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Update on Computational Thinking Research at APS

April 3, 2012

Last week, John Mark Aiken, a graduate student in the members of the Georgia Tech/Georgia State Physics Education Research Group (of which I am a collaborator), gave a talk at APS summarizing the research we’ve been doing to develop a curriculum for teaching computational thinking in high school, along with assessments to measure the effectiveness of that curriculum.

Here’s the video.

In addition, the group’s PI, Professor Mike Schatz gave a talk on how Georgia Tech has been working to develop homework exercises to teach computational modeling with VPython in the introductory mechanics course.

Though I’ve been remiss in writing about it here, my collaboration with this physics education research group has been one of the highlights of this year for me. Every Thursday for the past 8 months, our very diverse research group, consisting of two professors, one post doc, two grad students, a undergrad and me, from Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and the University of Colorado to discuss the various research projects we’re working on. It’s been fantastic for me to be a part of this group, and I’ve gained so much from these discussions.

Participating in this research group has also helped me to realize how of a benefit it could be to have more in-service teachers participating in research collaborations with universities—not only do I think it would provide great benefits for the teachers by giving them exposure to real current scientific research and methods, in the case of education research, I think including in-service teachers will also improve research quality by giving a practical “in the classroom” reality check.

I can also say that developing these connections is much easier than I would have thought five years ago. The genesis of my particular involvement with this research group dates back to an email I sent out of the blue to Danny Caballero, back when he was a grad student at Georgia Tech. I had read many of his postings on the Matter and Interactions listserv, and wanted to meet him since we had just relocated to Atlanta. This started a great friendship, and Danny was tremendously helpful in helping me to develop ways to introduce my students to computational modeling with VPython. Over time, our collaboration grew more and more formal, until this year, when we set up a regular weekly group meeting, and started to collaborate on research papers, presentations, and planning for a workshop at AAPT (more details on that in an upcoming post).

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