GbCC goes to CSCL in Lyon, France

Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) is a biannual conference hosted by the International Society of the Learning Sciences. This past week, CSCL was hosted at École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, in Lyon, France. Researchers from around the world gathered to discuss the role of computers and computational thinking in collaborative formal and informal learning environments.

Group-based Cloud Computing submitted a poster to present regarding work performed with Elementary Science Preservice teachers at the University of Texas at Austin. Max Sherard, a graduate student working on the grant attended the conference and presented the poster. The poster focused on discussing lessons learned from using computational and collaborative GbCC models to engage preservice teachers in thinking about complex phenomena. The researchers found that by drawing models, participants were able to demonstrate sophisticated reasoning about disease transfer in dynamic social systems as well as demonstrating computational thinking through abstraction and development of rules for agent-classes.

Around 200 individuals were in attendance for the 2 hour poster session, and many stopped by to discuss the many avenues to developing computational thinking in preservice teachers, a necessary step to developing computational thinking with younger audiences. The conference occurred from Monday afternoon until Friday evening.

Poster from the CSCL Conference

Poster from the CSCL Conference

GbCC Appearance in American Public Media Marketplace Excerpt

Andy Uhler is a reporter for Marketplace, a non-profit news organization aimed at increasing economic awareness and intelligence through digital media production. Marketplace is supported by American Public Media. Mr. Uhler recently released a 3-minute clip discussing how H-1B visa fees fund NSF STEM related work with students in the United States. Dr. Anthony Petrosino spoke with Mr. Uhler to discuss the use of GbCC models with high schoolers in Austin, Texas. Listen to the full Marketplace episode below:

Title: Something you didn’t know: H-1B visa fees pay for STEM research, education for Americans


GbCC Presents at the Learning Sciences Research Institute Spring Speaker Series

On April 26, 2019, Dr. Petrosino gave an invited lecture at the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois-Chicago. His talk was entitled "Data Modeling for Preservice Teachers and the Rest of Us” and focused on his work on modeling over the last 10 years. A significant part of the presentation was on modeling work conducted as part of the GBCC grant with specific examples about the Wolves in Yellowstone, vaccination modeling, and segregation model work that the grant has done with preservice elementary and secondary teachers.


GbCC Vaccination Models used with 5th Graders in Round Rock ISD

A former University of Texas at Austin STEM Education Master’s student currently teaches 5th grade math and science at an elementary school in Round Rock, Texas. The teacher instructs a 55-minute enrichment period which focuses on coding and science every Friday morning called e-slot (enrichment slot). The teacher asked Max Sherard, one of the graduate students on the GbCC team to guest teach the e-slot period on Friday, April 25th. Max decided to focus the enrichment slot on disease transmission, since this is a locally relevant issue for schools in Texas. Students explored infographics related to Zika Virus and Measles outbreaks in Texas and discussed their thoughts on what causes a disease to move more quickly through a group of people. Students generated ideas including: people not washing their hands, people not visiting doctors when they are sick, and people not getting shots (vaccinations).

Max introduced the first model, the participatory GbCC disease simulation which allows students to simulate real people in a digital space. Students were able to play multiple rounds and make predictions on how a disease would spread if symptoms were visible or not.

After a few rounds of the participatory disease simulation, Max introduced students to the Vaccination model (developed by Kalpana Vaidya), which allows users to control the vaccination rate of a population and simulate an epidemic. Students experienced some issues related to internet connectivity in the classroom but enjoyed playing with the simulation.

The e-slot ended by allowing students to discuss whether they believed vaccinations should be required to attend public schools. Most students were in favor of vaccinations because of the benefits to public health, specifically those students who are too ill to receive vaccinations.

GbCC Vaccination Models used in Project-based Instruction

The Spring 2019 cohort of Project-based Instruction students at the University of Texas at Austin were required to plan and execute a three to four-day miniature project-based instruction unit at a local high school (S. F. Austin High School). Students were put into pairs to complete their projects, and were assigned to a High School subject area and teacher. Two student groups (a total of four students) were assigned to 10th grade biology classes and were given the task of teaching students about viruses, viral reproduction, and the role of vaccination in reducing the chance of an epidemic.

Both student groups opted to use the GbCC Vaccination models in their field teach component. High school students were challenged to select a disease from the CDC’s website of infectious viral diseases and use the model to attempt to simulate the disease and compare disease with other classmates. Students were able to share their simulated diseases to the gallery space, which afforded student teachers the opportunity to begin class discussions on how various viral traits emerge to produce different population effects.

