Computational Participation as a Portal to Collaborative STEM

Computational Participation as a Portal to Collaborative STEM

Ramya Sivaraj (University of Minnesota, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9438-3.ch017

Abstract

This chapter explores computational participation as an integrative portal, offering a model for integration across individual disciplines, with an emphasis on the transformative potential of innovative digital practices to engage learners in collaborative science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (hereafter “STEM”) learning. Drawing on sociocultural perspectives and Dewey's experiential learning theory, computational participation in STEM is examined with respect to how learners meaningfully engage with problem-solving strategies, innovative solution design, and multiple iterations of testing. Utilizing examples of interactive digital platforms, such as Scratch and Hypothes.is, this chapter makes a case for how computational participation in STEM creates opportunities for collaborative learning in the virtual and real world, while maintaining a central focus on real world issues. Integrating computational participation in STEM, consequently, supports active, experiential learning, where STEM learners are able to develop transferable conceptual understandings, along with application of skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.
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Introduction

Integration of innovative digital practices in STEM learning poses challenges at all levels of STEM learning, with respect to connecting deep conceptual understandings with practices of scientific reasoning, critical thinking, and knowledge transfer. This integration must necessarily include both interactional components and contextual factors, where STEM learners engage with technology towards accessible, meaningfully integrated learning experiences (Sivaraj, Ellis, and Roehrig, 2019). Interactional components related to computational participation in STEM enable learners to make connections with accessible, familiar concepts accessing prior knowledge and experiences. And contextual factors related to computational participation allow practices to be designed with appropriate challenges, with consideration for localized contexts, guiding learners towards abstract concepts, and higher order thinking skills. Effective integration of computational participation in STEM learning, therefore, allow learners to grow their conceptual understandings through interactions and, subsequently, internalization of new understandings (Vygotsky, 1934/1978; Nasir & Hand, 2006). Computational participation in STEM offers unique opportunities for engagement with science learning, design processes and critical thinking by creating spaces for “solving problems with others, designing intuitive systems with and for others, and learning about the cultural and social nature of human behavior through the concepts, practices, and perspectives of computer science” (Kafai & Burke, 2014, p. 127).

This chapter examines computational participation as an integrative portal, offering a model for balanced curricular integration, with an emphasis on the transformative potential of innovative digital practices to engage learners in STEM learning. Drawing on sociocultural perspectives on learning, as well as Dewey’s experiential learning theory, this chapter makes a case for how computational participation contributes to collaborative STEM learning and, consequently, sustained engagement of learners. Computational participation of STEM learners through interactive digital platforms, such as Scratch and Hypothes.is, creates unique and underutilized opportunities for collaborative STEM learning. Integrating computational participation in STEM, consequently, supports active, experiential learning, where STEM learners are able to develop transferable conceptual understandings in authentic contexts, along with application of skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. Finally, this chapter also explores the potential of computational participation as a context that effectively integrates the individual disciplines of STEM, towards a transdisciplinary conceptualization (e.g., Barr & Stephenson, 2011; Dogan & Robin, 2014). The broad objectives of this chapter include exploring computational participation in STEM:

  • As a context for collaborative learning, contributing towards enhanced engagement; and

  • As an integrative context, towards a transdisciplinary conceptualization of STEM

Key Terms in this Chapter

Scratch: Scratch ( http://scratch.mit.edu ) is a free, open-source, block-based introductory programming language and digital interface, developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, designed primarily for children and youth (Resnick et al., 2009).

Experiential Learning Theory: Dewey’s (1916) experiential theory underscores the nature of the learner’s experience in education, essentially acknowledging both continuity and interaction. Interaction refers to how the learner is able to participate in new learning by making connections based on past experiences, and continuity refers to ongoing influences or continuing experiences that shape present and future learning by connecting formal, informal, and personal spaces.

Computational Participation: Definitions of computational thinking extended by Kafai and Burke (2014) to include computational practices and perspectives that together enable insight into sociological and cultural dimensions, with an emphasis on learning to code so that learners are able to meaningfully participate as critical thinkers, as well as producers, consumers, and distributors of technology.

Hypothes.is: Hypothes.is ( https://web.hypothes.is ) is a free, open-source, web-based annotation platform, developed by a team led by Dan Whaley, and allows learners to add, read, and share annotations on web-accessible content.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Culturally responsive teaching pedagogy foregrounds the importance of culture in all aspects of learning, offering more equitable access to learning for all learners (Ladson-Billings, 1994). Culturally mediated and student-centered instruction, where learning occurs within the context of culture, are some prominent characteristics of this pedagogy.

Sociocultural Theory: Perspectives and approaches to learning systemized by Vygotsky and his followers, that emphasize how learning is necessarily situated in cultural contexts, and is a semiotic process that underscores the dynamic interdependence of social and individual processes in meaning making and knowledge building (Vygotsky, 1934/1978).

STEM: Multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary approaches to complex real-world problems that emphasize the interconnectedness of individual disciplines in integrated STEM learning, with a simultaneous emphasis on deep conceptual understandings of disciplinary core ideas and skills of creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration (Bellanca & Brandt, 2010; Bybee, 2013; English, 2016).

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