Increasing Urban Youth Participation In Computing Through Mentorship And Coding Resources

Project: Research project

Project Details


Engaging underrepresented and underserved students in computer science is an important goal for the development of the future workforce. The primary goal of this project is to create a sustainable ecosystem of young programmers (primarily middle school students), mentors, and teachers in the city of Newark, NJ. To achieve such an ecosystem, the project will: 1) Provide computing education to underrepresented and underserved middle school students; 2) Involve parents in and educate them about the importance of computational thinking and computing for their children's education, career, and future life; 3) Develop and maintain mentor-mentee relationships in coding; 4) Teach practicing (and potential future) teachers introductory programming concepts and how to pass them on; and 5) Fully involve teachers in the research problem-solving cycle. To accomplish these tasks, the project will run 10-week Saturday programs for middle school students each semester at participating middle school campuses. Before the start of the program, the project will have a parents' night at a local middle school to educate parents about the program, computing, and why their children should participate in the program. Each Saturday will consist of a 7-hour day, split into a morning session (building a website with HTML and CSS) and an afternoon session (learning text and block programming languages). Every other week, a guest speaker from the community will give a brief presentation of her/his career and how it was advanced by computing. Each class will have a minimum of one teacher from the middle school and a minimum of two university students who will co-teach the class and learn from each other. Once the students have finished their 10-week program, the project will invite them to join the Coding House of the Urban League of Essex County, a designated space in central Newark for local K-8 and university students to continue with their coding activities. Here, the students can learn from each other, work on projects, and develop mentor/mentee relationships. This research and development project has the potential to inform other communities about integrating computing education into their schools, involving parents, providing opportunities for practicing teachers to learn about computing topics, and giving university students practical teaching experience (who may also become interested in becoming alternate path K-8 teachers themselves). This project is supported by the Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers and Computer Science for All programs. This research will contribute new insights into parental motivation/education, how to effectively train practicing teachers in computational thinking, how to facilitate the entry of university student co-teachers into the teaching profession (if they wish), and how to create an ecosystem to keep students engaged with programming through a community coding space. The project will address the following research questions: What are the specific needs of our community's parents (or guardians), and how can the project assist them to help their children succeed? How can the project train practicing (and potential future) teachers in a non-invasive, safe environment? How can middle school teachers formulate pedagogical content knowledge targeted towards computing in the context of an equitable Research-Practice Partnership with the project team? How can the project provide and prEnvironmental Protection Agencyre accessible, relatable, and effective near-peer mentors and role-models who are knowledgably in computing to NJ middle school students? Data will primarily consist of: responses from questionnaires; written notes from Parents' Night events, teacher interviews, and teacher observations; attendance records from Newark Kids Code's participating middle schools; visitor logs from the Urban League (Parents' Night events and Coding House participation); server logs from Gidget website and online repositories of Newark Kids Code Student Scratch and projects. The project will use pre-post analysis and coding of qualitative data to describe the impacts of the interventions.This award reflects National Science Foundation 's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date3/1/192/28/21


  • National Science Foundation


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