April 3, 2023
The Teacher Education Department at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) has joined the CUNY CITE (Computing-Integrated Teacher Education) project, which supports the inclusion of computational thinking into preparing the next generation of teachers.
Besides BMCC, CUNY colleges involved in CITE are Brooklyn College, New York City College of Technology, the College of Staten Island, Hostos Community College, Kingsborough Community College, LaGuardia Community College, Medgar Evers College, Queens College, The City College of New York and York College,
The BMCC project, “I Do, We Do, You Do: Introducing Computational Thinking to Teacher Education Faculty and Students,” is led by Teacher Education professors Rebecca Garte, Jennifer Gilken and Cara Kronen.
As Professor Gilken explains, the four-year project was awarded a $15,000 implementation grant from CUNY and began with a series of professional development workshops in Summer 2022. Professor Garte is the lead Principle Investigator (PI) on the research grant evaluating the impact on both professors and students, and the co-PIs are Professors Gilken and Kronen.
The purpose of the implementation is to introduce students of all ages to computational thinking (CT) concepts, specifically highlighting connections between CT, cognitive development and problem solving. The initial research will evaluate whether CT integration affects professor and student attitudes towards computing concepts.
“It also benefits our future teachers’ openness to computational thinking and supports them in integrating CT into their coursework,” says Professor Gilken.
But what exactly is “computational thinking”? As Professor Gilken explains, CT includes data visualization, hands-on exploration of materials and more.
“One example of CT embedded in classroom activities could be when Teacher Education students explore materials such as those in the BMCC MakerSpace, guided by open-ended prompts,” says Professor Gilken.
“Another example would be assigning students to build an object that moves without using wheels. In the process, they will become familiar with the pedagogical content knowledge of what computational thinking and digital literatures are, so they can embed those kinds of activities in coursework when they are teachers.”
Data visualization is also an activity using CT, she adds.
“We could work with our Teacher Education students on representing data through graphs, information charts or animation to make visual displays. Because our department offers an Early Childhood degree program, we’re also looking at ways to embed CT into the classroom using methods that are considered ‘unplugged,’ such as building with Legos and noticing concepts of design structure. Whether the activity is unplugged or occurring on a computer screen, they all use problem solving and other skills involved in computation.”
Staff development participants and Teacher Education majors can engage in activities involving CT at the BMCC Makerspace located in Room S-608 at the college’s Chambers Street campus. This space provides a 3D printer, vinyl and laser cutters, an array of computing sensors, analog tools such as a sewing machine and more.
The CUNY CITE project also affords BMCC Teacher Education faculty the opportunity to work with their counterparts on other CUNY campuses.
“It’s so exciting,” says Professor Gilken. “Our Teacher Education students gain a competitive edge over others as they take their CT knowledge and understanding to bachelor’s degree programs they transfer to, and it makes them better teachers in the long run. Not only that, but our community of Teacher Ed professors are learning together, and that’s an unexpected outcome that is enriching the whole experience for us.”
To learn more about the CUNY CITE project, which is open to all Teacher Education faculty, contact Professors Jennifer Gilken at firstname.lastname@example.org, Rebecca Garte at email@example.com and Cara Kronen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the BMCC Makerspace, contact Media Arts and Technology Professor and Makerspace Director Anna Pinkas at email@example.com or Lab Managers Kar Rosen, firstname.lastname@example.org and Jesse Harding, email@example.com.
The BMCC Teacher Education Department offers associate degree programs in Childcare/Early Childhood Education, Childhood Education, Bilingual Childhood Education, Secondary Education and (with the BMCC Health Education Department) School Health Education. To learn more about the Teacher Education program, visit online, stop by 199 Chambers Street, Room S-616 or call (212) 220-1274.