I’m proud to share a newly-released article in the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, written with MSU faculty Aman Yadav and Christina Schwarz, entitled “Computational thinking, mathematics, and science: Elementary school teachers’ perspectives on integration.” This is among the first journal articles we have out based on the CT4EDU project, which has been the focus of my research assistantship for two years. I’m excited that our findings are starting to roll out.
This piece focuses on what we learned from interviews we conducted with our partner teachers before the project began in earnest. The interviews focused on how teachers connected computational thinking to their existing teaching practices in mathematics and science. Our goal was to use the information we gained in the interviews to help us design professional development experiences that met teachers where they were.
In my view, one of the main contributions of this piece is that we worked hard at pushing against the view that the goal of educative experiences for teachers (and for students, for that matter) should be to identify and correct or eradicate misconceptions. Rather than focusing on identifying what teachers said that was contrary to commonly accepted views of computational thinking, we focused on the positive connections between CT and teachers’ existing practices. We viewed teachers’ current conceptions about CT as resources to build upon instead of mistakes to correct. Yes, the teachers tended to talk about algorithmic thinking as following predetermined steps. But moving from following algorithms to developing algorithms is a smaller step than moving from no knowledge of algorithms to developing algorithms. Similarly, they tended to talk about automation in terms of students automatically answering basic math facts, which is different than thinking about using a computer to automate something. Yet, they talked about students’ automaticity as lessening the cognitive burden for kids — and automation on computers can do that, too.
This paper took several rounds of review to get accepted, but that turned out to be a positive thing because it allowed us to talk specifically, in the discussion, about ways we built upon teachers’ thinking in our professional development sessions.
On a more personal note, I’ll also mention that I’m particularly proud of this piece because conducting the interviews was my first official foray into formal data collection in graduate school. So it’s nice to see that effort come to fruition both in the PD sessions and in publication. I hope others find the paper useful.