LaGuardia Faculty Prepare K–12 Teachers to Incorporate Digital Literacy Into Classroom Curriculum

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LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (February 21, 2023) — Digital phishing scams are ubiquitous today. Almost every individual has received emails from strangers, under the guise of authenticity, trying to steal their passwords, account numbers, or social security numbers. Those who unwittingly give their personal information to a scammer may lose hundreds or thousands of dollars, in addition to having countless hours of stress trying to rebuild their digital privacy. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), internet crimes like these are on the rise. Between 2019 and 2020, complaints of suspected internet crimes increased by more than 300,000, with reported losses exceeding $4.2 billion.

Learning how to recognize a phishing scam and what to do (and not do) upon receipt of a suspicious email, is critical to avoid falling prey to these criminal acts. Faculty of the Education Program at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY are part of a new $14 million four-year CUNY initiative that looks to incorporate lessons about computational thinking and computer literacy into the classroom, beginning with the youngest of students and continuing through grade 12. The initiative is funded by Google, Gotham Gives, the New York City Department of Education and the Robin Hood Learning Technology Fund and is designed to meet New York State’s digital fluency standards.

This academic year alone LaGuardia’s Education Program is receiving approximately $360,000 from the CUNY Computing Integrated Teacher Education (CITE) initiative. The funds will be used to update curriculum, enhance existing curricula, train faculty, develop new courses, and cover the tuition for public school teachers’ professional development credentialing. Students and public school teachers alike will learn a range of computing topics, skills and issues, including cyber-awareness, password protection, algorithms, debugging, and gaming.

“This CUNY CITE funding is allowing us to update our curriculum for nursery–grade 12 teachers—preparing them to incorporate lessons about digital literacy and computational thinking into their daily classroom curriculum,” said Michele de Goeas-Malone, project lead for LaGuardia’s CITE work, chairperson of LaGuardia’s CITE committee, and co-director and faculty member of LaGuardia’s Education Program. “This shift is particularly important for educators of students from marginalized communities who often have limited access to computers and personal technology. These are lessons that have applications to daily life—computational thinking is a way of problem solving and approaching a project—skills that can be used personally, academically, and professionally. While learning how to avoid scammers is becoming a critical life skill.”

This initiative is designed to bring STEM and digital literacy into classrooms for grades as early as kindergarten.

“Now instead of teaching computer skills in a separate class, K–12 teachers are expected to incorporate them into their daily curriculum. And it’s not just about how to use computers and computer platforms. It’s a way of thinking, of problem solving and pattern recognition. It’s learning how to apply computational thinking to analyzing a problem and why it went wrong,” said de Goeas-Malone .

“Interest in our Education Program is growing. With the number of LaGuardia students majoring in these fields more than doubling between 2020 and 2021—LaGuardia’s role in training tomorrow’s teachers to teach digital literacy from kindergarten, will have a big impact,” said Dr. Arthur Lau, professor and chairperson of LaGuardia’s Education and Language Acquisition Department, where the Education Program is housed.

Projects that received funding from CUNY CITE include:

Professors Monika Ekiert, Leigh Garrison-Fletcher and Bede McCormack created a nine-credit curriculum sequence for pre-service Bilingual Education teachers taking Introduction to Language (ELL 101), Sociolinguistics (ELL 220), and Foundations of Bilingual Education (ELN 123). The sequence brings questions of linguistic diversity and linguistic justice to the center of our students’ exploration of technology and the ideas related to “computer science for all.” Experiencing, reflecting, and writing about linguistic biases in digital tools such as Scratch, teacher candidates develop their ability to make intentional decisions about how they and their future students engage with digital tools.

Professors Maria Savva and Givanni Ildefonso designed and integrated a developmentally appropriate computing module in Foundations of Early Childhood Education (ELN121). The curriculum was infused with computational thinking concepts that included teaching young students ‘how to think like a computer’ through fun, hands-on activities while guiding pre-service teachers through the integration of computer work in everyday tasks.

Professor Angela Cornelius created and piloted a project where students explored and engaged in digital literacy topics in Childhood Language and Literacy (ELE203). Students engaged in activities that deepened student understanding of multimodal texts by examining the texts, which led to exploring bias, prejudice, and stereotypes in children’s literature. Following the writing process and utilizing digital platforms that combine text, images, audio, video, and other media, students created informative digital stories such as public service announcements, news reports and movie trailers that critically analyzed bias in a chosen children’s book.

Professors and Education Program co-directors Caterina Almendral and Michele de Goeas-Malone designed and piloted a three-hour computational thinking module for the First Year Seminar in Education (EDF101). In the module, students are introduced to computational thinking and basic coding with the Scratch coding language. Computing concepts are introduced and connected to concepts that are already part of the course, such as habits of mind, teacher competencies, academic planning, and reflective practices. The two co-directors received strategic planning funding to analyze data from the new module to be collected over two semesters. The data will be used to assess effectiveness, review faculty implementation and revise the material based on findings. To support faculty teaching EDF101, Professor Michele de Goeas-Malone also designed and led a professional development workshop.

For teachers and paraprofessionals already working in public schools, a two-course tuition-free sequence for Computer Science in 6 credits (CSin6) was developed. The sequence consists of Fundamentals of Computing (MAC100) and a new education course designed specifically for this initiative Introduction to Education Technology (ELE150).

Professor Maria Savva joined the central CUNY-Michigan State University CITE Team as Research Associate. She is exploring how faculty operationalize the computing and digital literacies they integrated in proposed projects. This includes conducting interviews and observations, facilitating focus groups and analyzing artifacts across multiple CUNY campuses. She has also served as a reviewer for faculty research proposals seeking funding from the grant.

As part of a joint research project with CITE institutions, Brooklyn College and Northeastern Illinois University, Professors Caterina Almendral and Michele de Goes-Malone designed and piloted a module that utilizes gaming to draw pre-service teachers’ attention to issues of accessibility, digital communication and equity.

Along with colleagues from Queens College, Professors Caterina Almendral and Michele de Goeas-Malone presented Computational Thinking for Elementary Teacher Candidates at the 2022 CUNY IT Conference.

Professor Bede McCormack also presented at the 2022 CUNY IT Conference with colleagues from CITE on Scripting Critical Culturally Relevant Computing-Integrated Teacher Education.

The Education Program offers four associate degree tracks: Early Childhood (birth–grade 2), Childhood (grades 1–6), Secondary (grades 7–12), and Bilingual Child.

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LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), located in Long Island City, Queens, educates thousands of New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all U.S. college students study. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education.


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