NAU and FUSD Experts Collaborate to Develop Innovative Computer Science Curriculum for Native American Elementary School Students – The NAU Review

Native Americans are one of the least represented populations in the field of computing. Additionally, Native American participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM fields) at the college level continues to be very limited, resulting in a fraction of Native Americans earning a bachelor’s degree in STEM and in computer science. Educational researchers have found that a lack of rigorous preparation in mathematics and computational thinking, starting in elementary and secondary school, is a major factor in this under-representation.

assistant professor Morgan Vigil Hayes from NAU’s School of Computing, Computing, and Cybersystems has received $275,944 from the National Science Foundation for a two-year project titled “Towards Culturally Responsive, Computationally Rich Problem-Based Learning for kindergarten through 5th grade students. The goal of the project is to develop solutions to this problem, starting right here in the Flagstaff community.

To address the underrepresentation of Native American students in high school and college computer science programs as well as in computer science-related careers, Vigil-Hayes and his collaborators are developing a research-practitioner partnership between computer scientists from the NAU and educators from Killip Elementary School. The goal is to design, implement, and evaluate a computer science and computational thinking program for delivery in K-5 environments with a large population of Native American students.

To do this, Vigil-Hayes will collaborate with co-principal investigator Sheryl Wells of the Flagstaff Unified School District, an experienced elementary school teacher and STEM coordinator for Killip. The team also includes Anne Hamlinresearch associate at NAU’s Center for Science Teaching and Learning and fifth-grade teachers at the school.

“Together, the team will develop, implement and evaluate a novel program that uses Internet measurement as an interdisciplinary approach to understanding different aspects of computational thinking and computer science,” said Vigil-Hayes.

One of the learning activities the team will evaluate is a scavenger hunt in which students collect and compare internet metrics from different places they encounter in their daily lives. By participating, students will learn about the technical components of computer networks, such as how data is represented and communicated from one computer to another or why networks operate differently in different places and at different times.

“Engaging in this type of problem-solving connects students to very real digital inequalities they may have encountered at home or while visiting family members living in nearby rural and tribal areas. Often students have a very real lived experience of what it means to experience poverty. (or no) internet connectivity, she said. “An important way the program seeks to elevate cultural values ​​is by emphasizing the ways in which internet connectivity can be used to support and connect communities and to demonstrate how internet measurement is an active means for students to defend their families and communities through computational thinking and data collection.

In the long term, the team hopes to provide a framework that educators beyond the Flagstaff community can use to identify culturally relevant and computationally rich issues that lend themselves to introducing young learners to computing with a hands-on approach. interdisciplinary.

The team will also make research products, including curriculum units, assessment strategies, and internet metrics collected through the program, publicly available through the project website and other public platforms. sharing computer science/computational thinking curricula.

Vigil-Hayes has a long history of working with underrepresented populations to address issues related to internet access disparities and resulting digital inequalities. This project will introduce underrepresented students to the positive social impact of computer science research. She also intends to recruit student researchers from underrepresented groups to work on the project.

Kerry Bennet | Office of the Vice President for Research

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