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Topic: "MSPnet Academy: Infusing Computational Thinking into Science Education"

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MSPnet Academy Discussion
September 21st - October 5th, 2015

Presenters: Irene Lee, Director of the Learning Lab at Santa Fe Institute; Paige Prescott, Program Manager, Project GUTS: Growing Up Thinking Scientifically; Maureen Psaila-Dombrowski, Program Manager, New Mexico Computer Science for All

Overview: The Santa Fe Institute has been developing programs and curricula that infuse computational thinking into Science education for the past 12 years. In this webinar we will describe how the study of Complex Adaptive Systems through computer modeling and simulation fits into existing science frameworks and classes, share information about our program and curricula, and describe the professional development needed to prepare Science teachers to address the computational thinking practices presented in the NRC framework and NGSS.

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posted by: Irene Lee on 9/21/2015 4:37 pm

Welcome to the forum discussion on "Infusing Computational Thinking into Science Education"

In this forum we hope to answer your question, share resources, and create community discussions pertaining to Computational Thinking in Science classes and frameworks.

Effective integration

posted by: George Reese on 9/24/2015 11:02 am

Most schools that I have seen have trouble sustaining CT in the context of other pressures for performance on tests that don't include CT skills. Do you have advice and and some models that you can point to for teachers who are trying to keep the CS/CT energy up while principals ask, "how will it increase test scores?".

Thanks in advance.

Examples of districts making CS/CT a priority

posted by: Irene Lee on 9/29/2015 3:32 pm

Hello George,

There are a few examples of districts with STEM leaders who have championed CS/CT and have an answer to administrators who ask "how will this increase test scores?"

See Lisa Milenkovic of Broward County in these videos;



posted by: Diana Cost on 9/25/2015 6:49 am king/
have them review this short clip. Bozeman is a leader in the field of science videos that we use in AP to explain the "whys" for the need of these tools. Learning is not just about immediate boosts in scores. It's about gaining the right tools and skills to create life long learners and productive members of society. Some things are just not measured in numbers .

Thanks for sharing this resource, Diana.

posted by: Irene Lee on 9/29/2015 4:13 pm

I applaud the presenter for demoing the NetLogo Mousetrap simulation BUT I must point out that there was a powerful learning opportunity lost by not examining the code (computer instructions) behind the model and questioning whether or not the simulation can tell us anything about the real world.

For instance, one could engage a student by asking whether or not this simulation reflects reality. Students could learn more about the underlying model by clicking on the "code" tab in NetLogo. The student might discover that the flight distances of the ping pong balls were generated as a random number (equally distributed) between 0 and a maximum distance set using the interface slider. One might ask "Is this a realistic approximation of how far ping pong balls travel when launched by a mousetrap?" Students could run experiments using real mousetraps and ping pong ball to find out. Similarly, in the model, the direction the ping pong balls flew was chosen as a random value between 0 and 360 degrees (equally distributed). Students could investigate if this is a realistic abstraction of the real world as well. More advanced students may want to add code to the model so that the trajectory of ping pong balls in the simulation behaved according to the laws of physics. Rather than hiding the fact that models and simulations are often weak representations of the real world, we propose using the model as a motivation to get a deeper understanding of the real world phenomenon.

When conducting these rich real-world vs simulated-world investigations students would be involved in all eight of the NRC scientific and engineering practices. The cross cutting concepts of "Cause and effect", "Patterns", and disciplinary core ideas of "Motion and stability: Forces and interactions"; and "Energy" could be emphasized making for a strong "three dimensional learning" experience.

modeling and inquiry

posted by: Brian Drayton on 10/2/2015 12:00 pm

Irene, I really appreciate your answer. It's always seemed to me that modeling (whether using computers or not) is the most concrete way to get learners into the experience of theory-driven inquiry, because the modeling environment provides a vocabulary for explicit expression of a theory. But it comes alive when the model is used to interrogate the world (yielding insight) and then the world is used to interrogate the model (testing and improving the theory) it allows us to put to bed the idea of "the scientific method", or even the application (as if algorithmic) of a list of "science practices" .

New MOOC on Integrating Computational Thinking through Modeling and Simulation

posted by: Irene Lee on 10/8/2015 2:56 pm

With funding from Google CS4HS, Santa Fe Institute's Learning Lab will be offering a MOOC on integrating rich computational thinking experiences through modeling and simulation. The six-week online workshop will run from November 2 - December 11, 2015.

While the target audience consists largely of teachers planning to implement modeling and simulation in the context of the AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) course, the content of this MOOC is applicable to STEM teachers, university faculty, school administrators, and others who wish to gain an understanding of modern scientific practice using computer models and simulation in the context of scientific inquiry.

For more information and to register, please go to: