With the growing presence of technology in our world, it is critical that all children have strong preparation in computing and computational thinking. However, many learners, especially those in under resourced schools, have relatively little opportunity to engage in meaningful computational learning early in their academic careers. As computing, and the technologies it enables, play an increasingly important role both within and beyond the classroom, it is critical that we find a way to provide opportunities for all learners to develop essential foundational computational thinking skills.
This project seeks to address these issues of access, equity, and opportunity by studying the implementation of a fourth-grade mathematics curriculum intended to teach learners computational thinking practices and mathematical concepts through the use of a spherical programmable robot. Partnered with teachers from District of Columbia Public Schools, we work to understand if and how an integrated approach can achieve the goal of bringing computational thinking to all learners and how it can elicit and develop children's mathematical thinking. This research was developed through a researcher-practitioner partnership with District of Columbia Public Schools in that the design of the project was directly informed by the needs and resources of the district.
This research has been generously funded by the University of Maryland’s College of Education SPARC program and the Spencer Foundation (Spencer Small Grant #201900099, 2019 Research Development Award, and 2020 Postdoctoral Fellowship). This work has also informed the creation of instructional materials for neurodiverse learners as part of the INFACT project funded by the Department of Education.