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Tech Curriculum Profile

A Study of a Technology-enhanced Curriculum Integrating Science, Engineering Design, and Computational Modeling to Achieve Synergistic Learning with Elementary Students


As computing has become integral to the practice of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the STEM+Computing program seeks to address emerging challenges in computational STEM areas through the applied integration of computational thinking and computing activities within STEM teaching and learning in early childhood education through high school (preK-12). This project will develop a 6-week unit for upper elementary students that integrates science, engineering, and computational thinking concepts and practices. The classroom materials to be developed will blend disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering design practices, and crosscutting concepts as described by the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Expected project outcomes include: (1) A refined, technology-enhanced curriculum unit featuring innovative supportive learning technologies aligned with NGSS performance expectations integrating Earth science, engineering, and computational thinking; (2) A computational systems modeling environment where students can develop models of Earth systems phenomena to test, compare, and refine engineering solutions related to those phenomena; (3) Educative supporting resources that help upper elementary teachers implement the unit and integrate the disciplines of engineering and computational thinking into their science teaching; (4) Empirical evidence of the unit's effectiveness at promoting student proficiency with integrating science, engineering, and computational thinking; and (5) A principled design process for developing NGSS-aligned multidisciplinary curriculum materials.
This design and development project will use a principled design process based on established design approaches--Evidence Centered Design, Knowledge Integration, and Informed Engineering--to ensure that all materials are aligned to the learning goals of the project. The project team will collaborate with schools serving populations of culturally, economically, and linguistically diverse students, and the design process will incorporate a fairness/equity design framework, helping to ensure that assessments, curriculum materials, and technology supports are relevant, fair, and helpful to diverse student groups.  A mixed-methods design-based research approach will be used by the project to investigate the following research questions: (1) How can a technology-enhanced curriculum unit that integrates science, engineering design, and computational modeling help upper elementary students achieve synergistic learning of these disciplines along the three dimensions of the NGSS? (2) What domain-specific supports do upper elementary students need to develop computational models of Earth systems and use computational models to develop engineering solutions? (3) How can supporting resources educate elementary teachers and support their implementation of science curriculum materials integrating engineering and computational thinking? The project will conduct two types of empirical classroom studies to pursue answers to these research questions: (1) A series of design-based research studies will be conducted during year 2 of the project to address the first two research questions; and (2) A learning and implementation study will be conducted to address all three of the research questions.