Jean Ryoo, of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), serves on the Exploring Computer Science (ECS) team as a researcher and an educator who supports teachers. This article reports on work supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the John Randolph Haynes Foundation.
There are three excellent and very valuable parts to the article: a description of ECS; the selection and training of the classroom teachers; and the ways in which students, described as historically underrepresented in the field of computer science (CS), react to the course. ECS is an introductory CS course at the high school level. “Based on the ACM model course guidelines,” its units include human-computer interaction (HCI), problem solving, web design, introduction to programming, computing and data analysis, and robotics or electronics or electronics-textiles. It “employs inquiry-based approaches to teaching CS based on the belief that students learn best when the problems they solve in school are inspired by their own questions.” The experienced teachers share an identity with their students and are given extensive training.
The research findings are meaningfully presented in three sections: “Demystifying Computer Science--Making Connections to Everyday Life,” “Connecting CS to Social Issues Impacting Students’ Lives and Communities,” and “Valuing Students’ Voices and Perspectives in the CS Classroom.” Each section is divided into two subsections: “Teachers’ and Students’ Testimonies” and “Pedagogy in Practice--Example from the Classroom.”
The research is thorough and heavily supported by the literature. As a synopsis of a thesis or a report to a granting agency, the paper earns the highest marks. As a journal article, it should have been condensed; much is buried within its 20-plus pages.