Bethel Island, CA, United States
Bethel Island, CA, United States

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Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 313.98K | Year: 2014

The Central California Coast region includes four community colleges that serve large numbers of rural, Latino/a and female students. However, few of these students receive training in computer and information technology fields, despite being in close proximity to the high-technology hubs of Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

This project will build technical education pathways that motivate and prepare rural, high school students from underrepresented groups to enter and stay on two information and communications technology (ICT) pathways: Networking, and Software and Systems Development.

The project will pilot test an approach that involves building strong, sustainable partnerships and infusing ICT skills into digital media high school classes using media computation and aligning them with college classes and workforce needs. This stealth recruitment approach is in contrast to most efforts that take a marketing approach that tries to convince students of the value of ICT classes; instead it leverages students? interests in digital media and contextualizes their learning. The approach will be developed and pilot tested by two community colleges, in partnership with high school teachers, employers, and intermediary organizations.

This intervention has the potential to contribute to our understanding of how to effectively bring together high school, community college, and industry representatives to build strong, sustainable partnerships and coherent pathways into ICT, and how to infuse deep ICT learning into digital media classes. The project will also determine whether a stealth marketing approach is effective for recruiting a more diverse student population into ICT courses and preparing and motivating them to meet workforce needs.

Te work is designed to address a shortage of US workers trained for a high-technology workforce by targeting students in CTE courses that are using computers but not already considering an ICT field. Other impacts include providing training, support, and resources for high school teachers in ICT, and for college faculty in recruiting and retaining underrepresented students. If effective, the project will result in a scalable strategy to increase the number and diversity of students, including those from rural settings, that consider and pursue ICT training and jobs.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Computing Ed for 21st Century | Award Amount: 600.00K | Year: 2012

ETR Associates will design and test a near-peer strategy, called CSteach, for infusing Computer Science (CS) content and the connection between CS and the social good into K-12 technology programming curriculum. Effective strategies for engaging Latino/a students in computer science (CS) require an increased focus on the societal implications of computing. CSteach employs a multigenerational approach where trained high school students (near-peers) facilitate a weekly afterschool class where they provide instruction and role modeling to 5th grade students. The goals are to create a sustainable and scalable network that will increase the interest and capacity of Latino/a students to pursue computer science. Intended outcomes include increased knowledge and support systems of 5th grade and high school students to pursue computer science classes and careers. External evaluation will monitor project progress toward these goals and assess changes in students? and teachers? knowledge and attitudes. The project builds on the exemplary practices of the Watsonville TEC program, the Computing Alliance for Hispanic Serving Institutions, and the Global Information Internship Program at UC Santa Cruz.

CSteach will contribute to our understanding of the teaching and learning of computing K-12 students. The scalable curriculum and training materials produced as a result of this project will help leverage Latino students existing interest in computing. The program will be culturally relevant, but the advanced computing concepts and connection to the social good will be applicable to other groups.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 321.10K | Year: 2014

This project will develop advanced methods for automatically generating scenarios that are intrinsically motivating, responsive to the users behavior, and potentially beneficial in many spheres of the economy and culture. As numerous existing communication media are merging, computer-based narratives have become increasingly complex, significant, and influential. However, at present they are inflexible and ignore the characteristics and goals of the individual user. For many of our most pressing societal needs - from more effective education to addressing climatology challenges - a key component of any approach is motivation. Intrinsic motivation, which involves performing an activity because it is inherently interesting, is often associated with deep learning and creativity. This project employs an approach that combines types of reasoning drawn from computational creativity and logic programming to meet this challenge.

The research will demonstrate the first successful scenario generator, dynamically combining narrative and simulated action, and showing that generation can be guided by domain models, laying the foundation for projects to leverage generated scenarios for intrinsically motivating learning and other activities. In so doing, it will execute a novel evaluation plan that will produce a more refined understanding of the relationship between intrinsic motivation and learning, including the interrelated categories of engagement, agency, and valuation of outcomes by comparing player experience of integrated scenario systems with and without allowing the users choices to influence the challenges and narrative. It is hoped that this research will demonstrate the utility of heterogeneous architectures for enabling previously-impossible experiences for users in a wide range of interactive experiences. A specific focus is creation of a computer-based educational experience focused on meteorological shifts, made possible by this projects technical advances and informed by its findings related to user motivation and learning.

