ENGAGE includes in-game curriculum and a corresponding classroom curriculum. The Computer Science Principles curriculum and framework, designed as a high school curriculum, was adapted for middle school students and is situated within the ENGAGE immersive game-based learning environment. An important focus of the project’s ongoing work is to develop a suite of learning activities that can be adopted within a variety of middle school contexts including standalone computer science courses or as enrichment for subject matter areas including science and mathematics. A vital step toward this goal is aligning the CS Principles-based curriculum with current standards for middle school grade levels. The project team drew on the Computer Science Curriculum, Common Core Practices in Math, and themes in Next Generation Science Standards to design and develop in-game and classroom activities. Teacher focus groups were conducted to obtain feedback on this alignment and to most effectively tailor the ENGAGE curriculum specifically for middle school classrooms. ENGAGE supports three curricular units that introduce fundamental concepts such as planning and sequencing, present problems about concepts related to the representation and conversion of binary data, and enable students to write programs to explore large-scale data in order to answer questions, find patterns, and connect computing to solving real-world problems.
The Computer Science Principles curriculum introduces students to central themes and ideas in computer science, develops computational and critical thinking skills, and encourages students to engage in collaborative and creative work. Creativity is a key theme from Computer Science Principles: exploring questions and using an iterative process to turn an idea into a product, using technology to solve computational problems, and broadening the focus of computer science to include not only machines and systems, but also people and their social contexts.
Computational Thinking Practices include:
- Connecting Computing
- Developing Computational Artifacts
- Analyzing Problems and Artifacts
Big Ideas covered within the CS Principles curriculum adapted for ENGAGE include:
- Computing is a creative activity
- Abstraction reduces information and detail to facilitate focus on relevant concepts
- Data and information facilitate the creation of knowledge
- Algorithms are used to develop and express solutions to computational problems
- Programming enables problem solving, human expression, and creation of knowledge
- The internet pervades modern computing