This project is developing and testing a set of 12 curriculum modules designed to engage high school students and their teachers in the process of applying computational concepts and methods to problem solving in a variety of scientific contexts. The project perspective is that computational thinking can be usefully thought of as a specialized form of mathematical modeling.
The Value of Computational Thinking (VCT) project combines the talents and resources of STEM professionals at the Rutgers University DIMACS Center, the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP), Colorado State University, Hobart and William Smith College, the Computer Science Teachers Association, and five partner school districts to develop and test a set of 12 curriculum modules designed to engage high school students and their teachers in the process of applying computational concepts and methods to problem solving in a variety of scientific contexts. The project perspective is that computational thinking can be usefully thought of as a specialized form of mathematical modeling. The product of computational thinking in a particular domain is a model of a situation, a structuring and representation of the situation, that enables computations to be performed to answer questions, solve problems, control processes, predict consequences, or enhance understanding.
Since computational thinking is a relatively new construct in STEM and STEM education, there are few available curriculum materials to support instruction intended to develop the understanding, habits of mind, and specific techniques that are involved. The fundamental goal of the VCT project is to answer an engineering research question: "What kinds of instructional materials and learning experiences will develop effective computational thinking skills and attitudes?" The VCT project is applying a design research process involving iterative phases of development, pilot testing, and revision to produce prototype instructional materials that will be useful as stand-alone curriculum modules or when collected into different packages to support full high school courses. Project field test evaluation will provide preliminary evidence about the efficacy of the materials in developing desired student learning.
Proponents of computational thinking in STEM and STEM education have argued that it offers a powerful general approach to problem solving in discipline-specific and inter-disciplinary settings. They also argue that, when properly taught, it can provide an effective introduction and attraction to careers in computer science and other computing-intensive fields. Thus the VCT project has a long-term goal of broadening participation in computer science and related technology fields. Materials are being designed with special features to enhance their effectiveness in reaching this objective.