CANON Research Lab

Welcome to the CANON lab. CANON (a musical term for a melody and variations with voices added gradually - such as Pachelbel's Canon - so named because of the synergies between this musical "roadmap" and combination of computational control instructions as well as a shared desire to balance structure and creative expression) focuses on researching innovations in computational thinking education at the elementary and middle school levels with a primary emphasis on equity and inclusion for all underrepresented populations - underrepresented ethnic minorities, females, and students with learning differences. Our philosophy is to, like a canon, accomplish this through a blend of structure and variation to balance concrete goals with encouraging creativity.

LTEC (Learning Trajectories for Everyday Computing) is devoted to exploring learning trajectories for computational thinking in K-8 when viewed through the lens of integration with mathematics. We are looking for synergies between computing and mathematics that help inform the relationships between computational thinking concepts. Our end goal is a curriculum that uses computing to teach mathematics in a more concrete way and mathematics that provides a second context for presenting computational thinking concepts.
Scratch Encore The University of Chicago, in collaboration with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), is providing an actionable and empirically-grounded answer to the question: Can we create create advanced 4 th to 6 th grade Computer Science (CS) instructional materials that give equal value to improving equity and student learning outcomes? While there are solid introductory CS curricula for grades 4-6, more advanced materials are either commercial offerings that are expensive, or free, ad-hoc activities that require experienced teachers. This disproportionately hurts learners in under-resourced schools that often serve underrepresented minority students. Instructional materials that advance equity cannot be designed for content and engagement alone, but instead must be vehicles through which solutions to practical barriers to equity can be mitigated. This research practitioner partnership is designing, developing, and evaluating advanced Scratch-based CS instructional materials for upper elementary students through a process that attends to practical barriers to equity.
Comprehending Code focuses solely on one aspect of Computational Thinking: coding. As elementary schools begin integrating computer science curriculum into their school days, it is increasingly important to find strategies for teaching a diverse set of students, including students with disabilities, English language learners, and students with a variety of ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds. We draw on decades of research on reading comprehension to drive our exploration into computer science learning strategies. Programming relies heavily on reading comprehension at several stages in the development process - reading individual instructions (at all points), a sequence of instructions provided as an example or starting code (design), one's own partially-complete code (implementation), or one's complete but incorrect code (debugging). Just as in reading, it is not enough to decode the letters into words – to succeed, the student needs to make meaning of the sequences of words into instructions (like sentences) and the sequences of instructions into functions or programs (like paragraphs).
Past projects include Animal Tlatoque and DEPICT. Animal Tlatoque explored how to recruit and expose students traditionally underrepresented in computing through an interdisciplinary middle-school summer camp (Mesoamerican culture, animal conservation, art, storytelling, and computer science) and ran from 2010-2012. DEPICT explored computer science learning in upper-elementary school students including what topics are appropriate at what ages and challenges and affordances in upper-elementary school curricula, learning environments, and languages. This project is just wrapping up and has led to new endeavors.