In a world increasingly impacted by artificial intelligence and computer systems, there is an urgent need to target under-resourced districts where early elementary in-service teachers may not have had exposure to teaching computer science. These teachers benefit from support to develop computer science literacy in students, especially when robotics is used as physical computing in first- and second-grade classrooms. Studies show that students as young as four years old can build and program simple robots; furthermore, exposure to robotics improves both students’ computational thought and creative ability. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Tech Force identified teacher intervention as its target; this prompted a research practitioner collaboration between nine teachers in three elementary schools and University of Southern California called Building Opportunities with Teachers in Schools (BOTS) to address this challenge. BOTS is a low-cost, scalable solution that focuses on improving the teachers’ confidence in teaching computer science through robotics, in a partnership between nine teachers from the Latinx Boyle Heights area, USC K-12 outreach professionals and Ph.D. students. BOTS organized the tools and support useful to integrate robotics into teachers’ in-school curricula in regular professional development workshops spanning multiple years. Using coding curricula from Code.org, Sphero robots as hardware, and several non-computer-based logical activities, the teachers have developed their own activities based on the needs of their students. Combining their teaching experience with the diverse technical knowledge of USC Viterbi School of Engineering students allows for a novel approach in increasing the technological literacy of elementary school students by targeting their teachers. Results from the pilot year show that 100% of the participating teachers agree BOTS increased their confidence in teaching coding, and 75% agree that BOTS added value to their classroom instruction. Additionally, 100% reported that coding improved their students’ problem-solving, communication, and creativity. All of the teachers have continued into the second year of BOTS. BOTS provides educators with (i) the opportunity to continually expand their own self-efficacy in teaching robotics and (ii) long term support ensuring that the teachers remain self-assured in integrating new material.
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