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Integrating Creative Writing and Computational Thinking to Develop Interdisciplinary Connections

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Outreach and Early Transdisciplinary Courses

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Candido Cabo New York City College of Technology

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Candido Cabo is a Professor in the Department of Computer Systems Technology at New York City College of Technology, City University of New York (CUNY). He earned the degree of Ingeniero Superior de Telecomunicacion from the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (Spain) in 1982, and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University (Durham, NC) in 1992. He was a post-doctoral fellow at Upstate Medical Center, State University of New York (Syracuse, NY), and a research scientist in the Department of Pharmacology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University (New York, NY). Since 2005, he has been a member of the doctoral faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center. His research interests include computer science and engineering education and the use of computational models to understand and solve problems in biology.

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Reneta Davina Lansiquot New York City College of Technology

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Reneta D. Lansiquot is Associate Professor and Program Director of the Bachelor of Science in Professional and Technical Writing at New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York, where she earned an AAS in Computer Information Systems and a BTech in Computer Systems. She earned a MS in Integrated Digital Media at Polytechnic University and a PhD in Educational Communication and Technology at New York University. Her research focuses on interdisciplinary studies. Her first book is entitled Cases on Interdisciplinary Research Trends in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics: Studies on Urban Classrooms (Information Science Reference, 2013). Her two forthcoming books are entitled Interdisciplinary Pedagogy for STEM: A Collaborative Case Study (Palgrave Macmillan) and Technology, Theory, and Practice in Interdisciplinary STEM Programs: Connecting STEM and Non-STEM Approaches (Palgrave Macmillan).

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A typical college curriculum does not make it easy for students to establish connections between required general education courses and courses in their majors. Intentional linking of courses from different disciplines using interdisciplinary pedagogical strategies allows students to make those connections while developing the interdisciplinary skills which will benefit their college and post-college careers.

In addition to communication, critical thinking and reasoning, and collaborative skills, it has been recently argued that computational thinking (i.e., the application of computing concepts and methods to solve problems) should also be a part of a twenty-first century liberal education for a broad range of college students, including those not majoring in computing. Computational thinking concepts and skills can help students frame problems in a variety of fields and disciplines (not just STEM disciplines) using novel strategies, and, in so doing, to become better problem solvers in their professions.

At our institution, many students not majoring in computing (or a STEM discipline) take a first-year problem-solving with computer programming course (PS), which is designed for Computer Science majors, to satisfy the computer literacy/fluency requirement in their degree or to learn computational thinking concepts and skills. However, since PS is a gateway course for Computer Science majors, it is even more challenging for non-majors, resulting in high non-passing and withdrawal rates. To integrate computational thinking in required liberal arts courses, we created a general education interdisciplinary course, Programming Narratives: Computer Animated Storytelling, aimed at non-computer majors, which emphasizes creative writing and computational thinking. In this interdisciplinary course, students learn the structure of narrative, concepts of problem solving, and the logic of computer programming languages as they develop a narrative-driven video game prototype. This process helps students achieve the college-wide learning goal of making meaningful and multiple connections among the liberal arts majors, as well as between the liberal arts and the areas of study leading to a major or profession.

Our findings suggest that the learning objectives and the pedagogical approaches used in the course are adequate for a broad range of non-computer majors. Performance on writing and computing assessments as well as final grades (75% of students obtained a grade of C or better) indicated that a vast majority of students successfully achieved the learning objectives. These results were consistent with student perceptions as reflected in an end-of-course survey. There is also evidence that students satisfactorily integrated creative writing and computer programming to develop their video game prototypes, making in-depth interdisciplinary connections along the way. We believe that this intentional emphasis on connections between disciplines develops the interdisciplinary skills and perspectives which are important for graduation, and it lays the groundwork for interdisciplinary thinking in the workplace.

Cabo, C., & Lansiquot, R. D. (2016, June), Integrating Creative Writing and Computational Thinking to Develop Interdisciplinary Connections Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25795

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