Project Summary

Despite increased access, major challenges persist in integrating computing into U.S. schools to achieve 
gains beyond keyboard literacy. Schools need cost-effective, sustainable strategies to help teachers become 
knowledgeable and confident enough to effectively utilize computing-based activities for improved student 
learning. The obstacles are compounded in schools with limited resources serving students most in need of 
powerful educational opportunities, the at-risk youth from low-income, high-crime communities. 

In this project, we embrace the challenges in broadening participation of computing in middle schools 
in underserved communities as opportunities for university computer science students to develop valuable 
technical and communication skills. Our central theme is that middle school teachers can be significantly 
supported in their quest to integrate computing into their teaching with the help and role models of care- 
fully mentored undergraduate software development teams, who in turn gain from collaborative learning, 
software engineering practice with a real client, peer leader experiences, and an opportunity to experience 
first-hand the potential impact of their computing expertise in helping others. The service experience may 
in turn improve underrepresented participation in computing at the college level.

The PIs at University of Delaware (UD) have partnered with the Chester Community Charter School 
(CCCS), a 2400-student, K-8 school in Chester, PA, a city with one of the highest crime and poverty rates 
in Pennsylvania. The PIs and four UD students recently helped CCCS’s instructional technologist introduce 
teachers and 7th and 8th graders to CCCS’s newly donated XO laptops, laptops designed for the One- 
Laptop-per-Child program which targets the world’s poorest children. Building on this initial collaboration, 
we will develop a pilot program, Computing-Teams-4-Youth, that leverages the low-cost, networked XO 
laptops to help CCCS teachers integrate computing and computational thinking into middle school math, 
science, language arts, and social studies in a sustainable way. The Computing-Teams-4-Youth program 
is highlighted by: (1) development of computational thinking activities and increased collaborative and 
differentiated learning opportunities to enable computing-based learning in middle school, (2) a service 
learning course for UD CS majors, with collaborative development teams matched with CCCS teachers 
and led by peer leaders to develop XO learning activities and apply good software engineering practice 
with feedback from a real client, and (3) continuous software and professional development customized to 
teachers’ student learning goals, with biannual teacher-focused workshops for training and collaborating. 

Intellectual Merit. The formal and informal evaluation feedback from middle school students and teachers 
will increase understanding of the challenges and inequalities that underrepresented groups in computing 
face in gaining awareness and knowledge of computational thinking and computing-based learning in other 
subjects. This will lead to a better understanding of how to provide resources to schools in underserved 
communities, and can help change the learning environment for at-risk youth. The PIs are poised to lead 
this team effort. Both are commited to quality teaching and mentoring. Both have been awarded UD’s 
highest award for teaching excellence. PI Pollock has led major efforts to mentor women as well as under- 
represented groups in computer science. The project team includes experts in integrating computing into 
middle schools, K-12 student learning assessment and curriculum development, student-teacher communi- 
cation, teacher professional training, service learning, collaborative teams in computer science education, 
peer leader training, and program evaluation. 

Broader Impacts. Providing a cost-effective model for integrating computing and computational thinking 
into middle school for underserved communities will improve the participation of underrepresented groups 
in computing, leading to a more diverse environment in computing (without requiring the same team of 
experts for implementation elsewhere). Undergraduates will be trained in developing software while com- 
municating with a real client, peer leaders will be trained in mentoring students, and all will serve as role 
models to high-risk youth. We will disseminate the pilot model, materials, and evaluation results through 
workshops, website, and publications and presentations.