While the research community has had some success in generating both narrative and simulated action, generating both together presents novel research questions. Further, to meet social needs, this generation must be capable of being guided by pedagogical and other explicitly-represented goals. This research seeks to achieve two fundamental advances. First, the project will demonstrate a successful scenario generator, showing that generation can be guided by domain models, which will enable future projects to leverage generated scenarios for intrinsically motivating learning and other activities. Second, user studies will support the first empirically grounded understanding of the effects of narrative and action responsiveness and variation on user experience, particularly engagement, motivation, and learning. By demonstrating successful scenario generation, this project will turn attention to the scenario as a potential fundamental unit for educational software, with the potential to reach underrepresented groups and produce significant economic benefit.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: REAL | Award Amount: 296.85K | Year: 2013

In the past decade, many tools and opportunities have been developed for children and young adults to learn through designing and programming computer games. While each project has contributed its analysis of what can be learned from computer game programming, there has, as yet, been no synthesis across those projects laying out what children learn from computer game programming, the best pedagogical strategies for promoting such learning, and which tools and learning environments promote different kinds of outcomes and for whom. This project?s investigators are using a systematic meta-synthesis methodology to pull together existing research on computer game programming to create such a synthesis. Their meta-synthesis method is a seven-step process that integrates quantitative and qualitative research findings. A panel of content and methodology experts is evaluating the rigor and transparency of the findings at each step of the analysis process. In addition to the results that will be reported, this project also is contributing to the growing body of research on rigorous methodologies for conducting qualitative research syntheses.

Authoring of computer games is increasingly being used as a strategy to attract youngsters to computing and to enhance STEM learning. A systematic synthesis of what has been learned from scientific studies about effective design and use of computer game programming is needed to make what has been learned accessible and available to those who are designing tools for authoring computer games and experiences for learners and who are investigating the roles computer game authoring can play in promoting learning. This is a broad range of audiences and includes researchers, educators, and program developers.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: REAL | Award Amount: 1.06M | Year: 2013

This study aims to improve educational practices by filling critical gaps in research on the impact of relationships on mathematics achievement for Latino students. The study has two main objectives: First, the PIs will use longitudinal data and advanced statistical approaches to understand factors that influence mathematics attitudes and achievement during the transition from elementary to middle school. Second, the PIs will apply the expectancy-value model to the prediction of mathematics behavior and performance. Surveys will be collected from 300 Latino mothers, students, and their math teachers near the end of 5th grade, at the beginning and end of 6th grade, and at the beginning of 7th grade.

The intellectual merit is its potential to advance understanding of how and why interest in mathematics develops or declines over time, and how parents and teachers respond to these changes. The work will address broader impacts and benefit society by contributing to the body of literature concerning Latino students in STEM and has the potential to influence both parental behaviors and teaching practices as they relate to underrepresented populations. A graduate student will be trained to develop and apply analytic tools for interdependent data to STEM education content, helping to address the critical shortage of quantitative methodologists. The findings will be disseminated to researchers, teachers, parent and teacher educators, and parents.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: AISL | Award Amount: 296.59K | Year: 2016

This study addresses two problems: the difficulty of using informal resources to learn to write computer code for job and career advancement and the lack of women in computer science (CS). The work will make a contribution to the literature on informal learning in the workplace through an in-depth investigation into the specific field of CS. It will focus on the specific task of using informal resources to learn to code and explore ways to improve those resources so learners can more effectively teach themselves to code. As Exploratory Pathways project, it will provide the pilot of a protocol investigating the contexts of informal CS learning by career women. It is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which supports work that provides multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.

