Designing Computer-based Learning Environments That Support Synergistic STEM + Computational Thinking (CT) Learning

This panel session brings together several projects that explore affordances and challenges to synergistic delivery of STEM and CT concepts and practices in K–12 classrooms.


While there is broad consensus about the synergistic relations between STEM domains and CT concepts and practices, there remains much to be done in developing CT-supported STEM curricula and in providing K–12 teachers and practitioners with the tools and resources to implement such curricula. In this 90-minute topical session, leaders from four DRK–12 STEM+C projects that are developing technology-based solutions address challenges in developing appropriate curricula, resources, and assessments for elementary, middle, and high school STEM courses. Project 1 discusses Collaborative, Computational STEM (C2STEM), designed as a “learning by modeling” environment that combines visual programming with the concept of domain-specific modeling languages (DSMLs) to promote learning of physics and CT concepts and practices. Project 2, Science Projects Integrating Computing and Engineering (SPICE), addresses the design of curriculum materials and assessments that integrate science, engineering, and CT, and that align with the Next Generation Science Standards’ (NGSS) performance expectations for elementary students. Project 3, ENGAGE, deeply integrates CT practices within the life science curriculum by designing and studying a more comprehensive curriculum strategy for middle schools using a game-based learning environment. Project 4 investigates an innovative school-wide approach to integrating CT learning experiences in STEM courses in high school to reach all students via greater access to high-quality CT learning experiences in a variety of STEM courses.

The panel structure involves an introduction to session goals and structure, challenges, and a framing of synergistic STEM+CT learning (5 minutes); project overviews by the four panelists (40 minutes) to cover project goal(s) and challenges, approaches to synergistic STEM+CT learning, current status and results, and successes and future work; a Q&A session with discussion (40 minutes), and a final period (5 minutes) of reflection, overview of lessons learned, and a preview of future work.