Save Hawaii with (Computer) Science

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Organizing Principles

There are two fundamental organizing principles for the "Save Hawaii with (Computer) Science" mobile app:

  1. Learning about the field of computer science is motivated with respect to a specific goal: helping the state of Hawaii toward a sustainable future. This goal is chosen in order to attract students who are not attracted by the traditional perception of computer science as a career where (a) one creates video games and/or (b) one makes a lot of money.

  2. The content is presented as a set of levels. Each level is represented by a set of push pins overlaid on a map of Oahu. The location of the push pin should hold some relevance to the content. To move on to a new level, the user must "complete" the current level. This means clicking on each push pin to reveal some sort of information regarding either sustainability in Hawaii, or computer science, then proceeding through an evaluation mechanism in which the user must synthesize together the information to see how computer science can be useful in addressing sustainability issues. Having a set of levels enables the content to be presented in a semi-sequential manner: while one can still progress through the content using different "paths", it enables certain foundational information to become "required" material.

Pedagogical goals

  1. Have an understanding of core disciplines (data science, networking, IoT, security/privacy, etc) in computer science.
  2. Have an understanding of key sustainability challenges (food security, environment, energy independence, climate change and sea level rise, etc) in Hawaii.
  3. Be able to articulate how various computer science disciplines can potentially be applied to address sustainability challenges.
  4. Be aware of local resources (organizations, clubs, companies, people, government entities) who can support work by high school students toward addressing sustainability challenges in Hawaii.
  5. Be aware of how current UH students are applying computer science principles, and what UH resources are available to them both now and if they choose to attend UH.

Walkthrough of the mockup

We'll walk through the five mockup screens from left to right.

Save Hawaii with (Computer) Science (Startup Screen)

When invoking the app for the first time, this page appears. It includes a short video by a local celebrity familiar to and respected by high school students. I chose Jon Jon Florence (world champion surfer from the North Shore) for this mockup. Clicking the play button will yield a short promotional message from the celebrity talking about how sustainability is really important and computer science can provide the skills to create innovative solutions.

It would be neat to have a rotating set of videos of this sort.

The first screen also asks the user to enter their mobile number, after which a verification code is texted to their phone which they enter underneath. Though perhaps not strictly necessary, from a research perspective, this enables us to gather metrics about usage to better understand what happens when some uses the system. It can also create the ability to form teams, login from the web, and so forth. Disadvantages are the fact that we are gathering mobile phone number data about users.

Terms and conditions

We'll need a page to get the user to agree to terms and conditions, although it is interesting to consider how this works with minors (i.e. high school students). We will need legal guidance on this, perhaps from the advisory commitee.

Your mission

In this page, another local youth celebrity (in this case, I picked Anuhea) provides a short introduction to how to use the system: what are levels, what you're trying to accomplish, etc.

Level 1

This is a first draft of the UI for content in the game: a map of Oahu, with push pins representing content items.

Push pins could be locked if the user has not completed prerequisite tasks.

For Level 1, I show just two push pins. One of them would provide a basic, short overview of computer science, and the other would provide a basic, short overview of sustainability issues in Hawaii (maybe referencing the Aloha Plus Dashboard.

Computer Science Is Not Just Video Games

This is a page that might appear when the user clicks on a push pin on the previous page. It contains a short video by (say) Jason Leigh in which he talks about all of the things you can do in computer science. It's the first, very high level overview.

There would be an analogous page that would appear for the second push pin for Level 1, this time focusing on sustainability.

Getting to Level 2

After reviewing the material in the two push pins for Level 1, the next step is to take some sort of quiz or something in order to unlock Level 2. How would this work? I don't know yet.

Research evaluation

Here are some of the research questions we'll want to answer:

  1. Adoption. What percentage of students who are informed about the app actually try to use it.
  2. App Engagement. What is the engagement of students who adopt the app? What is the breakdown by frequency of use (i.e. once a day, several times a week, once a week, etc.)? What is the breakdown by level achieved?
  3. Community Engagement. What percentage of students who use the app go on to get involved with a community organization presented to them by the app?
  4. UH Engagement. What percentage of students who use the app go on to UH and ICS?
  5. Demographics. What are the demographics of student users? Are we engaging a (more) diverse audience?
  6. Curriculum evaluation. Which levels and/or units are found to be most interesting and popular by students?

What's next

If this design is chosen for development, then the next essential step is to develop the curriculum. What are the content items within each level, and what information will be communicated?

In addition, we need to develop the evaluation criteria: how do we assess, for each content item, whether or not the student has "learned" it?