Jessica Vandenberg, Educational Psychology Graduate, ’21PHD, appointed 2021 Computational Innovation Researcher

NC State College of Education alumnus Jessica Vandenberg ’21PHD has been selected as a 2021 Computing Innovation Fellow, a postdoctoral research program in computer science.

the Computer science innovation scholarship The program sponsors two-year postdoctoral research opportunities in computer science, while providing career development and cohort-building activities with the aim of “providing a rewarding transition experience for recent doctoral students.” graduates. “

As a member, Vandenberg, a graduate of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences from NC State College of Education field of study of the educational psychology program in May, will work with Brad Mott, Ph.D., Principal Investigator at the Center for Educational Informatics and Assistant Assistant Professor at Computer Science department.

“I am in complete shock. This is my second year applying for this funding and I always felt like I was a long way from being able to work in computer science education and have a PhD. in education. Looking through the backgrounds of members of my 2021 cohort and those of previous cohorts, computer science education projects are often not funded and the overwhelming majority of grantees have a doctorate in computer science, ”Vandenberg said. “Dr. Brad Mott, my mentor on this project, and I broke many obstacles, it seems.

Since Vandenberg entered her doctoral program, she has planned to become a research scientist. Since January 2018, she has been a research fellow at Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, where she worked under the supervision of Eric Wiebe, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education and Principal Investigator at the Friday Institute.

“I am very much looking forward to taking and building on the class and research experiences gained under the leadership of Dr Eric Wiebe over the past three and a half years,” she said. “This experience of working around a group of these researchers will benefit me in many ways. I plan to gain further refinement of study design and analysis techniques, additional grant writing experience, and overall project management skills.

While at the Friday Institute, Vandenberg worked on the Fostering Collaborative Computer Science Learning with Intelligent Virtual Companions for Upper Elementary Students (FLECKS) project, a multidisciplinary project that aimed to foster collaboration and programming skills among graduate students. elementary school by developing a digital learning environment that uses virtual learning companions. During this time, she worked with over a dozen teachers in North Carolina and Florida and gathered feedback from fourth and fifth graders on what they knew and what perspectives they had on programming. , which ultimately helped develop a set of programs that teachers could use when teaching block programming.

Having been a teacher for 11 years, teaching all subjects from Kindergarten to Grade 6, and working with academically or intellectually gifted students, Vandenberg’s areas of research revolve around the experiences of upper elementary students in computer science.

“One of those years, I designed a quarter study unit around philosophy. It was a slippery slope that took us from rhetoric and argumentation to logic to symbolic logic to coding. It was at the very beginning of my teaching career and programs like Scratch, ”said Vandenberg. “Since then, my classroom and research experiences have taught me that coding is a creative and safe way for students to explore ideas, take risks, and learn. And really, isn’t that what we want education to be?

the Computer Research Association (ARC) and the IT Community Consortium (CCC), with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), this spring announced funding for a cohort of Computer innovation researchers (CIFellows) for 2021. The cohort, which includes 69 researchers from 49 universities, is 52% women. Covering a wide range of topics, researchers will begin their scholarships at 48 different universities across the country.

Vandenberg is looking to build on his experiences as a research fellow at the Friday Institute for this fellowship. Its goal is to develop a “storytelling-centric learning environment that offers block-based programming that will be enhanced to incorporate custom artificial intelligence (AI) blocks.”

“We hope that senior elementary school students can develop their confidence to work with AI technologies, but also to understand basic AI concepts and the ethics associated with such practices. Additionally, we intend to do instrument development and validation work around student perspectives and their understanding of AI, ”she said.

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