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Examining the Potential of Computer Science and Making for Supporting Project-Based Learning


"In this literature review, we seek to understand in what ways aspects of computer science education and making and makerspaces may support the ambitious vision for science education put forth in A Framework for K-12 Science as carried forward in the Next Generation Science Standards. Specifically, we examine how computer science and making and makerspace approaches may inform a project-based learning approach for supporting three-dimensional science learning at the elementary level. We reviewed the methods and findings of both recently published articles by influential scholars in computer science education and the maker movement and more foundational highly-cited articles pertaining to each approach. Our review found (1) making and makerspace approaches offer students, particularly from historically marginalized demographics, ample agency and opportunities for ownership over their learning but pose significant challenges for implementation at the elementary level at scale within a formal learning context; (2) computer science education, when effectively mediated with tools that lower barriers to entry, can help a range of students engage in meaningful computational thinking practices and may spur their interest in computers prior to more formal computer science education opportunities, yet such an approach will require careful consideration of how to sustain what is being implemented and subsequent computer science opportunities that students see as relevant. Our examination concludes with a discussion of congruencies and incongruences of computer science and making and makerspaces with project-based learning approaches aligned to science reforms, with applications to elementary units within the Lucas Education Foundation supported project, Multiple Literacies in Project-Based Learning."