Plenary Speaker Profile (2017)
Jacqueline Leonard
Professor of Elementary & Early Childhood Education
University of Wyoming
Using Robotics and Game Design to Promote Equitable Pathways to STEM

This session presents the results of a study that examined the development of children’s self-efficacy in technology and computational thinking (CT) during summer camps and whether equitable computer science (CS) practices were used during instruction. Equitable CS practices disrupt “inequities that occur at the level of classroom interaction” (Shah, Lewis, Caires, Khan, Qureshi, Ehsanipour, & Gupta, 2015, p. 263) by promoting access to rich content, high-quality instruction, collaborative peer relationships, and CS identities. The study took place over two consecutive summers. Twenty-eight children participated in a summer camp in Wyoming in August 2015. Thirty-five children participated at a summer camp in a large city in Pennsylvania in June 2016. Students in both groups learned to construct and program robots and followed protocols to develop computer games. Robotics tasks including basic programming, loops and switches, sensors, and so forth. Learning progressions (i.e., sequencing, proportional reasoning, causal inference, conditional reasoning, and systems thinking) were used to assess students’ CT (Sullivan & Heffernan, 2016). Data analyses revealed CT was dependent on the robotics task. Examples of lessons will be shared and discussed with the audience. Children’s game designs were assessed for CT using a three-point rubric based on the ISTE definition of CT. Ratings tended to vary by the type of game designed (Leonard et al., 2016). Examples will be presented and followed by a discussion. Results of three separate ANCOVAs revealed no significant differences on the SETS subscales by group, gender, or race, which indicate equitable computer science practices (Mouza, Marzocchi, Pan, & Pollock, 2016). The session will conclude with a discussion about how teachers might engage underrepresented students in equitable STEM practices in formal classrooms.

Dr. Jacqueline Leonard began her career as a public school teacher. She taught early childhood, elementary and middle school in Texas, Maryland, and Missouri, for total of 16 years. After receiving her doctorate degree from the University of Maryland in 1997, she began a career in higher education. She was tenured in 2003 and promoted to Professor in the College of Education at Temple University in July 2010. One year later, she relocated to Colorado and was tenured and promoted to Professor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver in April 2011. In August 2012, Dr. Leonard was appointed as the first African American Director of the Science and Math Teaching Center at the University of Wyoming. She began this position with tenure and professor rank in the Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education.

Dr. Leonard’s awards include: Inspirational Instruction Award (University of Wyoming, 2015); Leading African American Woman in Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Commission for Women for Outstanding Service, 2005); Outstanding New Scholar Award (University of Maryland at College Park, 2004); Summer Research Fellow (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1997); and Patricia Roberts Harris Fellow (University of Maryland at College Park, 1994). Finally, Dr. Leonard is an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She earned her degree in theological studies from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, in 1994. She has served as a minister at Shorter AME Community Church in Denver, Colorado, for five years and as associate pastor at Allen Chapel AME in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for two years. She has two daughters, Victoria Cloud and Dr. Cara Djonko-Moore, and two grandchildren, Christopher and Quiana Cloud.