Research to Practice Update

We have been busy this summer analyzing data for three computing related projects. These projects have once again highlighted how lucky we are to be working with such great colleagues, graduate students, and faculty. As these papers go out for review, we will update you on progress. For now, here’s the synopsis of one study.

Computing case studies across students with disabilities: In the spring, we collected data across two students with fairly significant disabilities because we wanted to know their experiences during computing instruction, the types of supports they were receiving, and the perceptions of their teachers and support staff. We were happy that these students, with the right supports and accommodations, could be successful during computing. Although simplified, the findings are as follows: For one of the students, who had significant behavior needs, engagement and time on task during computing rose sharply once an appropriate behavior intervention was in place. For the other student, who had autism and very limited language skills, support included giving him full access to the computer rather than having his experience be mediated by a support staff. Although this is not a ground-shattering new development, it lends to our equity argument that computing benefits a wide range of learners, including students with disabilities.

I will report on our studies related to using the Collaborative Computing Observation Instrument (C-COI) to study collaborative computing as well as on the integrated computing and mathematics study in my following post.

Lastly, look for our latest paper, “Empowering K-12 students with disabilities to learn computational thinking and computer programming” in the October issue of TEACHING Exceptional Children.

Check out the Digital Navigator

Michael Luetjen's Three Laws of Failure

Michael Luetjen’s Laws of Failure. See more at

Here’s the link: Digital Navigator

I met Michael Luetjen at ISTE, and he’s posted this thought-provoking commentary on failing at the TCIPG Education workshop led by my colleague, Jana Sebestik. He asks, “So when was the last time you failed? When was the last time that you were cheered on at every stage of your failure?” His Laws of Failure are lines of a poem in the form of Newton. They are stories of motivation and pride in accomplishment. The learning process wasn’t neat, but it was fun, informative, and inspirational. So…, yay for us! Jana created a space were learning happened.

I’m reminded of Jo Boaler, who says, “celebrate mistakes.” Of course, this is dangerous territory; ripe for misinterpretation. We need to be clear that environments dedicated to learning are special places, the outcomes should not be high-stakes for the learner. In environments that require expertise, e.g., installing new brake pads on a car, we want performance to be error free. But if it’s a classroom, where one is learning about brakes for the first time, and in the presence of a trained mechanic, a failure in that safe space is a learning opportunity. His final quote is the best. “I failed at ISTE this year and it was fantastic!”


Miriam Larson’s Post on Tech Time

Kenwood librarian Miriam Larson has discussed the specifics of Tech Time at Kenwood on her blog, Seeing Little Moments.  She calls it, Collaboration and De-Centering Technology. Miriam shares the background of Tech Time, her work with Todd Lash and Travis Faust, the goals of Tech Time, the desire to be transparent, creative, and responsive. CTRL-Shift is really a collection of different efforts, and Miriam’s history is a great contribution to our work.

Workshop for Unit 4 Educators

On June 8th, a small group of individuals representing educators from Champaign Unit 4 Schools and the University of Illinois met to discuss computational thinking and computer science at the middle school level. In the morning, Ms. Jessica Pitcher shared what work is currently being done in the areas of CT/CS at Kenwood Elementary School. She discussed the transformation the school has undergone during its adoption of CT as a structural model for curriculum implementation, as well as the struggles and celebrations that have occurred along the way. Ms. Pitcher also shared some interactive “unplugged” activities, which required participants to utilize the CT framework for collaboration in order to work in pairs to act out a set of algorithms.

Much of the afternoon involved time for district teachers and specialists to explore computer programming through Scratch. Individuals worked at their own pace to create simple, interactive video games. Later, with the help of Mr. Joe Muskin from UIUC, participants worked with Arduinos to program LED lights. The day ended with some collaboration time for teachers to begin planning how to incorporate CT/CS in their classrooms. The STEM Specialists from Jefferson, Edison and Franklin Middle Schools developed a plan to implement CT/CS into their STEM classes so that all middle level students enrolled in the course will have the opportunity to build skills in these areas. –Tina Lehr