All four teachers reflected on their field teach, and wished for more time to allow students to attempt to modify the simulations to increase the sophistication of what each simulation represents.

Presenting GbCC at American Educational Research Association in Toronto, Canada

The American Educational Research Association 2019 conference was held in Toronto, Canada this April. The Group-based Cloud Computing for STEM Education grant presented a poster on Friday, April 5th, at the poster session titled Advanced Technologies for Learning.

The poster presented was titled Developing Preservice Teachers’ Conceptualization of Models and Simulations through Group-based Cloud Computing and explored the GbCC Yellowstone models that were used with the Elementary Science Methods course the previous Spring.

A computer with the Yellowstone models was available at the poster for participants to engage with, as well as information or how to find and use their own GbCC models in their classrooms or research.

Models used at the Conference and with Preservice Teachers:

Wolf-Elk Model #1

Wolf-Elk Model #2

Presentation 1:

Petrosino, A. J., Sherard, M. K., Harron, J. R., Brady, C. E., Stroup, W. M., & Wilensky, U. J. (2019, April). Developing preservice teachers’ conceptualization of models and simulations through group-based cloud computing. Poster session presented at the American Education Research Association Annual Meeting, Toronto, Canada.

ABSTRACT: In this exploratory study, preservice teachers use Group-based Cloud Computing (GbCC) to engage in simulations about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. Participants developed concept maps and defined models and simulations before and after using GbCC. Findings include that through the intervention, participants moved from linear representations of concept maps towards more complex system-based representations. Although participants were able to articulate changes that they would like to make to the agent-based model, their limited programming knowledge was a barrier that prevented participants from implementing changes. In addition, misconceptions were uncovered regarding participants' definitions and uses for models and simulations.This research better informs how authorable agent-based models can help preservice teachers develop a deeper conceptual understanding of non-linear complex systems.

AERA 2019.png

UTeach Project-based Instruction Conference at The University of Texas at Austin

The UTeach Project-based Instruction (PBI) conference is a two-day mini-conference held each year which allows leaders from around the UTeach replication cites to meet and discuss issues related to PBI. This year, the conference was held at The University of Texas at Austin in the Student Activity Center over the course of two days. Eight participants joined in the conference this year: two from Murray State University in Kentucky, one from West Virginia State University, and five from the UTeach headquarters in Austin, Texas. 

Presentations given throughout the two-day series included:

  • Dr. Anthony Petrosino from the University of Texas presenting on the history of Project-based Instruction and the course sequence for the UTeach program.

  • Dr. Walter Stroup from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth presenting on SmarterQ ™ questions and their role in PBI assessment as well as demonstrating the Group-based Cloud Computing x Geogebra models.

  • Graduate Students Sneha Tharayil, Sarah Jenevein, and Max Sherard presenting on Project-based Service Learning, the role of anchoring phenomena in instruction, and planning for the field teach.

Conference participants were able to visit the current PBI course under way, observe the class, meet students, and ask questions. PBI students shared their ideas for their field-teach mini-projects and conference participants asked questions about their preparation for the field teach component. Participants and students ended by demoing a variety of GbCC models from the models library.

Using GbCC Models to Explore Vaccination Rates among Texas Schools

The Context:

Texas requires students to be vaccinated to protect against a variety of viruses before entering Kindergarten; however, parents can apply for an exemption to this requirement for medical or personal reasons. While the number of parents in the state of Texas who apply for and receive the exemption is low (.84%) this average hides the variation that occurs.

Austin Independent School District (AISD) has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state, with 2.2% of its students entering schools unvaccinated for one or more virus. Some schools within Travis County Texas herald exemption rates of 40%, meaning some school sites are in particular danger of infectious diseases.

Herd immunity a concept in epidemiology that describes the relationship between the spread of a disease and the percentage of the population (herd) who is vaccinated against the disease. For many diseases, a herd immunity of above 98% is required to stop the spread of an infectious disease.

Two preservice elementary science teachers running simulations of measles spreading at varying densities and vaccination rates.

Two preservice elementary science teachers running simulations of measles spreading at varying densities and vaccination rates.

