Phase II


Professional Context     Alcott College Preparatory High School is a non-selective enrollment, small (about 300 total students) high school in District 299, Chicago Public Schools, located in the Roscoe Village neighborhood of Chicago. Student demographics are roughly 40% African American, 45% Hispanic, and 15% Caucasian and other. The course chosen for this IMAGINE-IT is Exploring Computer Science.  The curriculum, a collaboration between Code.Org and UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, is a friendly introduction to the entire field of computer science and is intentionally created to be an inviting experience for females, minorities, and really any student who has felt that computer science was not for them. The units in the ECS course are: (1) Human computer interaction (2) Problem Solving (3) Web Design (4) Programming (5) Data Analysis (6) Robotics. Themes are: (1) the creative nature of computing  (2) technology as a tool for solving problems and (3) the relevance of computer science and its impact on society. Inquiry, equity, and computer science content are woven through all lessons; emphasis is on student self-discovery, collaboration, communication, and access for all.

Big Idea     The push toward standardization and high stakes testing has created school systems that are in many ways anti-creative. Yet there is broad recognition that creative thinking needs to be supported and fostered in our schools, and it will have a central role in the 21st century skill set required for our students. While the ECS curriculum has a stated goal of teaching the creative nature of computing, I feel that making creative and innovative problem solving in computer science an explicit goal for my students will not just increase students’ creative capacity, but increase students’ sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose, and therefore increase student motivation and ownership.

Understandings     My goal for my ImagineIT project is to make creative thinking an explicit goal for students and to use the NEW framework for evaluating creativity (Novel, Effective, Whole) both in lesson planning and when giving assessments. These assessments will test computer science content standards and also the quality of students’ creative thought, challenging students to explore content in a deeper way. Instead of writing pseudo-code to demonstrate understanding of a bubble-sort, for example, imagine students working in a collaborative group to create a video of a dance in which students move their bodies to demonstrate the bubble-sort algorithm.

Plan     Each unit will have a guiding question that overarches all work in that unit. Each time we return to the guiding question, the concept of creative thinking and where we are seeing it and doing it will also be raised. Technology will be utilized in the service of learning goals. Google Classroom, WordPress ?, Tumblr, maybe Twitter, Smartphone video, Padlet, and “low-tech” materials like playdough, pipe-cleaners, and cardboard will be use to make, share, and evaluate projects not just with classmates,but with our entire school community. An end-product of the web-design unit will be for students to create an ongoing online portfolio of their work for the class which they can use to show both their projects, their revisions, and even include comments about their creative processes.

Questions     The web design unit is not until unit 3. Do you have suggestions on good ways to keep track of work until then. Since this is a class about coding, students write their webpages from scratch with CSS and HTML 5, at the end they use some pre-built templates. I want to bring in a tool like WordPress — and I don’t think anything is wrong with that — the support for this section in terms of technical content are not that great. And students will need to use some of their coding skills to get the wordpress to do what they want. Or do you think it is a good idea to have some wordpress days mixed into the 1st unit, so students will already be working on a place to put all their stuff. Then when we get to the web unit, they will just be gaining a deeper understanding. Finally, I was thinking of using wordpress and a class website rather than google docs as the main driver for the class (1) for me to practice (2) for the students to see the immediate utility of what they are doing (3) for more control over how content is presented/shared. Also I have a video on how to do this that I am thinking of going through. What are some good technologies that allow voice over commentary?