Computational Literacy Final Report: Major Research and Education Findings

October 1, 2007

Computational Literacy: A Study of the Efficacy of Computational Science in High School Biology and Earth and Space Science Classrooms was a three-year research-and-development project funded by an NSF/IERI grant. A multidisciplinary research and development team assembled by the Education Development Center's Center for Children and Technology (EDC/CCT) in collaboration with the Krell Institute, Maryland Virtual High School, and the University of Northern Iowa worked at the intersections of education and computational science to address the challenge of building students' awareness of and facility with computational models, particularly simulations; developing both teachers' and students' computational literacy.

The evolving notion of computational literacy is defined by the project as an individual's capacity to understand the relationship between domain knowledge and the mathematical and visualization/modeling processes that are the building blocks of computational science.

Over the course of the three-year project, the interdisciplinary project team worked to satisfy the requirements of two interdependent components of the project: research and development. Project staff have designed, developed, and

tested four topic specific computational simulations and the supporting materials that combine to create topic modules;

tested the Computational Laboratory, the project's website that houses the topic modules;

Conducted formative research and field-testing of the student outcome measures, the topic modules, and the Computational Laboratory;

Distributed project related student outcome measures, a web-based teacher survey, research study protocols for participating teachers, and a number of materials essential for the implementation of the research study;

Implemented an experimental research study focused on four computational simulations developed and enhanced by the project in Years One and Two. Two of the four simulations were associated with biology-Population Dynamics (PD) and Spread of Disease (SoD)-and two were associated with Earth/Space Science-The Carbon Cycle (CC) and The Rock Cycle (RC).

The research component of the Computational Literacy project culminated in the 2006-2007 Computational Literacy Experimental Research Study conducted in three states- Maryland, Iowa,and Tennessee-with a total of 44 participating teachers, 1,542 participating students (and affecting an additional 1,639), all from 21 schools. The analysis of data collected as a result of the study is described in the project's final report, including:

findings about the alignment of research-study science topics and the high-school science courses that accommodated those topics in participating schools and classrooms;

teacher participants, participation, and impact on the research study;

student participants, analysis of and findings from study outcome measures;

technical environments that either supported or were found to hinder the Computational Laboratory, the project website; and

Limitations of the experimental research study.

In addition, this report documents:

issues related to teacher recruitment, retention, and participation;

lessons learned about the design and implementation of an experimental research study dependent on the recruitment, retention, and participation of science teachers of diverse high school students in a variety of educational settings, spanning different states.


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