Using GbCC to Explore Herd Immunity

Discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the anchor disease model

Discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the anchor disease model

A model plan to represent three school sites with varying vaccination levels

A model plan to represent three school sites with varying vaccination levels

Elementary Science Methods (ESM) is a courses taught at The University of Texas at Austin. Students in the class are preservice teachers who will one day soon teach elementary students in Texas - many of whom may be unvaccinated. Over the course of two weeks, two cohorts of students taking ESM (n=40) explored and evaluated GbCC models built by an undergraduate Computer Science Student, Kalpana Vaidya, demonstrating the concept of herd immunity.

Students used the model to run simulations of varying vaccination rates to discover properties of disease transmission. Afterwards, students read articles and discussed the re-emerging phenomenon of anti-vaccers: parents who resist vaccinating their children for a variety of reasons (fear of side-effects, preference for natural immunity, religious beliefs, etc.)

Realizing the full potential of model-based learning and GbCC, students were given the challenge to author changes to the model to represent three schools with varying vaccination rates: (a) a small, private school; (b) a large, public school in an affluent area; and (c) a large, public school located in a historically underserved community.

Students discussed the perceived differences amongst these three schools, and re-imagined the functioning of the models to represent this new scenario. Implicit in these conversations was dialogue on the social factors that contribute to disease transmission and vaccination rates amongst heterogenous populations.

While reprogramming a model in three hours is a difficult task; preservice teachers able to engage in rich conversations illuminated the many variables that contribute to public health. The GbCC models served both as a predictive tool for thinking about vaccination rates; but also, an artifact to engage in dialogue with, to push understanding of complex problems further.

To work with the disease models used in this presentation, follow the links below:

Constructionism 2018 Conference in Vilnius, Lithuania

The Constructionism 2018 Conference held its fifth meeting in Vilnius, the capitol of Lithuania on August 21st through August 25th at the historic Vilnius University.

Constructionism is a learning theory developed by Seymour Papert which focuses on having learners construct physical or digital artifacts individually or collaboratively as a way of constructing meaning. Closely tied to the work of Jean Piaget, Constructionism borrows the idea of learners constructing their own individual and internal meaning from the world around them, and ties in the production of physical or digital artifacts to externalize that understanding or meaning.

Presenters at the conference demonstrated constructionist pedagogies and interventions using Micro:bit, Arduino, programming languages (Logo, Scratch, R, NetLogo and more), sewable and programmable circuitry, and many more artifacts. Interventions took place in a wide variety of contexts spanning ages, durations, and formal/informal learning environments.

The Principle and Co-Principle Investigators for the Group-based Cloud Computing for STEM Education project organized a presentation for a 2 hour workshop hosted on Friday, August 23rd. The title of this workshop was Group-based Simulation and Modelling: Technology Supports for Social ConstructionismMax Sherard, a doctoral student from the University of Texas at Austin, presented the workshop on behalf of the PI and Co-PIs. 

The presentation demonstrated four GbCC models which support the digital creation of artifacts to engage students in understanding of complex phenomena:

  1. Modified Wolf-Sheep Predation Model: Participants learned about tri-trophic cascades in Yellowstone National Park, and discussed the accuracy and abstraction of two models developed for students to learn about the relationship between wolves, elk, and aspen tree growth in population stability.
  2. Segregation: Participants explored modifying a segregation model built to represent two demographics to incorporate a third demographic, and brainstormed additions to the model to increase the sophistication of the simulation.
  3. Disease: The Hub-net Classic model, Disease, was used to demonstrate other architectures to GbCC which increase participation and engagement of potentially younger audiences.
  4. Geogebra x GbCC Integration: Participants were able to see the collaboration between GbCC and Geogebra capabilities, and explore the mathematics behind triangles in a collaborative matter.

22 Participants attended the workshop and represented many nations, institutions, and forms of education. Participants closed the workshop by learning about the ability convert any NetLogo model - from the library or a personally created model - to the GbCC platform, opening up the model to collaborative participation. When NetLogo models are converted to the GbCC platform, student artifacts can be created collaboratively and exist in dialogue with each other, achieving the social dimension of constructionist learning.



Presenting at the 2018 UTeach Conference: Broadening Participation in STEM Education

The 2018 UTeach Conference was held in Austin, Texas on May 22 through May 24. In attendance were researchers, master teachers, in-service teachers, and pre-service teachers from around the country at the 44 UTeach replica sites. Dr. Walter Stroup and graduate students Jason Harron and Max Sherard were in attendance at the conference to present progress on work related to implementing Group-based Cloud Computing with pre-service teachers and updates and extensions of the GbCC technologies. The two formal sessions and one informal session which were held throughout the week are described below.

