Designing and Researching a Program for Preparing Teachers as Facilitators of Computational Making Activities in Classroom and Informal Learning Environments

This project will study a model of pre-service teacher preparation that is designed to to increase teachers' and students' skills and confidence with computational thinking and develop teachers as designers of inclusive learning environments to promote computational thinking. The project will engage elementary (grades K-5) pre-service teachers (who are concurrently involved in school-based teacher preparation programs) as facilitators in an existing family technology program called Family Creative Learning (FCL).

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This project will study a model of pre-service teacher preparation that is designed to to increase teachers' and students' skills and confidence with computational thinking and develop teachers as designers of inclusive learning environments to promote computational thinking. The project will build teachers' recognition of diverse family learning and cultural resources. The project will engage elementary (grades K-5) pre-service teachers (who are concurrently involved in school-based teacher preparation programs) as facilitators in an existing family technology program called Family Creative Learning (FCL). This program is embedded in the Denver Public Library (DPL) network of makerspaces. The project will study pre-service elementary teachers' computational thinking and facilitation practices and its impact on children's learning across informal and classroom settings where pre-service teachers concurrently conduct their field work. The project team will develop research-based resources, tools, and activities that help to cultivate these key facilitation practices. These practices will include how to develop trust and relationships, to deepen participation and interests, and to ask questions that encourage inquiry. These resources will be useful for teacher preparation and for staff at informal learning organizations with making and tinkering spaces promoting STEM learning, specifically computational thinking. The project will disseminate resources through current relationships with PBS Kids and through networks of educators such as MakerEd, Connected Learning Alliance, and technology education networks.

The project will research: (1) what features of pre-service teachers' experiences preparing for and facilitating the FCL program at DPL supports or limits their development of facilitation practices and computational thinking; (2) study how teachers and participants learn and develop in their joint engagement with computational thinking through making; (3) examine how teachers carry over and influence student's learning in their fieldwork within classroom settings. The project team will use ethnographic methods to develop comparative case studies of pre-service teachers' development and the impact on student learning across formal and informal learning settings. These methods include observation, interviews, and artifact collection to closely document what supports new facilitators to engage in facilitation practices of computational thinking activities and its consequential impact on student and family learning. An external advisory board with relevant expertise will provide iterative feedback and assess the project's progress in meeting its goals. The project results have implications for teaching practices across formal and informal learning spaces that aim to engage diverse participants in interest-driven, peer-supported, and project-based STEM learning experiences.

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