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Teaching Teachers to Think Like Engineers Using NetLogo

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-college: Blending Computers, Computational Thinking, and Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Andrea Carneal Burrows Borowczak University of Wyoming Orcid 16x16

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Andrea C. Burrows is an assistant professor in the Department of Secondary Education at the University of Wyoming, where she teaches courses in science methods and pedagogy. Dr. Burrows taught at Northern Kentucky University for five years. In 2010, she was hired as an external evaluator to conduct research on community/university partnership relations at the University of Cincinnati. She has received several awards including the: 1) Lillian C. Sherman Award for outstanding academic achievement (2011); 2) UW College of Education outstanding research award (2015); and 3) UW College of Education outstanding service award (2016). Her research interests include partnerships with in pre-service and in-service teachers in STEM Education with a focus on engineering education applications. An active member of AERA, ASEE, ASTE, NARST, and NSTA, Dr. Burrows has presented at over 50 conferences, published in ranked journals (e.g. Journal of Chemical Education), reviewed conference proposals (e.g ASEE, AERA), and co-edits the CITE-Science Journal. Additionally, she taught high school and middle school science for twelve years in Florida and Virginia and was the learning resource specialist for the technology demonstration school in Florida.

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Mike Borowczak University of Wyoming Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Mike Borowczak is the Director of the Cybersecurity Education and Research center (CEDAR) and a faculty member of the Computer Science department at the University of Wyoming. He earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering (2013) as well as his BS in Computer Engineering (2007) from the University of Cincinnati. His research focused on detection and prevention of information leakage from hardware side channels. Mike’s current research interests include developing homomorphic encryption, compression and parallelized algorithms for streaming and pseudo-streaming data sources while developing authentic cyber learning experiences for K-20 students.
Mike also has over a decade of industry and research experience – mostly revolving around the semiconductor and bioinformatics industries – with specific experience at Texas Instruments, Intel, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. In addition to his industry experience, Mike spent two years, while completing his Ph.D., as a National Science Foundation GK-12 fellow – teaching and bringing real-world STEM applications in two urban high schools. Since then, he has worked with university faculty to promote and extend K20 STEM outreach in Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Wyoming.
He has authored peer-reviewed articles and papers, presented at national and international conferences, and taught undergraduate/graduate courses in Computer Security, Data Mining, VLSI and pedagogy in STEM. Mike is an executive committee member of the IEEE Computer Society’s Technical Committee on VLSI, as well as an active member of the IEEE, ASEE, ASTE, among others.

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This paper provides a view of 22 K12 teachers' expectations versus the actuality of immersion into an engineering education computer science (CS) project during a Math/Science Partnership (MSP) grant called RAMPED, which was a 16-day, yearlong MSP grant. The CS session using NetLogo was selected for focused examination. NetLogo is a multi-agent simulator that uses the educational Logo programming language and was designed for classroom modeling experience. The research question for the study was, "How do K12 teachers view their skill set of using computer science in their classrooms before, during, and after professional development (PD)?" RAMPED participants spent a total of three days immersed in using NetLogo as a vehicle for learning fundamental computer science principles and engineering applications for K12 classrooms. The authors used a social constructivism approach and examined K12 teacher NetLogo usage in and out of the classroom. The authors also collected the data via K12 teacher surveys and informal interviews. Findings show that the teachers self-reported high expectations of their skillset as well as easy assimilation of NetLogo (but not CS) into their classroom teaching. On a scale from 0 to 5, where 0 is not at all skillful and 5 is extremely skillful, survey pretest results show over 50% at a 3, 4, or 5. Posttest survey results show over 90% at a 3, 4, or 5. After the summer session, NetLogo was useful to 95% of K12 teachers. After an academic year NetLogo follow-up session over 75% of the K12 teachers were satisfied with instruction and support. Over 85% of teachers believed that the workshop "stretched teacher thinking into their classrooms.” Teachers’ qualitative comments are included for triangulation. Conclusions include that intense K12 teacher exposure to engineering CS topics (e.g. 24 hours total of a larger PD) is not enough to truly enact meaningful classroom changes (although the teachers did create new activities). Additional support for meaningful classroom change and K12 teacher confidence is necessary. In general, K12 teachers need (and asked for) support in the form of ready to use lessons and documents (e.g. additional activities) along with leader presence to support them in trying their self-created plans situated within the NGSS standards. The actuality of working with NetLogo (and changing functions and code) to present STEM concepts/topics was both invigorating (it was new for the K12 teachers) and frustrating (it was often hard for the K12 teachers to see connections to content) as teachers moved through expectations and actuality. Implications include planning for structured K12 teacher academic year support in implementing CS topics for sustainability in classrooms.

Borowczak, A. C. B., & Borowczak, M. (2017, June), Teaching Teachers to Think Like Engineers Using NetLogo Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28926

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