1 University of the Basque Country (SPAIN)
2 Christian Brothers University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2019 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 5023-5030
ISBN: 978-84-09-08619-1
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2019.1253
Conference name: 13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 11-13 March, 2019
Location: Valencia, Spain
This article describes a proposed research project for the development of STEAM competencies in schools based on the design and implementation of Computational Collaborative Ecosystems.

The project has three fundamental pillars: Computational Competence, Motivation as Engine for Learning, and Online Communities for social support in Learning.

The result of the project is designed to be the creation of a competent school community in the areas of computing and STEAM. In addition, it designed to provide paths that reduce the digital divide between privileged social groups and traditionally ignored social groups.

The project designs and develops a pedagogical methodology based on collaborative computational ecosystems. Through this methodology, the students maintain a level of cognitive activity that transforms learning of computing and STEAM into a process that is efficient and with permanence, as well as providing a positive personal experience.

These ecosystems consist of a programming environment with three fundamental characteristics:
1) Motivation: the student creates a digital space in which he or she reproduces the environment and the characters of a segment of his real world, and that has great personal interest (music, dance, sports, theater, games, etc.). He/she is also motivated by the creative activities involved and the relationships established with the other participating students.
2) Inertial Learning: The student creates these ecosystems through the development of higher cognitive activities of the brain's system-1 (parallel processes, object-based, avoiding cognitive interference, permanent memory as a reliable and automatic process with immediate access, and error-free).
3) Fundamental Ideas of Computation: the computational ecosystems endow students with a computational language. This language allows the representation of complex computational ideas to solve the complex problems of modern society.

The initial areas selected for the elaboration of these ecosystems include those of special personal interest of the students (music, sports, artistic expression, dance, games, and humanities). For example, an ecosystem that combines the rules of a game with the laws of physics implements a space rocket that the student needs to pilot. The physical laws that control this rocket are implemented directly in simple scripts (programs) that the student designs and modifies. Because the student needs to pilot the rocket and make it take off and land in a correct way, he/she learns the relationships that govern the behavior of this system with great motivation since the goal is to pilot the rocket without destroying it.

The ecosystems are implemented with an ad-hoc version of the Snap programming environment. It contains the set of programming blocks that are necessary for the creation and development of student activities. This special versions of Snap have been designed to isolate and identify for students those computational elements that are relevant to the project.

The online collaborative space of the project promotes the contact and continuous collaboration of each student with their peer group. This strategy is fundamental to address the problem of the academic difficulty perceived by students and for the sustained level of motivation. In addition, a school social network is created to facilitate the access to examples of all computational ecosystems, projects, and collaborative forums for each area of interest.
STEAM, Computational Thinking, Collaborative Learning, Blended Learning.