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Thursday, January 14 • 11:30am - 12:30pm
Girls connect: Investigating girls’ collaborative learning activities in a robotics setting

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Girls remain underrepresented in many STEM fields; the gender gap is greatest in computer science. Educational research can help us to understand how to create learning opportunities that will help girls connect with the STEM fields, including computer science. Recently, a special research edition of the Girls Connect Robotics Workshop (see description below) was held in Holyoke at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. A UMass Learning Technologies faculty member, in collaboration with the organizers of Girls Connect, developed this event to investigate girl’s collaborative learning activities while engaged with robotics. In this way, Girls Connect provided the setting for a unique collaboration among students, teachers, STEM outreach practitioners, informal educators, and education researchers.

The research undertaken at this event seeks to understand how girls work collaboratively to solve robotics problems. This research can inform the development of curricula and teaching approaches geared towards girls, potentially interesting girls in the field of computer science. In this session, the research/practice team will share some of the results from the research, as well as discuss the experience and value of local collaboration in building knowledge and expertise to broaden participation in computing and to help girls connect with the STEM fields.

Session objectives (achieved through presentations and discussion):
• Learn about the Girls Connect workshop model, its impact and results
• Understand initial findings about girls’ collaborative problem solving activities
• Discuss the value of collaboration for research/practice teams
• Hear and respond to lessons learned by the research/practice team
• Network with education professionals interested in STEM learning and local learning technology initiatives

Girls Connect is a daylong event that brings together middle-school aged girls to work together in teams, each with an adult “coach” to introduce them to robotics using the platform of FIRST LEGO League (FLL). The girls build and program LEGO Mindstorms robots to carry out challenges on a playing field that integrates a STEM theme related to real-world solutions (e.g. food safety, climate change). Girls Connect focuses on teamwork, exploration, problem solving, and connecting technology to daily life. The all-girl space supports hands-on engagement by every participant. The day is designed to introduce teams and their coaches to FIRST LEGO League, an international robotics competition program for middle-school students, and encourage them to form teams to engage in a longer experience with robotics. 

Speakers
avatar for Renee Fall

Renee Fall

Senior Research Scholar, National Center for Computer Science Education, College of St. Scholastica
Renee Fall has spent 10 years working to increase diversity in computing in Massachusetts and nationally as a leader of 2 NSF-sponsored alliances (www.caite.org and www.ECEPalliance.org). She is now a researcher on a project that will bring the Mobile Computer Science Principles... Read More →
avatar for Florence Sullivan

Florence Sullivan

Associate Professor, UMass, Amherst
Dr. Sullivan's research focuses on student collaborative learning in computational environments, including robotics. She is particularly interested in understanding and improving collaborative problem solving and collaborative creativity in computational environments. In her research... Read More →


Thursday January 14, 2016 11:30am - 12:30pm
318 303 Homestead Ave, Holyoke, MA 01040

Attendees (2)