The eCSite project is an National Science Foundation GK12 program designed to bring greater understanding of Computer Science and Computational Thinking to students in K-12 schools. Computing, Computational Thinking and Computer Science have become essential to many fields, but this fact has not been communicated clearly to the public. In particular, K-12 students and teachers are largely unaware of the current ubiquity of computing and the revolution that computing has had on different areas of science. There are two ways this is apparent – the dramatic decline in the students directly entering computing related majors and, equally important, the limit integration of computing into existing curricula.

We have developed an approach to this problem that we feel has great promise. Rather than seeking to draw students into computing courses in school, we plan to bring computing into the courses that students are already taking. Because computing has become so important in so many fields, importing a meaningful exposure to computing into students’ studies in other fields can be done without compromising existing learning goals. For example, biology students can learn about the role of computing in sequencing genetic materials in a way that enhances, not diminishes, their grasp of the biology.

Increasingly, “Computer Science” is an interdisciplinary field that encompasses researchers with backgrounds in biology, physics, psychology, applied math and other disciplines; combined, they form the core for the development of the “cyberinfrastructure” that has contributed to the advancement of many fields. Computer science graduates must learn to articulate their contribution to science and appreciate their role in that process. The eCSite program is ideally situated to address this problem, by training a cadre of computer scientists who have learned how to communicate about what they do to intelligent students and teachers who are not “insiders” in their field.

Long Term Goals

  • Train future researchers to communicate effectively with the public.
  • Inform and excite K-12 students about the value of computing in other fields of research.
  • To prepare teachers in other disciplines to communicate to their students the connections between computing and their fields of instruction.
  • Teach computational thinking to K-12 students.
  • Develop and distribute materials that can be used to replicate our program in other settings.
  • To increase enrollment in the computer science major and minor, especially for women and underrepresented minorities.

Short Term Goals

  • Identify fellows as computer scientists often enough that students know this.
  • Fellows should regularly contribute to classroom discussions to make a connection between class content and computer science.
  • Make the connection between computer science and what fellows are doing at CU and with their research. Fellows should discuss their research in class.
  • Make explicit the varied roles of computer scientists and how this relates to the fellows.
  • Discuss computer science and computational thinking with the classroom students.
  • Discuss life as a graduate student with students.
  • Develop curriculum with teachers that uses computer science and/or computational thinking to teach a standard that needs to be covered in host classes.
  • Fellows will co-teach the lessons developed with their teacher.