sessions were also analyzed for children's CT learning and teachers' CT understanding.

As this project is now complete, this video provides a summary of our research findings.

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Original Discussion from the 2020 STEM For All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: James Brown

    James Brown

    Facilitator
    May 5, 2020 | 10:16 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing.  Do you have plans to translate the findings from this work into improved teacher professional development?

  • Icon for: Marisa Wolsky

    Marisa Wolsky

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Producer
    May 5, 2020 | 11:28 a.m.

    Hello James,

    This was an exploratory grant, but our hope is to use the findings as a basis for a future funding request, with which we could develop improved teacher professional development.

    Thank you for your interest in our work! Marisa

     
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    James Brown
  • Icon for: Chris Mainhart

    Chris Mainhart

    K-12 Teacher
    May 5, 2020 | 09:39 p.m.

    The findings suggested more about the need for PD for the teachers than the impact on the students. It would be great to see a follow-up study that includes PD for the teachers prior to introducing the experiences to the young students.

  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 6, 2020 | 02:18 a.m.

    Wonderful video and project.  It's very intriguing and inspiring. A point you made in your video made me wonder, why do you suppose that educators are more likely to focus children on practicing math skills more than applying computational thinking skills to solve a problem? 

  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 6, 2020 | 02:19 a.m.

    1:45 of the video

  • Icon for: Marisa Wolsky

    Marisa Wolsky

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Producer
    May 6, 2020 | 03:14 p.m.

    Hi DeLene, It is really a matter of comfort level. While it appears that teachers are very comfortable with providing the scaffolding that children need to leverage their mathematical knowledge, teachers appear less comfortable in knowing the right kinds of scaffolding to support the exploration of a CT-focused way of solving a problem. Children also appeared to be very comfortable with the math knowledge required across the set of digital apps and hands-on activities we prototyped. Likewise, teachers appeared very confident in their strategies to support the math components of the activities.

    Thanks for your question and your interest in our project, Marisa

     

  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 7, 2020 | 12:35 a.m.

    Thank you for that informative response.  It's very compelling to think how the approach can change a way of thinking.  Thanks!

  • Icon for: Stacey Forsyth

    Stacey Forsyth

    Facilitator
    May 6, 2020 | 01:00 p.m.

    Nice video! I imagine that many preschool teachers might be intimidated by the idea of teaching/supporting computational thinking. Do you have any suggestions of strategies that worked well to increase preschool educators' comfort level with CT?

  • Icon for: Marisa Wolsky

    Marisa Wolsky

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Producer
    May 7, 2020 | 10:46 a.m.

    Thanks, Stacey. Here are some recommendations that came from our research. Best, Marisa

    Providing a general framework for how classroom activities are explored in a CT-way can provide opportunities for teachers to develop a schema for supporting children during these types of activities. Specifically:

    • Provide examples of types of questions, prompts, and feedback that teachers should use to support children as they struggle, which is typical and inherent within the activities. These supports can have different aims depending on children’s needs and the prompts can be for different types or parts of activities.
    • Similarly, the teacher should differentiate instruction depending on the focal CT skill of the activity. For sequencing, greater support might be needed in helping children to generate the steps of a process, while debugging may require teachers to help children identify the problem. Activity supports should draw teachers’ attention to the more challenging part of each focal skill.
    • Emphasize ways to help teachers recognize children’s strengths in order to bootstrap learning. For example, finding errors in simple patterns and fixing them is a skill the children seem comfortable with during the CT activities. Leveraging children’s competence with this skill is a way to provide a bridge between obvious error-detecting and supporting children in the development of skills for finding less obvious errors that are in need of correction.
    • Help teachers to individualize their support and feedback towards children at different levels. Providing questions or prompts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners of CT skills might provide teachers with needed guidance for this. Advanced learners could use generalized feedback, perhaps akin to app feedback that simply alerts a player to a problem, with beginner and intermediate learners needing more specific or targeted feedback.
    • Provide teachers with examples of where and how these CT skills can be used outside of written hands-on activities, highlighting ways that teachers can help children understand the utility of the skills and support transferring them to other activities. Particularly with respect to sequencing, this connection seems important so that children can understand the consequences of not using sequencing (both the describing of individual steps and the ordering of them).
     
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    Stacey Forsyth
  • May 6, 2020 | 01:20 p.m.

    Great work and great skills to teach pre-K.  Do the games produce a data log that you can leverage for iterative design development of the UX as well as the curriculum?  If so, what variables can you track and what is their relation to learning?

  • Icon for: Marisa Wolsky

    Marisa Wolsky

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Producer
    May 7, 2020 | 03:38 p.m.

    Hi Michael,

    The games we developed were designed to be used offline so we did not produce a data log that would inform iterative design development. However, for this project, we had multiple opportunities to collect observational data from children as they played the games. This data is what informed the iterative development. Thank you for your question! Marisa

  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 7, 2020 | 12:37 a.m.

    What would you say is your greatest challenge in this project? 