Session 1: Project-Based Instruction Pre-Conference Course Retreat

Tuesday, May 22nd, Dr. Walter Stroup, Jason Harron, and Max Sherard were in attendance at the Project-based Instruction (PBI) Pre-Conference course retreat. Attending the pre-conference course retreat were faculty instructors of PBI from UT Dallas (2), UT Colorado Springs (2), University of West Virginia (2), and a other institutions (3). Representatives from these institutions introduced problems with their local PBI courses and presented potential solutions to workshop with the group.

Max Sherard and Dr. Walter Stroup presented GbCC capabilities as a way to unlock the true potential of PBI by providing an easy to use, easy to author, platform for exploring and learning about emergent phenomenon. Emergence is a way of thinking about many systemic phenomena; for example, how birds flock or how ecosystems change over time. However, teachers and students can find it difficult to explore emergent phenomena in the classroom because of time or resource constraints. Max demonstrated GbCC models developed to explore the extinction of wolves and its impact on elk and aspen populations, and Dr. Stroup demonstrated the new GeoGebra integration which allows GbCC users to flip between GeoGebra and NetLogo within the GbCC platform. A discussion was held after the presentation to generate possible questions pre-service teachers could explore using Project-based Instruction.


Presentation can be found here.

Session 2: Extra-GbCC Session at Night

The PBI pre-conference course retreat was a short 45 minutes. To give people an opportunity to tinker more with GbCC models, a night session was offered by Dr. Walter Stroup and Max Sherard from 7pm until people were ready to leave. A representative from UT Dallas and two faculty instructors from University of Kansas were in attendance. During the time, Dr. Stroup lead the participants in the GbCC Disease simulation (the HubNet Classic architecture) and GeoGebra x GbCC integrated tool (flat architecture). Participants played with models and explored patterns with the graphic outputs. A rich conversation was held around the graph of % infected produced in the Disease simulation. Individuals made predictions around whether hiding the infection icon (and thus representing the presence of a silent-disease carrier) would increase or decrease the acceleration of the rate of infection. Participants made predictions and discussed the implications for teaching math and science content. A participant from the University of Kansas highlighted how the initial conditions in the program produce a profound impact on the results - a feature of complex systems that is relatively could be difficult to discuss in the classroom without an example like this.



Session 3: Framework for Integrated Project-Based Instruction in STEM Disciplines

The final day of the conference, Dr. Walter Stroup, Max Sherard, and Jason Harron had a final opportunity to present during the last session of the day. In this session, around 30 participants had come to lean about a new book in development for Project-Based Instruction. Dr. Walter Stroup updated the crowd on the progress of the book and provided a link for participants to read the introductory chapters. Afterwards, Max Sherard began a presentation highlighting the ability of GbCC simulations to unlock curricula that is commonly unaccessible through more traditional forms of representation. Max began by discussing an issue he encountered while being a teacher's assistant to PBI in the Fall of 2017: student driving questions were shallow in terms of rigor and followed a nominally generative frame for engagement. He went on to discuss how emergent phenomena like the extinction of a species are complex and require the ability to model multiple agents and their individual behaviors, which is beyond the scope of typical ecological models like the diorama or food web. Similar to the first presentation, Max demonstrated multiple models made and edited by pre-service teachers to explore the complex variables involved in an apex predator's extinction. Once participants had a chance to play with the models, they were encouraged to discuss other driving questions that could be related to this content piece. Some driving questions participants came up with are below:

  • What happens to genetic diversity of the wolf population upon reintroduction?
  • How do wolf and elk reproduction rates differ - and how does this impact the population?
  • How similar or dissimilar was the reintroduction efforts of the Panther in South Florida?
  • How does the building of a road or other human-made barrier change the dynamics of this model? 
  • What about farmers? What are the impacts of humans who hunt and protect their cattle in the Yellowstone ecosystem?
  • Which amount of wolves produces a steady-state equilibrium? What about a dynamic equilibrium?

Quickly, participants realized the fractal nature of using GbCC models - users can continually ask more refined questions, and author new simulations to explore these questions - a central feature of Project-based Instruction.

Towards the end of the presentation, Dr. Stroup demonstrated the potential of integrating GbCC with GeoGebra, the most widely used online math platform for algebra and geometry. Participants were excited by the model's ability to bring exploration into the variables that produce similar-area triangles, and wanted to see more math examples.

