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Introducing 6-12 Grade Teachers and Students to Computational Thinking

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Computational/CS Initiatives

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.812.1 - 23.812.20



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Paper Authors


A. Dean Fontenot Texas Tech University

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Dr. Fontenot is the Sr. Director of the Texas Tech T-STEM which provides professional development for K-12 teachers as part of the Texas STEM (T-STEM) initiative. The Texas Tech T-STEM Center focuses on project-based learning with the integration of the engineering design process. The Center provides professional development training for T-STEM Academies, T-STEM Early College High Schools, and all Texas school districts, public and private. She collaborates with Whitacre College of Engineering Faculty as well as faculty from other colleges and universities on STEM related grants, activities, and endeavors. Dr. Fontenot teachers Professional Communications for Engineers: practical applications to written, oral, and Internet communication as well as an introduction to engineering ethics and service learning. She sits on numerous councils and boards, including the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering Board, Texas Tech Teacher Education Council, the Pre College Engineering Council, and the Service Learning Faculty Advisory Council. She publishes in engineering related journals and presents at STEM conferences like ASEE, STEM Best Practices, and Frontiers in Education.

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Richard A Burgess Texas Tech University

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Richard Burgess currently works as the Associate Director of the Murdough Center for Engineering Professionalism (MCEP) and National Institute for Engineering Ethics (NIEE) at Texas Tech University. He oversees the day to day operations of the Center’s distance learning courses for both engineering students and practicing engineers. Additionally, he co-teaches an on-campus ethics course for undergraduate students. Burgess provides guest lectures on ethics throughout the Whitacre College of Engineering.
Burgess has also begun working closely with Texas Tech’s T-STEM Center to incorporate ethics into K-12 STEM education. The push to increase the number of students pursuing STEM careers needs to be accompanied by a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of technology. Ethics is a key part of this complexity and the next generation of STEM professionals will need the skills to effectively engage the ethical challenges they will face. Burgess is a regular presenter on incorporating ethics in a K-12 setting.
A theme throughout these roles is the importance of teaching ethics and promoting ethical reflection in a way that is both accessible and substantive. This is a challenge that Burgess is keenly interested in. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Philosophy.

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Vinitha Hannah Subburaj M.S


Debra J Nash Texas Tech University T-STEM Center

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Debra Nash is the Associate Director of the Texas Tech University T-STEM Center. She works with middle and high school teachers and administrators to help them implement science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum. Nash also helps them learn to use project-based learning. In addition, she works with the Texas STEM Coalition, and with the Texas Tech T-STEM Center’s social media sites.

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Introducing 6-12 Grade Teachers and Students to Computational ThinkingAbstractComputing disciplines have always struggled to increase student retentions rates. Creating interestingcurriculum to attract freshmen and help them learn has always been challenging. Computationalthinking has become a key concept to motivate students with problem solving strategies and has beenused across various fields irrespective of computing majors. This paper describes the vertical integrationof middle school and high school students with undergraduate students at a state university in acomputation thinking project. The activities were inter-connected; middle school students played therole of customers/end-users developing requirements, high school students played the role of designersand undergraduate students played the role of developers actually implementing the software system.One of the main themes of this project was the importance of ethics in computational thinking. To thisend, teachers were provided with information and coaching on how to teach ethics. Students wereprovided with introductory ethics discussions and given opportunities to identify and reflect upon theethical dimensions of computational thinking in the context of several of the aforementioned activities.This paper will briefly highlight and evaluate the ethics pedagogy adopted in this project. The resultsobtained by carrying out the computational thinking activities among a diversified group of studentswith varying knowledge and expertise levels were promising. The vertical integration had challenges andresearch components tied together, which, when unveiled, will attract new students to computingdisciplines.Keyword: retention rate, computational thinking, vertical integration, ethics

Fontenot, A. D., & Burgess, R. A., & Subburaj, V. H., & Nash, D. J. (2013, June), Introducing 6-12 Grade Teachers and Students to Computational Thinking Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19826

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