Little is understood about this phenomenon of how women in the workforce learn CS skills that enable them to rewrite their career paths. This project will take an ethnographic approach to studying the informal learning (both through online, written resources and through sharing of knowledge with others) of women involved in a grassroots, informal, volunteer group that has formed in order to help women help themselves and others learn to write computer code. The womens coding group will be made up of experienced administrators on the phenomenally successful Salesforce Customer Relationship Management software platform who are moving from end users of the software to end user programmers that extend the software by writing computer code to customize applications for particular business needs. This study aims to answer the overarching research question: In what ways are informal CS learning opportunities being used and created by adult women, what are their experiences with those opportunities, and how does this suggest ways to enhance those opportunities in the future to increase effectiveness in broadening access to and engagement in informal CS learning experiences for women? Specifically, the study will focus on personal context (e.g. what the learner brings to the learning situation), sociocultural context (e.g. interactions with others when learning to code), and physical context (e.g. the resources used and the virtual learning sessions) as well as how persistence and identity develop over time as the women are influenced by the contexts.

The research is a collaboration between CS education and learning researchers, informal practitioners, and training practitioners who create resources to help end-users to learn to code. The work will complement learning sciences research on STEM learning by providing some depth to what is known about informal learning in the STEM field of CS and by focusing on an understudied adult population. This study will make contributions to the literature on females learning STEM in informal environments by focusing on adult women in the workplace and the sociocultural barriers to their learning of CS, which is an area of sparse research.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: RES ON GENDER IN SCI & ENGINE | Award Amount: 701.77K | Year: 2014

Learning to program is the entry point in a computing pathway, but large numbers of students, particularly women and girls, drop out of introductory programming courses at the college and K-12 level. To attract and retain girls and women, there is a need for pedagogical approaches that foster persistence, creativity, fearlessness, computational ways of thinking and problem solving, or Intrepid Exploration, a term coined by this team of researchers. The proposed study focuses on pair programming in middle school--a gender-equitable practice where two people collaborate on one computer. Research suggests that pair programming benefits both women and men, and that benefits depend on partner compatibility. However, most pair-programming research has been done with university students or professional programmers, and focuses on the efficiency or correctness of a problem solution, rather than on the nature of the collaboration or the problem-solving process. The goal of this study is to understand the conditions under which pair programming can foster the kind of thinking and problem solving that will prepare female middle school students to pursue and persist in computing fields.

This research will be a design experiment with 80 girls and boys from a range of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds who are enrolled in game programming classes. The classes will be taught using a pair programming toolkit developed over ten years by a collaboration of researchers and teachers. In-depth and multi-method data collection and analysis will be used to describe gender-based differences in student interactions, and to study how interactions evolve over time, and the individual, relational, and institutional factors that play a role in the nature of those interactions. Data will be collected on the implementation process, as well as on individual learning, interpersonal dynamics, sequences of interactions, and the context in which learning takes place. The mixed methods analysis process will focus on the integration of data from multiple sources following criteria to ensure the design quality and interpretive rigor of the approach. The project will result in a descriptive model of what pair programming in middle school looks like, for whom it fosters intrepid exploration, and the interactional processes that are associated with the development of intrepid exploration.

The results will advance knowledge and have clear implications for educational practice. They will contribute to our understanding of the conditions under which collaboration in middle school can address the gender gap in computing, as well as whether there are gender-based and cultural differences in interactions, and if they affect the kinds of thinking and problem solving needed to succeed in computing. The research will also be the first to investigate how to support and measure the development of intrepid exploration in efforts to increase gender diversity in computing. The findings will also be responsive to the practical concerns of teachers, such as how to foster effective pair programming, how to assess individual learning, and how to provide a tailored and gender-equitable pair programming experience.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: STEM + Computing (STEM+C) Part | Award Amount: 598.61K | Year: 2015

This work examines the extent to which community-based technology centers that incorporate open educational resources can provide the educational structure needed to motivate and prepare underserved high school students, particularly Latino/a students in rural communities, for careers in computer science (CS). Community centers are uniquely positioned to provide access to relevant technology and instruction, scaffolding for CS learning, and a network of support, but there is little research on how to optimize their impact for youth that are poorly served by their local school systems. This project will lead to a model for other community technology centers to build educational and career pathways by leveraging online resources, linking them to national CS standards as well as local industry needs and supporting that learning with effective mentorship. It will result in a set of recommended strategies that informal education centers can use to effectively deliver and complement formal school-based CS education.