Presentation can be found here.


Exploring how Complex Ecological Problems with Elementary Science Pre-Service Teachers using GbCC

Elementary Science Methods is an undergraduate pre-service teacher course taught by Dr. Anthony Petrosino at The University of Texas at Austin. The course has two sections, with a total of 24 students who will soon be entering their first year in the classroom as elementary teachers. The course teaches the theoretical foundations of science education for kindergarten through 5th grade students as well as providing practical experience practicing and planning learning experiences. A focus of the course is how teachers can learn and teach about complex scientific phenomena. Topics that until recently have been considered out of reach by younger audiences.

During the last two class periods before spring break, students enrolled in the class engaged with the group-based cloud computing simulations modified from the Wolf Sheep Predation model to learn how the human-nature interactions in Yellowstone triggered massive geological changes to the path of rivers (Wilensky, 1999).

On day one of the lesson, students reflected on the uses of models and simulations in teaching their future students science. Students were able to engage with some state-provided assessment items regarding food chains, food webs, and ecological vocabulary. After reflecting on the types of knowledge represented in these state-assessment items, students watched the video How Wolves Change Rivers. Following the video, students discussed the differences in the complexity, rigor, and engagement between what a common state science test assesses, and the real ecological problem demonstrated in the video. Students decided that the video demonstrated scientific content that was much more rigorous, contextualized in a real problem, and much more interesting. Students were asked to complete a concept map showing the multiple organisms and processes involved in what we call The Yellowstone Problem.

On day two of the lesson, students brought in their concept maps and reflected on some of the major trends amongst their peers. At this point, the GbCC Wolf-Elk Binary model (a modification of Wilensky's Wolf Sheep Predation model, generated by Mica Kohl, an undergraduate Computer Science Student) was provided to students and they were asked to play. Students took naturally to working with the models and quickly uncovered the sharing features and the original NetLogo code. After discussing the affordances and limitations of the model, students were provided another piece to the story - how aspen height affects the grazing of elk.

This new information provides a complication to the story of how wolves change rivers. Students were tasked with drawing or planning a new model that could incorporate the more nuanced content into the former GbCC model they worked with. Some images of their models are provided below. After planning their new models, students were provided an example model that was modified to incorporate the new content - Wolf-Elk Scalar. In this model, the aspen trees height is reflected by a gradient of green and brown shades. The class culminated with a discussion about the affordances and limitations of teaching and using these models. Some thoughts teachers brought up were:

1. GbCC can be modified by the teacher or a collaborator
2. Students will have fun engaging with the simulations
3. It is easy to make small changes to the NetLogo code that runs the Model
4. The sharing feature is nice, but it would be better if they could share and send a comment for why they are sharing.

Overall, the pre-service teachers who participated were eager to learn more. We hope these will soon be teachers in the classrooms we can collaborate to build models for expanding their classroom's teaching and learning potential.

One team of students' planned a modification to the GbCC model which would incorporate Aspen Height as an important variable in Elk grazing.

One team of students' planned a modification to the GbCC model which would incorporate Aspen Height as an important variable in Elk grazing.

Teacher generated list of affordances and limitations of using online, fully authorable, GbCC simulations in class.

Teacher generated list of affordances and limitations of using online, fully authorable, GbCC simulations in class.

Using GbCC to understand Segregation in a Graduate Level Systemic Reform in STEM Education Course

On Wednesday, October 25th, Dr. Anothony Petrosino invited doctoral student Jason Harron to speak with his graduate course on Systemic Reform about issues related to the historic segregation and recent gentrification of Austin, TX. Framed through the lens of complex behaviors in systems (Jacobson, Kapur, & Reimann, 2016), the lesson focused on how behaviors of individual agents in a system can lead to complex emergent results. Based on the Schelling-Model of Racial Segregation (1971), the class was invited to explore segregation as an emergent phenomenon using GbCC. By adjusting a variable called “happiness”, circles and squares move around a map until they are surrounded by a user-defined minimum percentage of same colored neighbors. Students are able to adjust the minimum percentage and run the model multiple times in order to test different hypotheses about how the preference for similarity may result in different segregation patterns. Using the gallery feature of GbCC, students are able to share their outcome with the rest of the class.

