UNM researchers to create bilingual computer programming curriculum

Education

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A group of University of New Mexico professors wants more kids to get involved in math and computers. So they’re trying to get a bilingual program started in middle schools.

“A hashtag, what do you guys think would be a hashtag?” asks a kid in a video. These kids are putting their heads together for a computer coding assignment. “Do you see all these words?” asks a kid in the video. “Do you see how they affect the code?” And some were even able to create their own robots.

It was all part of an after-school computer coding program a few years ago for some Albuquerque middle schoolers. Now, a group of UNM researchers wants to keep the learning going and create a curriculum for a computer programming class. “The in-classroom instruction is basically going to be algebra, mathematics and teachers are going to co-develop lessons that incorporate computer programming into an algebra lesson,” said UNM Associate Professor Carlos Lopez Levia.

However, their program goes a step further and would be offered as a bilingual course. “Students are afforded the opportunity to use their full linguistic repertoire whether it’s in Spanish or in English and communicate in that way,” said UNM Professors Marios and Sylvia Celedon-Pattichis. “The curriculum is provided in both languages.”

The researchers said middle school is usually the time students make decisions about their future and it’s a priority to include under-represented groups into the STEM fields. “One of the main goals that we had was to make these practices of computer programming and mathematics accessible to all children especially Latinx at schools that have limited resources to provide such programs,” said Lopez Levia.

By letting students participate in Spanish or English could cast a wider net to get kids interested in stem courses. The UNM researchers were awarded a five-year grant to develop and test out the bilingual computer program. They hope Albuquerque Public Schools will let them test out the program in a couple of their middle schools.

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