SWL Schoowide Labs LogoSchoolWide Labs (SWL) is a research and practice partnership program focused on integrating Computational Thinking (CT) into middle school science and STEM classrooms in a way that complements and enhances students’ science learning. Teachers in partner school districts participate in ongoing professional learning in which they learn to use sensor technology and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aligned science instruction to promote their students’ computational thinking. 

What does SWL do?

The program and its projects create resources that enable students to use programmable sensor technology to conduct a variety of data-enabled science and engineering investigations. All of the investigations are rooted in personally relevant questions and can be implemented by teachers who are themselves beginning users of the technology. An important goal is for teachers and students to envision a new type of “school-wide science lab” - moving beyond specialized classrooms where students go to conduct experiments to imagining the entire school and neighboring community as a space for scientific inquiry using sensors. The SWL research team then studies the affordances, challenges and impacts of integrating science curriculum with hands-on, technology-supported learning experiences that are designed to promote CT.

Co-design and Storylines

Working in partnership with  teachers, we have co-designed curriculum that includes coherent, relevant, and engaging lessons for students. Each curricular unit is referred to as a “storyline” -- meaning a set of lessons that are driven by student questions about a specific design challenge or scientific phenomena. The storylines include a specific mapping on to identified performance expectations in the NGSS as well as science and engineering practices infused with CT practices.   

Teachers can use these storylines, along with targeted professional learning experiences, to support the integration of CT into middle school science and STEM classrooms and in out of school settings, particularly through the use of sensor technology. 

Our Goal, Guidance, Research Questions

The goal of SWL is to support the integration of CT into middle school science and STEM classrooms, particularly through the use of sensor technology. 

All SWL projects follow three high-level theoretically principled conjectures that guide the research and development process:
  1. Learning experiences that utilize programmable sensor technologies to investigate phenomena relevant to students' lives will engage diverse learners in CT.
  2. Learning experiences that deeply integrate CT practices and science and engineering practices will support students to develop robust CT skills, competencies, and dispositions as well as deepen their understanding of STEM subjects.
  3. A profession learning model called the CT Integration Cycle can support teachers to productively integrate CT into their STEM instructional planning and classroom implementation.

Each of our current projects address related but different research questions.

NSF STEM+C and James S. McDonnell Foundation Research Questions

Addressing student interest, engagement, and experience with computational thinking in their middle science and STEM classrooms: 

  1. In what ways, and for which student populations, do the SchoolWide Labs learning experiences deepen interest and engagement in CT?

  2. Which learning experiences are most effective at deepening students’ disciplinary science knowledge?

Addressing teachers as learners:

  1. To what degree and in what ways do teachers’ planned and enacted sensor-based lessons change over time? Are there differences across teachers and science content areas?
  2. What professional learning processes and tools support teachers to productively integrate CT using a sensing platform into their disciplinary STEM instruction?
  3. What ideas about teaching, knowledge, and resources help teachers learn to support students in using CT-rich communication to (1) plan and carry out scientific investigations, and (2) engage in scientific argumentation?
  4. What learning experiences enable teachers to develop productive ideas about supporting students in their use of CT-rich communication over time?
  5. How do teachers’ CT-related instructional practices shape their school’s and district’s ideas and decisions, and how are teachers’ CT-related instructional practices constrained by their school and district context?

NSF ITEST STEM Career Connections) Research Questions

Addressing learning about STEM and computing careers in out-of-school contexts:

  1. What tools and practices enable a community partnership to support youth exploration of locally relevant STEM and computing career pathways?
  2. What learning experiences enable middle school youth to create personally-relevant connections with STEM and computing careers?
  3. To what extent does participating in STEM Career Connections stimulate disadvantaged youth interest and learning in STEM and computing careers?