Middle School Computing with Robots: 2009

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Overview of the Middle School Experience

This past semester two groups of middle school students, ages 11-14, participated in a study wherein they were taught computing. The aim of the study was to attempt to elicit why people, particularly women, do not gravitate to computing, and attempt to change their attitudes towards computing in general. We used robots throughout the course in order to achieve this goal. The course met once a week for an hour and a half and met over the course of 8 weeks. One group was unable to finish the curriculum due to scheduling problems and only finished 6 weeks of the curriculum.

The following is a copy of each week's curriculum, the goals of the course, notes about each piece of curriculum, and conclusions about how the course ran.

Pre-Course and Other Logistical Notes

Participation Total students: 12 (5 Girls, 7 Boys) Originally, only students from one school, a girls school, were supposed to take part in the course. However, there was not much participation; only 6 students signed up, 2 of which were in the 9th grade. The head of the school determined that students playing sports, which had already started, could not take the course despite their being no regular conflict between the two activities, resulting in low participation. Though this implies that students would rather play sports than learn computing, we cannot make that assumption. The commitment to sports had to be made earlier than the commitment to computing, which may have affected their decision. Because of low participation, we looked to another school to boost our numbers. 7 students from this school participated, all of whom were male and from the 6th grade. Though this number seems low, it is actually not: this school only had students through the 6th grade, and the class size of the 6th grade is 16 students, making the number of students in the class nearly 50% of the total class. In addition to this, it seemed that all the girls in the 6th grade played field hockey (a prior commitment), practice for which occurred on the same day of the class. The only male that did not participate in the class also had a prior commitment. The school scheduled a field trip to Bryn Mawr to do some computing with the whole class. The trip was a huge success, many of the girls, and the boy that could not participate, requesting that the course be moved to a different day. Data on how many students would actually be interested in taking the class will be acquired very shortly.

1 student from this group dropped the course stating that it was not what she expected after the first course. Another 2 students dropped the course due to a new theater conflict 6 weeks into the course. This commitment was a larger commitment than computing, meeting everyday after school. One student was an actress, the other working on costumes.