Much like NetLogo, GbCC is an authorable environment, meaning that code can be modified and recompiled. By leveraging this feature, we use the segregation model as our introduction to programming. Students are shown how to modify a single line of code that determines the colors of the circles and squares in the model. As members of the Systemic Reform class played with variables, some discovered that they could add more than two colors, while one student changed the colors to black and orange and kept running the model to see if a UT Austin longhorns logo would emerge through segregation. 

The lesson then turned to Austin Revealed: A Tale of Two Cities ( and History of Austin’s racial divide in maps ( to provide a localized context for how segregation has historically taken place in Austin, TX. Through reading about the history of Austin and view maps, students learn that the neighborhood of Hyde Park was originally developed for whites only, that in the 1930s the Home Owners Loan Corporation labeled African-American and Latino/a neighborhoods as "hazardous", and that over the past three decades the African-American population of East Austin has become increasingly displaced by white residents. This investigation led to conversations based on three questions:

  1. How are these maps of Austin relate to deliberate segregation? (i.e., de jure) 
  2. How are these maps of Austin relate to circumstantial segregation? (i.e., de facto)
  3. Why is understanding this history relevant in conversations about systemic education reform?

Following this discussion, we investigated the Racial Dot Map ( to take a look at how segregation takes place in Austin and metropolitan and rural areas throughout the United States. For example, students in the class discovered that the graduate housing in the city of Austin was immediately recognizable due the overrepresentation of dots representing Asian students, Other students looked at their home city or towns, with one student commenting that their rural experience was represented almost completely by white dots.

Returning to the GbCC model, the discussion on segregation culminated with three additional questions:

  1. What does this agent-based model do well? Not so well?
  2. Does this segregation model fairly represent the how segregation takes place in Austin? Why or why not?
  3. How can modeling be used to better understand the challenges in systemic education reform?

This lesson provided an introduction to how GbCC can be used in a classroom to model and facilitate discussion about social issues in an immediate and localized context. Students were left with the challenge to think about how models and simulations can be used as a tool better address systemic education reform. 

Petrosino Attends National NSF Workshop: What Universities Must Do to Prepare Computer Science Teachers: Networked Improvement in Action

n late January, Dr. Anthony Petrosino joined 60 representatives from 22 universities - along with key stakeholders from the broader computer science education and engineering education communities - at the University of Colorado Boulder. The challenge was to attract more STEM teachers from engineering majors and to significantly strengthen the preparation of computer science teachers. The meeting was planned by representatives from UTeach programs at Boise State University, CU Boulder, and Drexel, with support from the UTeach Institute at The University of Texas at Austin. In total, about half of the national network of universities implementing the UTeach secondary STEM teacher preparation model were represented. A couple of other universities learned of our meeting and we were thrilled to have them join.

This meeting built on the CSforAll movement, which after decades of reports recommending high school CS education for all US students, is finally making headway. Federal agencies and STEM and CS education organizations (UTeach included) have been broadening participation in CS by integrating industry expertise into classrooms, training in-service teachers, integrating CS into existing STEM courses, and implementing introductory CS courses like AP CS Principles and Exploring Computer Science.

In-service teacher professional development has been key to the explosive growth of K–12 CS education offerings, but the role of universities in the preparation of computer science teachers is absolutely critical if we are going to address the current shortage of CS teachers at scale and with any kind of lasting impact. Now that the demand for CS teachers is increasing, UTeach Austin and other UTeach partner universities are ramping up and expanding their efforts.

There was widespread consensus among the group at CU Boulder last week that a variety of pathways were needed in order to recruit and prepare excellent CS teachers. All the universities in attendance described either new pathways that had been implemented within the last two years, or pathways currently under development. These included:

  • Undergraduate, four-year degree plans that add teaching to a CS major. (YES, CS majors CAN be recruited into teaching.)
  • Undergraduate, four-year degree plans that add a CS concentration to a math major with teaching.
  • Undergraduate CS certificate programs that any teaching major could add (not clear if this can all be done in four years, however).
  • Post-baccalaureate pathways designed for career-changers or new graduates with no teaching background. These pathways included streamlined preparation lasting between 1 and 1.5 years, designed to lead to a full CS teaching certification/credential.
  • Post-baccalaureate pathways designed for in-service, fully credentialed teachers. These pathways could lead just to additional CS credentials or also to a Master’s degree. These pathways might comprise a series of micro-credentials intended for in-service teachers to add over time and leading to various levels of expertise, and ultimately to full CS teaching certification in states that offer it.

