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Introduction to Computational Thinking: a new high school curriculum using CodeWorld

by   Fernando Alegre, et al.

The Louisiana Department of Education partnered with the Gordon A. Cain Center at LSU to pilot a Computing High School Graduation Pathway. The first course in the pathway, Introduction to Computational Thinking (ICT), is designed to teach programming and reinforce mathematical practice skills of nine-grade students, with an emphasis on promoting higher order thinking. In 2017-18, about 200 students and five teachers participated in the pilot, in 2018-2019 the participation increased to 400 students, and in the current 2019-2020 year about 800 students in 11 schools are involved. Professional development starts with a five-week intensive summer institute, which is complemented with follow-up Saturday sessions and coaching support during the academic year. After describing the course content and briefly the teacher training, we discuss the data we have collected in the last two years. The overall student reception of the course has been positive, but the course was categorized by most students as hard. However, the Computing Attitude Survey analysis indicates that the difficulty of the course did not demotivate the students. The pre-post test content assessments show that students learned not only the language, but also general principles of programming, logic and modeling, as well as use of variables, expressions and functions. Lessons learned during the pilot phase motivated changes, such as emphasizing during PD the need to provide timely feedback to students, provide detailed rubrics for the projects and reorganize the lessons to increase the initial engagement with the material. After two years of running pilots, the course is becoming student-centered, where most of the code and image samples provided in the lessons are based on code created by previous students.


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