SPARCS aims to help participants incorporate CS lessons into the classes they teach, and inspire their students to consider careers in computing-related industries. It is funded by the National Science foundation (NSF) Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program.
We are seeking middle school teachers (6th to 9th grade) to participate in the program which starts summer of 2018. Teachers from all disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, language arts, social studies, etc.) are welcome! Prior experience with programming is not required.
|Teacher Institute 1||June 11-15
|overview of CS and how CS fits into the participant's home discipline|
|Online course||June 18-July 13
|participants complete a self-paced introductory course to learn programming and other aspects of CS
(optional course credit is available; but regular tuition costs and fees apply)
|Teacher Institute 2||July 16-20
|meet and reflect on the lessons learned from the online course and draft sample lesson plans|
|Student Academy||July 23-July 27
|try out the lesson plans on middle school students
(participating teachers will be asked to recommend students)
* Teacher Institutes and Student Academy times are 9:00am to 5:00pm.
|monthly meetings for reflection and sharing of experiences;
meetings will be organized around themes
(e.g., useful assessment techniques, funding for resource needs, etc.)
|Student Fair||Early December
|one-day fair for students to showcase their work
(e.g., apps, study findings and observations, etc.)
Participating teachers will receive stipends totaling $3,500 for completing the summer program and related academic year activities. Meals and refreshments will be provided for all in-person meetings.
Please fill out the application form. Application deadline: April 30, 2018.
Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis starting March 1, 2018.
Teachers will participate in a summer institute, online courses in computer science, and monthly meetings during the fall. During the summer institute, teachers learn the CS approach to problem solving and work in small teams to create activities within a problem-based learning (PBL) framework, which they will implement in their classrooms during the school year. These activities will be informed by existing curricular resources, publicly available data, and advice from industry experts and project staff. The efforts of these teachers will be documented through several forms of data, including elaborate teacher portfolios, observations, interviews, and student achievement results. These data will be designed to communicate to other educators how to implement similar efforts in other schools.
The project builds on the strategic application of several lines of education research, including Problem-Based Learning and the Disciplinary Commons model. CS lessons will use a PBL approach, using problems of interest to students. This approach has been successfully applied in the context of high school CS education, as demonstrated in the RET IMPART project. The Teacher Institute is the main vehicle for training teachers in PBL. A key innovation of SPARCS is the strategic and systematic effort for creating personalized lesson plans and teaching portfolios incorporated into a Personalized Implementation Portfolio (PIP). SPARCS further explores how this portfolio-based approach can support teachers in effectively learning, implementing, and sharing new course material. Development of PIPs will follow the general framework of the Disciplinary Commons model. Initial PIPs will be created in the Teacher Institute and are expected to undergo continuous development and refinement throughout the school year through monthly dialogues and workshops.
CS careers are among the fastest growing job sectors today. The realization that there will be a million more computing-related jobs than graduates by 2020 has led to many initiatives for promoting CS education. SPARCS builds on the momentum of initiatives such as National CS Education Week and Hour of Code by giving middle school students continuing exposure to computing concepts throughout the school year in a way that authentically connects to existing age-appropriate learning objectives and students' personal interests. Lesson modules will teach students how to use computational thinking to investigate problems that matter to them. This empowers students to dive deeper into computing by providing them with strategic, stimulating, and integrated CS experiences, and sparking their curiosity in computing-enabled career trajectories. Middle school is arguably the most critical period in influencing students educational pathways and career choices. Unfortunately, current middle school curricula are desperately lacking in CS instruction and exposure.
SPARCS tackles this challenge by developing and supporting a cohort of middle school teachers trained in the basic principles and practices of computer science, and helping them to infuse computational thinking into middle schoolers' latent creativity and capacity for problem solving. The project team will achieve this goal by adopting a new teaching and learning model that consists of (1) a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach that cultivates creative, inquiry-driven thinking, and (2) a Personalized Implementation Portfolio (PIP) strategy that collaboratively enables teachers to integrate customizable CS lesson modules into their school's existing STEM curricula. The PBL lessons will center on the theme Computing Everywhere, emphasizing the pervasiveness of computing in modern society, and will draw upon computing-related problems from the teachers' areas of discipline and from business and industrial partners. Recognizing the diversity of needs and capabilities of school districts and individual teachers and students, the PIP will act as a guide to aid teachers in customizing and deploying selected course modules in their particular classroom.
This project is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number DRL-1433788.
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