  • Icon for: Marisa Wolsky

    Marisa Wolsky

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Producer
    May 7, 2020 | 10:54 a.m.

    Hi DeLene,

    I think one of our greatest challenges was the iterative development of our hands-on, CT learning tasks to assess young children’s CT knowledge. It was very challenging to create tasks that are as authentic as possible, asking children to solve relatable, real-world problems, provide for open-ended responses to showcase children’s abilities to use CT skills; and allow the assessor to document not only children’s ability to solve a problem, but also the process with which they approach problem-solving. It is also challenging to develop tasks that can be reliably administered to children with wide-ranging abilities. We hope to find funding in the future to further explore how to address challenges. Cheers, Marisa

     
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    DeLene Hoffner
  • May 7, 2020 | 08:50 a.m.

    What an interesting project. I'm curious about the learning blue print your team developed. I'd love a little more info on that. I also found the research around what worked well and what was more challenging really useful and well thought through. Given what you learned from your research, what would be one or two pieces of advice you'd give to other researchers doing similar work?

  • Icon for: Heather Lavigne

    Heather Lavigne

    Co-Presenter
    May 7, 2020 | 12:25 p.m.

    Hi Traci! Thanks for your question. We've thought so much about the lessons we'd want to apply to our future work.  Happy to share my own reflections on the research with you.  Here's what I'd say are the biggest pieces of advice I'd give to other researchers based on this experience.

    1. It’s important to build buy-in and demand for CT in the early childhood community, both for the fidelity of implementation on individual research projects and for the long-term vitality of doing this work in early childhood.  Without a solid foundation, it is difficult to parse apart the reasons for any observed challenges during the formative research.  
    2. Observations were helpful during our last round of research to get a broad strokes feel for how things were going in the classroom. However, having videos as a data source was essential in helping us see the promising practices that were generating the richest experiences for kids.  Observers can only collect so much data on the fly so the videos were essential to help us go deeper in our understanding.
    3. Our community still hasn’t cracked the nut on best practices for assessing CT in young kids.  It’s challenging to assess cognitive/internal processes in children that are still developing verbal ability and higher-order thinking skills.  While learning tasks can be very informative in certain regards, they’re labor intensive and difficult to scale up to larger sample sizes. It’s important for researchers to think carefully about the objectives of their study. If you’re attempting to assess impact or gather evidence of learning, think about whether any existing, common measures could help support understanding in what kids can do.

     And side note: I just watched your Showcase video on your Data Clubs project.  How cool!  I can see how what we're doing with younger kids would help support middle school students' engagement with analyzing data later in life.  I love how our projects all fit together in helping students put CT skills to work.  Also - I was so struck by the relevance of the investigation you had students do for the world we're living in right now. So many adults could benefit from the skills that students are gathering from Data Clubs!! 

     
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    DeLene Hoffner
  • May 7, 2020 | 04:31 p.m.

    Yes! Kids love to explore, tinker, figure out--and when they are given those opportunities starting at the earliest stages of learning I think they really get hooked on learning, they develop confidence in their reasoning, and they come to value the sort of systematic and careful thinking that is at the heart of all STEM disciplines. Your three pieces of advice make a lot of sense to me. We've got to make a case for why this work is important. Finding ways to measure or document the types of rich learning we want to see within a diverse and developing population is a huge challenge. And I really found your comment about capturing the learning on video compelling.  Being able to bring those videos to project meetings and spend time reflecting on on both what students say and do, and returning to those images over time, is an invaluable piece of our own learning as we do this work. 

  • Icon for: Marley Jarvis

    Marley Jarvis

    Outreach and Education Specialist
    May 7, 2020 | 03:19 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your work! Can you talk a little bit more about what all CT entails? What skills "count" as computational thinking? How does this vary from other thinking models, such as inquiry? 

  • Icon for: Marisa Wolsky

    Marisa Wolsky

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Producer
    May 7, 2020 | 03:49 p.m.





    Hi Marley,


    While the importance of CT is broadly recognized, there is no singular, agreed-upon definition. While CT forms the foundation of computer programming, many recognize its value goes beyond the goals of computer science. We ascribe to this broader view. Drawing from the literature, and in consultation with expert advisors, we have established the following definition for preschool-aged children: CT is a creative way of thinking that empowers children to use systematic strategies while solving problems or reaching a goal. CT enables children to identify problems/goals and then brainstorm and generate solutions/processes that can be communicated and followed by computers or humans.


    For this project, WGBH and EDC created a learning blueprint that drew from the literature to identify six CT core ideas for 4- and 5-year-old children:




    1. Problem Decomposition: Breaking down a problem into smaller parts that are easier to solve.


    2. Algorithmic Thinking: Creating a set of ordered steps (sequencing) and then doing them in a particular order to solve a problem or accomplish a task in a way that could be repeated by others (using an algorithm).


    3. Pattern Recognition: Noticing when objects, events, or steps repeat or grow in a predictable way (a pattern), to help make sense of situations or problems.


    4. Logical Reasoning: Understanding how one action or event (cause) brings about another (effect), and how conditions can alter this causal relationship.