This is a partnership between a research organization, ETR Associates and the Digital NEST, a community technology center that serves Latino/a high school students. The work examines the efficacy of a suite of educational techniques tailored specifically for CS education in informal settings. The pedagogical component focuses on the effective use of badges as motivational learning devices through the development of digital credentials. Students will engage in hybrid online CS courses aligned with CSTA K-12 CS standards. In the process, this work assesses the social and motivational factors that affect engagement and retention in CS education in community-based informal settings. Given that less than a quarter of all high schools in the United States offer formal computing education, this research is positioned to address the growing need for CS education in informal settings and particularly students in rural settings.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Core R&D Programs | Award Amount: 871.15K | Year: 2016

Researchers at ETR Associates will conduct a mixed methods longitudinal study on the malleable factors that affect community college students? persistence in information and communications technologies (ICT) classes and careers. The project involves a partnership between a research organization, about 25 community colleges, and five external advisors with expertise in higher education research, policy, and teaching. It will test and extend theories of student persistence and build on the team?s prior research on community college pathways to four-year computer science majors. The study will produce evidence on factors that influence retention, degree attainment, and technical skills development for community college students in ICT fields and inform future research about appropriate theory and measurement tools for use in studies about community college to ICT career pathways. Research results will inform investments in broadening participation programs, institutional and classroom policies and procedures, and intervention programs designed to increase persistence in ICT programs.

The research team will test a portion of an expanded and adapted theory of student persistence to investigate how different factors influence community college students? outcomes. The project will investigate three research questions: (1) What baseline factors (individual, relational, and institutional) are most related to the intentions of community college students to complete their ICT courses? (2) What baseline and interim factors are most related to completion of the ICT course? And (3) What baseline, interim, and current factors are most related to other indicators of success that include program completion, technical skill development, and enhanced workforce capacity? Data analyses will proceed from descriptive and bivariate analyses to multilevel linear and logistic regression analyses. These will be guided by theory as well as prior research on the role of individual, relational, and institutional factors in career pathways. The study will yield evidence about what leads to retention, degree attainment, and technical skills development for underrepresented community college students in information and communications technologies.

This project is supported by NSFs EHR Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in three thematic areas: STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation, and STEM workforce development.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Core R&D Programs | Award Amount: 277.92K | Year: 2016

ETR Associates and the College of Charleston will conduct a collaborative research project that is designed to increase diversity in computer science by exploring whether boot camps build students adaptive expertise and how the actual preparation aligns with computing workforce expectations for knowledge and competencies. The study will be conducted in Silicon Valley in California and Silicon Harbor in South Carolina and will yield (1) models of the attributes of effective software developers from the perspective of universities, coding boot campus, and software development companies; (2) a conceptual framework of how software development workforce needs align with training preparation, and how variations in the preparation of adaptive expertise can inform efforts to broaden participation; and (3) longitudinal case studies of students from underrepresented groups from the two types of training settings. The results will inform researchers, educators, and employers about the knowledge and coursework necessary to develop adaptive software developers who are prepared for the computer science workforce.

The researchers will use a three-phase mixed-methods approach to investigate the following research questions: (1) What kinds of software development learning opportunities are offered by undergraduate programs? What kinds are offered at coding boot camps? (2) How well do the different training settings align with regional software development industry needs? and (3) What kinds of learners are attracted to the different learning opportunities and why? They will triangulate the findings across multiple data sources, follow a tested process for developing a conceptual framework, and use a rigorous set of procedures for analysis. Data will include surveys, interviews, and focus groups.

This project is supported by NSFs EHR Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in three thematic areas: STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation, and STEM workforce development.

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