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Computer Science and Computational Thinking Across the Early Elementary Curriculum (Work in Progress)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Kenneth Berry Southern Methodist University

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Dr. Kenneth Berry is the Associate STEM Director at the Caruth Institute in the Lyle School of Engineering at Southern Methodist University (SMU). He has worked as an education specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory until he received his doctorate in Educational Technology in 2001. He then taught at the Michael D. Eisner School of Education at California State University at Northridge (CSUN). In 2009, he moved to Texas to work at the Science and Engineering Education Center, and Caruth Institute of Engineering Education. He specializes in Engineering, STEM, and Project Based Learning instruction.

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Computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) are the new basics in education. They belong with reading, writing, and arithmetic with regards to their importance in our modern lives. Nevertheless, as topics, they often are not introduced to students until upper elementary or middle school, if at all. If, and when, CS/CT are taught in elementary schools, they are often taught as standalone topics with content like keyboarding and instruction on how to use word processing or spreadsheets software. We believe students need to be able to write the programs rather than just use programs. They should be able to use computers across content classes. Our project is implementing CS/CT in second and third grade content classrooms. Our teachers will be teaching their history, language arts, mathematics and science students how to use computers as partners in learning. They will learn to use, analyze and manipulate data with computers. They will also learn to program computers using simplified programming languages like Scratch to solve content problems.

Our project is an early phase Computer Science for All NSF funded project. It is a partnership between a university and a school district, a Research-Practitioner Partnership (RPP). The university provides current research on school improvement and integration of CS/CT curriculum into the elementary classroom. The school district provides intuition and practical knowledge of the classroom to guide the research team. Together we plan to impower the school district to continually improve their CS/CT classroom experiences with their students.

We are implementing a design-based research method. The teachers will be creating and teaching CS/CT content curriculum units in their classrooms. As a professional learning community, all the other second and third grade teachers, researchers, and administrators will discuss how the curriculum implementation went. Together, we will discuss what went well, and what could have gone better. All the teachers will learn together how to implement CS/CT in their content classes. After all the teachers have tried out their first curriculum unit, they will prepare a second unit, teach it and review it again for lessons learned. By the end of the project each teacher will have created and taught four CS/CT units in their content area. Together they will have reviewed 64 CS/CT lessons from all the other teachers.

This work in progress paper will describe a pilot program that we developed to provide preliminary data for the grant proposal. We will also discuss how we changed our proposal as a result of the pilot study.

Berry, K. (2021, July), Computer Science and Computational Thinking Across the Early Elementary Curriculum (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36829

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