Leftwich receives Google grant for computer science project

By 

Anne Leftwich

Anne Leftwich, associate professor with Instructional Systems Technology, has received a $101,000 grant from Google for her project on problem-based learning curriculum for computer science. Leftwich will work with local sixth-grade teachers and their students, will be developing an app to tackle bullying in school.

“I was elated when I found out I won this grant,” Leftwich said. “We have been collaborating with Monroe County Community School Corporation in Bloomington on computer science for the past year and it was exciting to receive support and recognition from Google for our work.”

The project is of particular importance because as Leftwich pointed out, this is the first year computer science standards will be tested in Indiana, but teachers and districts are struggling with how to address these standards without curriculum or recommendations, especially since most teachers have little to no experience with computer science. In addition, typical curriculum for computer science often utilizes games or tutorials, but research has shown this may not engage students’ interest, particularly women who are underrepresented in computer science.

“This provides a model and curriculum that other districts in the state of Indiana can use to address the standards and show students how computer science can help solve societal problems,” Leftwich added.

“It meets critical societal needs of preparing our students for their future – where many of the open STEM jobs involve computing and many of the jobs they will encounter in their future will be heavily influenced by CS, it is imperative that they understand at least the basics.”

Leftwich hopes by the end of the project, all students will have increased interest and knowledge of computer science: “However, the greater hope is that they recognize the value and power of using computer science to solve problems for social good. In addition, I hope that the teachers involved feel more comfortable and confident to teach CS and problem-based learning units.”

The project is a collaboration between the School of Education and the IU School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering.

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