Computational Literacy: A Study of the Efficacy of Computational Science in High School Biology and Earth and Space Science Classrooms
2004 - 2007

The project's multidisciplinary research and development team investigated whether the integration of a specific kind of computational model i.e. simulations into a high school science curriculum can support students from diverse academic, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds in developing computational literacy, a capacity to understand relationships between domain knowledge and the mathematical, algorithmic, and modeling processes that are the building blocks of computational science. The project's approach to the teaching and learning of computational science concepts, skills, and techniques, was reflected in the four science topic modules: Population Dynamics: Predator/Prey, the Spread of Disease, the Carbon and Rock Cycles that helped to define the Computational Laboratory, the project's website. Centered around a comprehensive visual simulation of computational data, each of the four topic modules encouraged users to discover important, but not immediately obvious layers of information by manipulating the scientific, mathematical, and algorithmic elements that underlie the computational model. Students who engage with the simulations in the Computational Laboratory are anticipated to perform effectively on four outcomes measured by their ability to:

  1. Demonstrate conceptual understanding of the dynamic and interactive nature of the phenomenon or model.
  2. Describe the affordances and limitations of the model as compared to real-world situations.
  3. Solve novel problems related to, but not the same as, the computational problems they have been working on in their courses.
  4. Show progress or proficiency on relevant testing items. Computational Literacy project activities, in the second year of the project have focused on: research and development, recruitment and field-testing.


Terri Meade (PI)
Margaret Honey (PI)
Cornelia Brunner
Dixie Ching
Peggy Clements
Ellen Mandinach