Date of Award

12-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Computer Science

Advisor

Dr. Jason O. Hallstrom

Committee Member

Dr. Timothy A. Davis

Committee Member

Dr. Brian A. Malloy

Committee Member

Dr. Murali Sitaraman

Abstract

Advancements in science and engineering have driven innovation in the United States for more than two centuries. The last several decades have brought to the forefront the importance of such innovation to our domestic and global economies. To continue to succeed in this information-based, technologically advanced society, we must ensure that the next generation of students are developing computational thinking skills beyond what was acceptable in past years. Computational thinking represents a collection of structured problem solving skills that cross-cut educational disciplines. There is significant future value in introducing these skills as early as practical in students' academic careers. Over the past four years, we have developed, piloted, and evaluated a series of outreach modules designed to introduce fundamental computing concepts to young learners. Each module is based on a small embedded device a 'serious toy' designed to simultaneously engage visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners through lectures, visual demonstrations, and hands-on activities. We have piloted these modules with more than 770 students, and the evaluation results show that the program is having a positive impact. The evaluation instruments for our pilots consist of pre- and post-attitudinal surveys and pre- and post-quizzes. The surveys are designed to assess student attitudes toward computer science and student self-efficacy with respect to the material covered. The quizzes are designed to assess students' content understanding. In this dissertation, we describe the modules and associated serious toys. We also describe the module evaluation methods, the pilot groups, and the results for each pilot study.

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