There was also widespread agreement that, in addition to the development of various pathways leading to both adequate CS content and pedagogical preparation, the following considerations are critical to successful implementation:

  • Attention to the integration of computational thinking into the preparation of ALL future STEM teachers.
  • Attention to proven strategies for recruitment of students/professionals into pathways, especially developing partnerships between colleges of education/teacher preparation units and CS departments and advisors.
  • Attention to informing CS research faculty about high school teaching, so that CS majors are exposed to this career possibility.
  • Attention to providing adequate support, including financial, to students pursuing these pathways.
  • Attention to further development of the CS education research community.
  • Attention to issues of equity and diversity both from a pedagogical perspective and also as a teacher workforce concern. Broadening participation in CS should include explicit strategies to attract and prepare a diverse CS teaching corps.
  • Attention to the unique needs and issues of capacity of rural schools and districts.
  • Creative solutions to the need for adequate CS education field placements.

Pre-Service Teachers engaging with GbCC Models to learn about Project-Based Instruction

Project-based instruction (PBI), a UTeach Natural Science course taught by Dr. Petrosino and assisted by Max Sherard, is offered to students as they are finishing their undergraduate careers. Pre-service teachers enrolled in this course engage in the theoretical underpinnings of project-based instruction, plan and execute a 3-day teaching experience at a local high school, and design their own full project-based unit. 

In the final weeks of the semester, Dr. Petrosino graduate students Max Sherard and Jason Harron wanted to provide pre-service teachers with an opportunity to engage with GbCC models to elicit ideas of how these models could be used in project-based instruction.

Eight PBI students enrolled in the course engaged in a hour and a half lesson where they (1) watched the anchor video How Wolves Change Rivers, (2) explored standards based lessons related to food webs and ecology, (3) explored GbCC models to wolves, elk, and aspen trees, and (4) discussed implications of using GbCC in their future classrooms. 

The models used in the lesson were modified versions of the GbCC Wolf-Sheep Predation model, edited by undergraduate Computer Science student Mica Kohl. In version one of Kohl's modified model, she changed the sheep from the original model to an elk figure for match with the video. In version two of Kohl's modified model, she included parameters that show over-grazing occurring as a spectrum, rather then a binary (grass/no-grass).

Pre-service PBI students were excited to engage with the models and had many ideas of how GbCC models can aid learners in developing a complex and quantified understanding of how populations shift over time with regard to their ecological relationships - a development that standards based lessons often fail to achieve.

Exploring GbCC Models with Fifth and Sixth Grade Students in Nashville, Tennessee

The eradication of wolves from Yellowstone National Park in the early 1900's triggered a major ecological shift, affecting hundreds of species, which ultimately changed the geography of the park. Sustainable Human, a non-profit organization focused on telling the story of historically rooted sustainability crises, produced a YouTube video titled How Wolves Change Riverswhich explains how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone stimulated the reproduction of a healthy ecosystem.

This topic and anchor video were of interest to two middle school science teachers in Nashville, Tennessee. University of Texas graduate students Max Sherard and Jason Harron developed a 4-day unit utilizing the GbCC Wolves and Sheep Predation model to explore the complex relationship between predators, herbivores, and the plant community. By partnering with the two middle school science teachers, over 400 fifth and sixth grade students were able to extend their understanding of food webs, species interactions, and ecological shifts. 

Over the course of the week, students developed proposals to explain the ecological necessity of protecting wolves from hunters in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Teachers collected pre- and post-surveys which will be used to gather a greater understanding of how students interact with GbCC models. Interviews with teachers will allow researchers to understand how better to modify GbCC models for teachers' specific content goals.

PBI Workshop performed at the UTeach Conference

Date:  May 23, 2017

The Group-Based Cloud Computing software was demoed at the UTeach Conference during the Project Based Instruction workshop.

