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ERIC Number: ED556295
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 187
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3035-6638-7
ISSN: N/A
Injecting Computational Thinking into Computing Activities for Middle School Girls
Webb, Heidi Cornelia
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University
Advances in technology have caused high schools to update their computer science curricula; however there has been little analogous attention to technology-related education in middle schools. With respect to computer-related knowledge and skills, middle school students are at a critical phase in life, exploring individualized education options and starting to wonder "How will computing technology fit into my future?" My research investigates how the merging of computing skills and computational thinking concepts can be integrated into computer learning activities for outreach enrichment programs to provide middle school girls a positive learning experience. The public school classroom of today provides many opportunities for students to use technology, but it is important to recognize that "using" does not equate to "understanding." A decade ago it was important to ensure that all students acquired basic computer literacy and fluency with general tools like word processors and spreadsheets. However, in today's world students need a broader set of computer-related concepts and skills to prepare them for their future education and career activities. For example, the ability to access, manipulate and make sense of large amounts of structured data stored in a database can be important in careers as diverse as health care, graphic design, and environment science. With respect to gender and computer-based skills, research shows that both girls and boys express an interest in many different forms of technology throughout their childhood, but they tend to be attracted to different activities. For example, girls have been shown to enjoy creating stories where they can personalize the environment and work on role-playing scenarios (Kelleher and Pausch 2007). Boys and girls both enjoy creating games, but with boys their role-play tends to involve evil fantasy characters and situations where competition to race or be better than the next person is important (Kafai 1996). Girls need an engaging learning environment which supports their creativity and interests. When girls are able to work collaboratively on problems which are interesting to them and fun, their confidence increases and they also realize there are other girls who share their same interests in technology activities (Hughes 2005). Recently, high schools in the United States have shifted their computer-based courses from traditional programming courses to a curriculum inspired by foundational computational concepts (Goode and Margolis 2011). For example, instead of learning to sort bowling scores, students learn about computing and its relationship to the world around them; they do this by working on projects that produce computational artifacts. Programming is still a part of the coursework, but instead of being a focus for skill development, programming is presented as a tool that aids in discovery of new ideas and concepts (CollegeBoard 2010) . More specifically, "computational thinking" (CT) skills and techniques have gained attention in K-12 education; CT includes problem solving, pattern recognition and algorithm design (Wing 2006). Thus far however, middle school education that includes CT concepts is not common; by the time students reach high school their beliefs about how computing fits into the world they live in may already have formed in an inaccurate fashion. My dissertation examines the potential of teaching CT concepts to girls of middle school age. I chose to focus on girls because it is at this age that girls turn away from computing education, eventually contributing to a significant gender imbalance in the computing workforce. I explored a particular learning paradigm--scaffolded examples--as a technique for engaging young women from the very beginning in realistic programming activities. I discuss the result of this approach, including its impacts on the girls' CT self-efficacy and career attitudes. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page: http://www.proquest.com/en-US/products/dissertations/individuals.shtml.]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site: http://www.proquest.com/en-US/products/dissertations/individuals.shtml
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Middle Schools; Secondary Education; Junior High Schools; High Schools; Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A