    5. Design Process: Making something using a three-step process: create something new, test it to see how it works, and improve it using what you learned from testing.


    6. Debugging Process: When a solution is not working the way it was intended, reflecting on what was done and figuring out what changes to make to get a better result.






    CT is an integrator of curriculum, meaning it fosters problem-solving across a wide range of disciplines, including math, science, engineering, and literacy. As such, CT can be a powerful tool for science investigations






    Let us know if this answers your question. Best, Marisa





     
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    DeLene Hoffner
    Marley Jarvis
  • Icon for: Marley Jarvis

    Marley Jarvis

    Outreach and Education Specialist
    May 7, 2020 | 07:54 p.m.

    Thank you, that is helpful! I do a lot of thinking around inquiry, inquiry-based learning, etc. and supporting that in preschoolers as well as even younger kids. I'm interested to see some similarities here. Have you all thought much about how this might translate for infants and toddlers? I think they are doing some of this kind of exploration already!

  • Icon for: Marisa Wolsky

    Marisa Wolsky

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Producer
    May 11, 2020 | 08:22 a.m.

    Hi Marley,

    Yes, they are certainly doing this kind of exploration. We have not thought about how it might translate for infants and toddlers, primarily because WGBH mostly focuses its work on older children. Food for thought for a future direction. Thanks! Marisa

  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 8, 2020 | 12:53 a.m.

    Your responses are so well done and thoughtful.  Thank you for taking the time to share all your insights !  What was your biggest ah-ha? (a discovery or WOW moment)

  • Icon for: Marisa Wolsky

    Marisa Wolsky

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Producer
    May 8, 2020 | 07:04 a.m.

    Hi DeLane,

    I would say for me, as a content developer, understanding that preschool teachers don't naturally provide preschool children opportunities in which they can utilize strategies that promote processing: allowing children time to notice something that may be causing a problem and then supporting them in identifying the problem themselves, involving them in decision-making, and encouraging them to work together to test solutions. This includes slowing the pace of exciting activities to ensure that there is room for thoughtful reflection and allowing children to engage in productive struggle so that teachers wait until solutions fail before providing a clue about a specific solution that is more likely to succeed. Supporting teachers in doing so is crucial for CT learning. Best, Marisa

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    DeLene Hoffner
  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 8, 2020 | 08:21 p.m.

    I love it!  Slowing things down, allowing time to struggle, wonder, think... just a few of your points but all allow for development of a deeper understanding.  I would also say time to talk would be another one that is implied in your comments. Aother level of processing and learning is acheived when preschoolers can verbalize what they are thinking, discuss ideas with peer, and be guided by strategic questions from the teacher. 

  • Icon for: Marisa Wolsky

    Marisa Wolsky

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Producer
    May 11, 2020 | 08:28 a.m.

    Absolutely! Supporting teachers in asking open-ended questions to identify and discuss a problem and having them help children verbalize their thinking, recap the steps of a sequence after they do them correctly to reinforce the sequence, and reflect on solutions are all crucial in order to promote children's computational thinking. Best, Marisa

  • Icon for: Paul Foster

    Paul Foster

    K-12 Administrator
    May 8, 2020 | 02:54 p.m.

    Working in a PK-12 urban school district, I am very interested in the idea of introducing CT in PreK (the earlier the better I think).  I also appreciate the point about supporting teachers to develop the skills around helping children solve the problem versus either solving it for them or having them start over.  Given that you mentioned earlier pursuing funding to expand the work, if we started to scale this out somewhat more broadly, what are things you might add into the project and/or do differently to further support teachers?  Thanks!

  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 11, 2020 | 01:35 a.m.

    Paul, I think it is terrific that you want to bring CT to your teachers to build early skills.  I also feel the earlier the better!  I taught preschool and kindergarten for years.  Now I'd like to build this into my professional development courses.  So...I am also interested in knowing the answer to your question... 

     if we started to scale this out somewhat more broadly, what are things you might add into the project and/or do differently to further support teachers? 

  • Icon for: Marisa Wolsky

    Marisa Wolsky

    Lead Presenter
    Executive Producer
    May 11, 2020 | 10:09 a.m.

    Hi Paul and Delane,

    For sure, we know that we need to build in trainings/PD. We also know that CT struggles for space. We found that teachers are not immediately recognizing its value. We think for our next phase we needs to explore how to connect to why it’s a natural fit, so that it doesn’t feel extraneous. One way to do that would we be to align CT with school readiness. In addition, with this project, we were only testing with 9 teachers. In our next phase of work, we would like to work with a lot more teachers to account for variability. Best, Marisa

  • Icon for: Kyle Boyer

    Kyle Boyer

    Graduate Student
    May 11, 2020 | 03:36 p.m.

    It's amazing to see work like this being done with such young age groups! I have spent a lot of time teaching programming and debugging to college students, and it is fascinating to see how similar the challenges seem to be. My (anecdotal) experience has been that college students struggle with the exact same areas you highlighted in your video. It will be interesting to see if that changes as early CT education becomes more common.

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