NSF Project Abstract:

Computing and computational thinking are integral to the practice of modern science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); therefore, computational skills are essential for students' preparation to participate in computationally intensive STEM fields and the emerging workforce. In the U.S., Latinx and Spanish-speaking students are underrepresented in computing and STEM fields, therefore, expanding opportunities for students to learn computing is an urgent need. The Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Puerto Rico will collaborate on research and development that will provide Latinx and Spanish-speaking students in the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico, opportunities to learn computer science and its application in solving problems in STEM fields. The project will use a creative approach to teaching computer science by engaging Latinx and Spanish-speaking students in learning how to code and reprogram in a music platform, EarSketch. The culturally relevant educational practices of the curriculum, as a model for informal STEM learning, will enable students to code and reprogram music, including sounds relevant to their own cultures, community narratives, and cultural storytelling. Research results will inform education programs seeking to design culturally authentic activities for diverse populations as a means to broaden participation in integrated STEM and Computing. This Broad Implementation project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments, including multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.

As part of the technical innovation of the project, the EarSketch platform will be redesigned for cultural and linguistic authenticity that will include incorporating traditional and contemporary Latin sound beats and musical samples into the software so that students can remix music and learn coding using sounds relevant to their cultures; and developing a Spanish version of the platform, with a toggle to easily switch between English and Spanish.

Investigators will also develop an informal STEM curriculum using best practices from Culturally Relevant Education and Cultural Sustaining Pedagogy that provides authentic, culturally, and linguistically rich opportunities for student engagement by establishing direct and constant connections to their cultures, communities and lived experiences. The curriculum design and implementation team will work collaboratively with members of Latinx diverse cultural groups to ensure semantic and content equivalency across diverse students and sites. Validating the intervention across students and sites is one of the goals of the project.

The model curriculum for informal learning will be implemented as a semester-long afterschool program in six schools per year in Atlanta and Puerto Rico, and as a one-week summer camp twice in the summer. The curricular materials will be broadly disseminated, and training will be provided to informal learning practitioners as part of the project. The research will explore differences in musical and computational engagement; the interconnection between music and the computational aspects of EarSketch; and the degree to which the program promotes cultural engagement among culturally and linguistically heterogeneous groups of Latinx students in Atlanta, and more culturally and linguistically homogenous Latinx students in Puerto Rico.

Investigators will use a mixed-method design to collect data from surveys, interviews, focus groups, and computational/musical artifacts created by students. The study will employ multiple case study methodology to analyze and compare the implementation of the critical components of the program in Puerto Rico and Atlanta, and to explore differences in students' musical and computational thinking practices in the two regions. Results from the research will determine the impact of the curriculum on computer science skills and associated computational practices; and contribute to the understanding of the role of cultural engagement on educational outcomes such as sense of belonging, persistence, computational thinking, programming content knowledge, and computer science identity. Results will inform education programs designing culturally authentic and engaging programming for diverse populations of Latinx youths.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

two remezcla students working