Survey results below:

  1. Excellent: Learned a lot about innovation of PBI
  2. Excellent: I enjoyed hearing from a variety of people teaching PBI
  3. Excellent: The structure of 3 presenters was excellent and very engaging. Thank you Stroup et al., Sara, and Paige.
  4. Excellent: 
  5. Excellent: Extremely informative and well organized!
  6. Good: Wish it was more specific to PBL throughout the entire morning
  7. Very Good: Nice variety of information. Good ideas for managing logistics. Great ideas for projects with technology.
  8. Excellent: Thank you for all of the info!
  9. Excellent: Great Information
  10. Very Good: Great information shared and included a variety of topics. Would have liked to hear more trouble shooting w/ PBI from other schools that have experienced the course.
  11. Very Good: no comment

Classroom Interactions: Exploring Segregation Model and Coding with STEM Pre-service Teachers

Dr. Sepehr Vakil, instructor of Classoom Interaction, and Jason Harron, teaching assistant, have been exploring equity issues related to computer science with the Fall 2017 cohort of STEM pre-service teachers. As part of the curriculum unit, students investigate the influence of technology and the role that it has played in the gentrification of east Austin. After exploring the history of segregation in east Austin, students were given the opportunity to learn more about emergent segregation patterns by using GbCC.

This provided students with an opportunity to investigate how the variables affected the outcome of the model, and share their outcomes with the class using the Gallery feature. As part of this curriculum unit students are introduced to coding and how you can learn coding by tinkering with existing code. Students recompiled the code of the segregation model to modify the colors used in their segregation model. The strengths and weaknesses of the existing model were discussed and students brainstormed additional variables, such as education level and wealth, as additional features that they would like to see in future models.



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University of Texas Graduate Superintendent Summer Class

June 15th, 2017

Graduate Student Summer Course: Learning Science/STEAM Reform

Dr. Petrosino, one of the grant Co-principal investigators - instructed a course for graduate students in the cooperative superintendency and STEM programs. All of the students were en route to becoming a Superintendent at some point in their careers. Dr. Stroup was invited on the 15th of July to demo and discuss the potential for GbCC implementation at the district level. Future superintendents watched an informational video describing the history and development of GbCC and other agent-based modeling technologies and had the opportunity to "play" with the simulations. Future Superintendents spent the hour discussing the implications, challenges, and benefits of district-scale implementation of a group-based web deployed software.

The opportunity to demo the GbCC technologies with future district leaders is exciting for two reason: 1) it exponentially increases our radius of implementation - each future superintendent who is interested in using GbCC capabilities in their district has the potential of reaching thousands of students; and 2) it allow us to place our theory and technology in the hands of actual users, to discover more about its limitations and capabilities.

UTeach Computer Science Conference

The UTeach Computer Science conference is a series of workshops to train teacher trainers (individuals who will train computer science teachers). An invitation was extended to the GbCC team to provide a demonstration of the technologies for the teacher trainers. Teacher trainers were encouraged to play with three simulations; the beauty simulation, traffic simulation, and the infectious disease simulation. Teacher trainers generally seemed to enjoy the program. The leader of the conference announced that using this program would allow teachers to accomplish the modeling in computer science goal.

GbCC is useful for teachers using the Advanced Placement Computer Science Standards. Particularly, GbCC provides a platform to teach enduring understanding 2.3: models and simulations use abstraction to generate new understanding and knowledge. Within this enduring understanding are 2 learning objectives and 12 essential knowledge points. By training individuals who will go forth and train computer science teachers, we are increasing the radius of individuals who will use and benefit from the GbCC capabilities.

The following individuals attended:

  • Bill Gibson, Morgantown, WV
  • Brian Ford, York, PA
  • Chris Carter, Shanghai, China
  • Dan Shuster, Simi Valley, CA
  • Drew Fulkerson, Bowling Green, KY (online only)
  • Elenor Harden, Austin, TX
  • Greg Kilgore, Marlboro, NJ (not assigned)
  • Jason Slabodsky, NYC
  • John Linares, Helotes, TX(not assigned)
  • Kelly Vostal, West Windsor, NJ
  • Kyle Schreiner, Freehold, NJ (online only)
  • Leslie Brommer, Germantown, TN
  • Melanie Stafford, Philadelphia, PA
  • Mike Hall, Paragould, AR (online & FTF)
  • Paula McKinney, Austin, TX
  • Terri Whitmer, Stow, OH

The following feedback was received and implemented from the Conference:

  • (Traffic Simulation) How do we control our individual light? Are there instructions for that?
  • (Traffic Simulation) Can everyone's individual screen also have the intersection coordinates
  • (General Use) Justin was interested in how this could be used in high schools to recruits students to register for computer science courses
  • (General Use) The framing text (description of the simulation) currently exists at the bottom of the model. Justin had mentioned having it at the top of the screen instead, that way students must interface with it before jumping straight into a simulation.