MazeStar Computing Project

Exploring the role of virtual identities in K-12 STEM+Computing education.

A screenshot take from MazeStar, a National Science Foundation-funded platform for Computer Science learning developed at the MIT ICE Lab.

A photo taken during a multiple-day MazeStar Computing workshop held with AP Computer Science high school students at the Boston Arts Academy. In this photo, students presented their custom-built games to their peers and shared about their design and development process.

Project Overview

The MazeStar Computing Project provides an introduction to computing topics aimed at sparking students’ interest and engagement, fostering a student-centric approach in which they are seen as rich holders of prior knowledge which are assets and opportunities for connection to computing. The curriculum allows students to explore their ideas while learning about human-computer interaction, web design, privacy, coding, debugging, and more using an inquiry-based, constructionist approach to teaching and learning. The project features multiple components, including:

Computing Workshops

The MazeStar Computing Workshops offer opportunities to middle and high school students to learn computer science in fun, exciting, relevant ways and develop self-images as computer scientists to spark student excitement about computing. These workshops have been facilitated with students belonging to groups currently underrepresented in STEM disciplines in the United States and focus on bringing the culture into the fabric of computing practice. In addition to activities such as brainstorming with sticky notes and paper prototyping, the workshops utilize the custom made digital MazeStar Platform which allows students to explore their ideas while learning about human-computer interaction, web design, privacy, coding, debugging, and more. A component of MazeStar is a game-like programming environment called Mazzy in which students learn the building blocks of coding.

Curriculum Guidebook

The MazeStar Curriculum Guidebook was developed with and endorsed by a team of experienced learning science and curriculum development professionals as well as several Boston-area Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science teachers. The content in this guidebook is aligned with the first five units of the nationally-recognized Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum, which is an introductory high school course designed to engage students in both computer science content as well as computational thinking and practice. The curriculum guidebook has been organized into 6 units and contains detailed examples on how to lead engaging activites and discussions on fundamental computing topics.

Design-Based Research

Research based on data collected from MazeStar Computing Workshops held in 2017 were captured in a publication entitled Exploring the Use of Virtual Identities for Broadening Participation in Computer Science Learning. Using grounded theory methods, results from three workshops were analyzed to address (1) how to characterize the relationships between learners’ virtual- and physical-world identities and (2) the impacts of avatar use on students’ performance and engagement in computer-based learning environments.

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