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Computer Aided Instruction As A Vehicle For Problem Solving: Scratch Boards In The Middle Years Classroom

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Engineering in Middle Schools

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.319.1 - 13.319.16



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Paper Authors


Quincy Brown Drexel University

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Quincy Brown is a Ph. D. student in the Computer Science Department at Drexel University. Her research interest is understanding how technology can be used to improve K-12 mathematics education. She is interested in developing applications for classroom use that factor the computational resource limitations of urban public schools. Her future research will investigate methods for computer scientists to collaborate with educators to improve K-12 as well as computer science education.

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William Mongan Drexel University

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Bill Mongan is a Ph.D. student at Drexel University in the Department of Computer Science. Concurrently, Bill is pursuing an MS in Science of Instruction in the School of Education at Drexel, with a concentration in Secondary Mathematics and Computer Science in Pennsylvania. His interests include educational outreach and for exposing the K-12 environment to computer science as an application of science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) education. Prior to studying at Drexel, Bill worked for the Upper Darby School District, working with students on both an educational and volunteer basis in the AP Computer Science program from 2002-2004. He has served on the UDSD School Board Technology and Grant committee in 2001, and interviewed for a vacant UDSD School Board seat in 2000.

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Dara Kusic Drexel University

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Dara Kusic is a Ph.D. candidate in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Drexel University with a research focus on the development of self-managing computing systems. She holds a Masters and Bachelors degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelors degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Urban Studies. Dara is a 2006-2008 Fellow of the National Science Foundation in the GK-12 program, working to enliven math and science study for West Philadelphia middle school students through the vehicle of engineering.

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Elaine Garbarine Drexel University

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Eli Fromm Drexel University

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Adam Fontecchio Drexel University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Computer Aided Instruction as a Vehicle for Problem Solving: Scratch Programming Environment in the Middle Years Classroom

Quincy Brown, William Mongan, Dara Kusic, Elaine Garbarine, Eli Fromm, Adam Fontecchio College of Engineering Drexel University Philadelphia, PA, 19104, USA qb23,wmm24,emg26,kusic,fromme,


Since the 1960’s, Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) has been promoted as the new standard for teaching and learning. Schools were provided with computers and internet connections at an astounding rate in the 1990’s, but there was no correlated increase in student performance.1 Investigation into this problem has revealed that computer technology is simply used to augment traditional ‘instructionist’ teaching strategies,1,2 and this type of integration does not parallel the current real-time problem solving domain that is driven by technology.

Therefore, the integration of technology to reinforce science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education must not simply augment the existing teaching framework, but also present open-ended engineering problems that require a combination of problem-solving intuition and strategies learned in the classroom. The goal of this work, conducted via the NSF GK-12 program at Drexel University, is to evaluate the integration of computer-aided instruction and computer programming strategies learned in the classroom as it impacts the open-ended problem solving skills of grade 5 and 6 students. The NSF GK-12 program at Drexel University aims to use engineering as a contextual vehicle to augment STEM education, as well as to inspire students to pursue engineering disciplines.

In this work, we introduce computer-aided instruction using the Scratch3 programming envi- ronment for children as a context for problem-solving to engage and assess the problem-solving skills of the students who use them. Reitman defines a problem solver as a person perceiving and adapting a goal without an immediate means of reaching the goal.4 We utilize the child-friendly Scratch programming environment on the hypothesis that an unfamiliar problem domain can be better approached by students who have been taught to deconstruct mathematical concepts and logical sequences into the simple steps to be understood by a computer. This approach incorporates microelectronic technology as both the means and the subject of learning transferable problem solving skills.

Educational research indicates a deficiency in the measurable impact of technology in the classroom.2 This work measures and evaluates the impact of CAI on student performance by evaluating the students’ use of problem-solving skills and heuristics.5,6 Students in two fifth and two sixth grade classes as well as a control group receive a pre-test and post-test asking them to solve mathematical problems using any approach. After receiving the pre-tests, the non-control 0 The authors acknowledge support by NSF grant DGE-0538476

Brown, Q., & Mongan, W., & Kusic, D., & Garbarine, E., & Fromm, E., & Fontecchio, A. (2008, June), Computer Aided Instruction As A Vehicle For Problem Solving: Scratch Boards In The Middle Years Classroom Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3826

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