This collaborative project between Tufts University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is researching and developing a new version of the Scratch programming language to be called ScratchJr, designed specifically for early childhood education (K-2). The current version of Scratch, which is widely implemented, is intended for ages 8-16 and is not developmentally appropriate for young children. This work will provide research-based evidence regarding young children's abilities to use an object-oriented programming language and to study the impact this has on the children's learning of scientific concepts and procedures. The team will develop ScratchJr in an iterative cycle, testing it in both in the Devtech lab at Tufts and the Eliot Pearson lab school and with a wider network of early childhood partners. At the end of the three-year project, ScratchJr will have been tested with approximately 350 students in K-2, 40 parents, and 58 early childhood educators. ScratchJr will have three components: 1) a developmentally appropriate interface, with both touch screen and keyboard/mouse options; 2) an embedded library of curricular modules with STEM content to meet federal and state mandates in early childhood education; and 3) an on-line resource and community for early childhood educators and parents. The research questions focus on whether ScratchJr can help these young children learn foundational knowledge structures such as sequencing, causality, classification, composition, symbols, patterns, estimation, and prediction; specific content knowledge; and problem solving skills. This interdisciplinary proposal makes contributions to the fields of learning technologies, early childhood education and human computer interaction. ScratchJr has the potential for broad implementation in both formal and informal settings.
The ScratchEd project, led by faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and professionals at the Education Development Center, is designing, developing, and studying an innovative model for professional development (PD) of teachers who use the Scratch computer programming environment to help their students learn computational thinking. The fundamental hypothesis of the project is that engagement in workshops and on-line activities of the ScratchEd professional development community will enhance teacher knowledge about computational thinking, their practice of design-based instruction, and their students' learning of key computational thinking concepts and habits of mind. The effectiveness of the ScratchEd project is being evaluated by research addressing four specific questions: (1) What are the levels of teacher participation in the various ScratchEd PD offerings and what do teachers think of these experiences? (2) Do teachers who participate in ScratchEd PD activities change their use of Scratch in classroom instruction to create design-based learning opportunities? (3) Do the students of teachers who participate in the ScratchEd PD activities show evidence of developing an understanding of computational thinking concepts and processes? (4) When the research instruments developed for the evaluation are made available for teachers in the Scratch community to use for self-evaluation, how do teachers make use of them? Because both computational thinking and design-based instruction are complex activities, the project research is using a combination of survey, interview, and artifact analysis methods to answer the questions. The ScratchEd professional development and research work will provide important insight into the challenge of helping teachers create productive learning environments for development of computational thinking. Those efforts will also yield a set of evaluation tools that can be integrated into the ScratchEd resources and used by others to study development of computational thinking and design-based instruction.
This project's aim is to understand collaboration, cooperation, and learning in the context of a large, distributed virtual organization consisting of children and teachers building web-based simulations and animations using the Scratch software. The PIs will study the nature and patterns of cooperation in the Scratch decentralized learning environment, establish principles to guide the development of systems that foster cooperative attitudes and behaviors, and develop strategies to cultivate computational-thinking capacities that are important for productive cooperation and problem-solving in virtual organizations. The Scratch community consists of over 400,000 registered members discussing, remixing, and reusing more than a million projects. The project is a collaborative project with researchers from MIT, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania drawn from computer science, psychology, child development, education, organizational science, and economics. Using a novel combination of experimental and ethnographic methods, the research will provide insights into how young people cooperate in virtual organizations, their attitudes and motivations related to cooperation, and their development of computational-thinking skills and capacities necessary for productive cooperation and creative learning. The researchers expect that the findings will contribute to the design and understanding of more effective virtual organizations, particularly in the areas of learning, education, and cooperative creation. The methods used include observational studies, design interventions, and field experiments. The test bed will be the Scratch community and the evaluations will be done by mining the online record of cooperation in the construction of new simulations and animations. The outcomes of the project will include an improved Scratch environment, design principles for the construction of distributed virtual organizations that encourage cooperation and co-construction of knowledge and artifacts, and new methods of teaching computational thinking in an engaging environment. The Scratch community of 400,000 members will be part of this work. This project is potentially transformative because of the engaging nature of this particular application, because of its applicability to similar virtual communities, and because of its promise to reach a diverse community of learners.
Investigators from the MIT Media Lab will develop and study a new generation of the Scratch programming platform, designed to help young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively -- essential skills for success in the 21st century. With Scratch, young people (ages 8 and up) can program their own interactive stories, games, animations, and simulations, then share their creations with others online. Young people around the world have already shared more than 1 million projects on the Scratch community website (http://scratch.mit.edu). The new generation, called Scratch 2.0, will be fully integrated into the Internet, so that young people can more seamlessly share and collaborate on projects, access online data, and program interactions with social media. The research is divided into two strands: (1) Technological infrastructure for creative collaboration. With Scratch 2.0, people will be able to design and program new types of web-based interactions and services. For example, they will be able to program interactions with social-media websites (such as Facebook), create visualizations with online data, and program their own collaborative applications. (2) Design experiments for creative collaboration. As the team develops Scratch 2.0, they will run online experiments to study how their design decisions influence the ways in which people collaborate on creative projects, as well as their attitudes towards collaboration. This work builds on a previous NSF grant (ITR-0325828) that supported the development of Scratch. Since its public launch in 2007, Scratch has become a vibrant online community, in which young people program and share interactive stories, games, animations, and simulations - and, in the process, learn important computational concepts and strategies for designing, problem solving, and collaborating. Each day, members of the Scratch community upload nearly 1500 new Scratch projects to the website - on average, a new project almost every minute. In developing Scratch 2.0, the team will focus on two questions from the NSF Program Solicitation: (1) Will the research lead to the development of new technologies to support human creativity? (2) Will the research lead to innovative educational approaches in computer science, science, or engineering that reward creativity?
