New Article: Computational Thinking and Expository Writing in the Middle School

Ursula Wolz, Meredith Stone, Kim Pearson, Sarah Monisha Pulimood, and Mary Switzer. 2011. Computational Thinking and Expository Writing in the Middle School. Trans. Comput. Educ. 11, 2, Article 9 (July 2011), 22 pages. DOI=10.1145/1993069.1993073


To broaden participation in computing we need to look beyond traditional domains of inquiry and expertise. We present results from a demonstration project in which interactive journalism was used to infuse computational thinking into the standard curriculum and regular classroom experience at a middle school with a diverse population. Outcomes indicate that we were able to develop positive attitudes about computational thinking and programming among students and teachers who did not necessarily view themselves as “math types.” By partnering with language arts, technology and math teachers at Fisher Middle School, Ewing New Jersey, we introduced the isomorphism between the journalistic process and computational thinking to 7th and 8th graders. An intense summer institute, first with the teachers and then with students recruited from the school, immersed them in the “newsroom of the future” where they researched and wrote news stories, shot and edited video, and developed procedural animations in Scratch to support their storylines. An afterschool club sustained the experience. The teachers adapted interactive journalism and Scratch programming to enrich standard language arts curriculum and are infusing computational thinking in classroom experiences throughout the school.

This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Posted in Civic media, journalism education, Research and tagged , , , , , , .


My professional background is in public information, magazine journalism, blogging and journalism education. My current research is founded on the premise that democracy requires the broad participation of a computationally fluent citizenry. Civic media industries must reflect the communities they serve at the level of ownership, research and development, news gathering, presentation and community engagement. This adds greater urgency to the already critical need to broaden participation in computing. To that end, I have collaborated on curricular models for infusing computing into journalism education at both the scholastic and collegiate levels, and for promoting civic engagement in computer science education. My current interest is in exploring the potential of stochastic networks and as enhancement to social computing tools for broadening civic participation.
While most of this blog is devoted to my research in computational journalism and trends in journalism education, I occasionally do some storytelling of my own. This blog picks up where my other blogs, Professor Kim’s News Notes ( and The Nancybelle Project ( left off.