The Educational SoftWare Seminar


Computer Science 92, the Educational Software Seminar, is a software development and educational technology course taught in the Computer Science Department of Brown University. Founded by Professor Andries van Dam the course was developed in the late 1980s, and during the 1990s was taught for several years by Professor van Dam and David Niguidula. Since 1998, the Seminar has been taught by Roger Blumberg. Blumberg is Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science, where he specializes in the study of computers and education.

The Seminar is rather unique, both as an approach to educational technology and as a model for university-school collaboration, because it begins not with a product developed at the University, but with proposals solicited from local classroom teachers. Teams of Brown undergraduates work with these teachers, who come from elementary, middle and secondary schools as well as Brown University and local institutions involved in community education, and the CS92 students design, create, test and finally install the programs specified by the local teachers.

Students in The Educational Software Seminar attend semi-weekly seminars, which are devoted to readings from a variety of fields including the history and philosophy of education, computer science, and the cognitive sciences and distinguished guests from areas of education and educational technology are often invited to attend. Students also learn to use recent multimedia authoring tools and environments in order to create their programs.

Prior to the start of the seminar, proposals for CS92 projects are solicited from local teachers in Providence. During the first weeks of the course, students select the projects that will be the focus of their work for the entire semester. Student teams work closely with their sponsoring teacher, meeting approximately once each week, and often carrying out classroom observations; students observe the teacher's style of teaching as well as the dynamics of the teacher's classroom or laboratory, and student-teacher discussions focus on instructional goals and the ways that the software might help in their accomplishment.

Within two weeks of meeting the teacher, the students in the seminar write a revised project proposal, sketching out the type of program they would like to develop and the goals it will achieve in detail. The next six weeks of the course focus on designing the program, and culminate in a "storyboard," which shows the layout of the primary screens, the types of user interaction involved in the program, and a description of the ideas and concepts that will be presented to the student users.

The last four weeks of the course focus on the technical implementation and testing of the software, and culminate in the delivery and installation of the program in the classroom. At the end of the course, participating teachers have a working piece of software, custom-designed for their teaching needs, and the Seminar students have been immersed in every phase of creating a real software product for actual students and working teachers in local schools.

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