Intellectual Merit: The intellectual merit of the project is based on its study of how new technologies can foster creativity and collaboration. The investigators will conduct design experiments to examine how new features of Scratch 2.0 engage young people in new forms of creative expression, collaboration, learning, and metadesign. Young people are already interacting with many cloud-based services (such as YouTube and Facebook). But Scratch 2.0 is fundamentally different in that it aims to engage people in programming their own projects and activities in the cloud. With Scratch 2.0, young people won't just interact with the cloud, they will create in the cloud. The goal is to democratize the development of cloud-based activities, so that everyone can become an active contributor to the cloud, not just a consumer of cloud-based services. This development and study of Scratch 2.0 will lead to new insights into strategies for engaging young people in activities that cultivate collaboration and creativity. Broader Impacts: The broader impact of the project is based on its ability to broaden participation in programming and computer science. The current version of Scratch has already helped attract a broader diversity of students to computer science compared to other programming platforms. The investigators expect that the collaboration and social-media features of Scratch 2.0 will resonate with the interests of today's youth and further broaden participation. Integration of Scratch into the introductory computer science course at Harvard led to a sharp reduction in the number of students dropping the course, and an increase in the retention of female students. There have been similar results in pre-college courses. The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) calls Scratch a promising practice for increasing gender diversity in IT.
Although studies in a variety of settings suggest that participant reactions to the research context can threaten the validity and generalizability of study findings, there have been almost no investigations of participant reactivity in museums. In this experimental study, the authors compared the behaviors and learning outcomes of visitors at two versions of an interactive mathematics exhibit who had either been actively recruited by a data collector or passively recruited using posted signage. They assessed the amount of time visitors spent at the exhibit, the number of mathematical exhibit
resourceresearchProfessional Development, Conferences, and Networks
Successful scientists must be effective communicators within their professions. Without those skills, they could not write papers and funding proposals, give talks and field questions, or teach classes and mentor students. However, communicating with audiences outside their profession - people who may not share scientists' interests, technical background, cultural assumptions, and modes of expression - presents different challenges and requires additional skills. Communication about science in political or social settings differs from discourse within a scientific discipline. Not only are
resourceresearchProfessional Development, Conferences, and Networks
This workshop convened a group of thought leaders from across the nation, sectors, and academic disciplines on June 3, 2015 at the National Science Foundation for one day of brainstorming and prioritizing of ideas, strategies (such as collective impact), and actions that could be aggressively pursued by the NSF Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners that have been Underrepresented for Diversity in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) initiative.
Intellectual Merit: The Science Museum of Minnesota and Purdue University's Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning are conducting a study within out-of-school contexts that will explore gender differences in the development of engineering interest and understanding in children between the ages of 4 and 11. During the study, the researchers will closely examine three specific informal environments: a pre-school program where parents and children can engage with engineering focused activity, a family-oriented engineering event for elementary students and their parents, and an engineering exhibit within a science museum. These settings, each featuring a high level of parent-child interaction, have been intentionally chosen due to an emerging trend in engineering education research that identifies the parent as playing a crucial role in girls' decisions regarding engineering careers. The project will examine the ways in which engineering practices (such as the iterative design, build, and test cycle) impact the development of interest and understanding. The study focuses on studying children during the critical years before middle school, when girls have been shown to have significantly lower levels of interest in engineering than boys. Broader Impacts: Investigating the processes by which girls develop early interest and understanding in engineering is essential to addressing the persistent underrepresentation of women in engineering fields. Informal learning experiences, such as interactions in the home, visits to museums, and other everyday encounters, represent a rich array of settings for the development of engineering interest that have been minimally researched. The project will share results from the study through traditional academic channels, and also through parent and practitioner workshops for informal science educators that disseminate useful practices and techniques for engaging girls in engineering at a young age. In addition, the partnership between the Science Museum of Minnesota and Purdue University creates a strong foundation for subsequent collaborative projects focused on researching informal engineering education. The project has the potential to significantly impact the ways in which girls begin to cultivate a lifelong interest in engineering, which may ultimately encourage more women to pursue engineering careers in the future.
This project develops an interdisciplinary and transformative in- and out of-school science education and technology program that engages high school aged youth and their teachers in 1) the production of food using hydroponics, and 2) the use of green energy technologies (solar, and wind) to power hydroponic systems. This distinctive program integrates food production, a novel model of parental outreach, a focus on green career development, and an authentic reason (growing their own produce for selling at a market) for learning how and why to use alternative energy technologies. The project creates an approach to sustainability in which students not only give back to their community, but are in a position to provide a continuous revenue stream to the school in order to operate their indoor urban garden indefinitely. The partnership with the Boston Youth Environmental Network provides youth opportunities for summer internships with green energy companies. The project builds upon a learning progressions model in which youth gradually learn about complex scientific systems and economic principles throughout their years in the program. Rather than a onetime experience, youth are engaged in a long-term experience building their knowledge and skills regarding science, economics, and college preparedness. This project has the potential to impact thousands of students informally and over 2000 students (in classrooms) directly with a minimum of 60 students receiving focused and in depth learning experiences during the summer and on weekends during the school year. With the passage of laws encouraging local schools to partner with local farms, the need for locally grown produce will increase; in that context, the program brings the farm to the school in a way that allows food to be grown year round. Thus, a model is developed that any school or informal learning center could adopt to grow their own food while simultaneously creating a living and learning laboratory for youth in their own program.