Ni receives funding to support K-12 schools in developing culturally relevant online courses

Dr. Lijun Ni portrait

Albany, NY (September 29, 2020) - Lijun Ni, assistant professor of Educational Theory and Practice and an expert in computer science education, recently received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support K-12 teachers to develop effective remote delivery pedagogies and attract more diverse learners into computer science.  Specifically, this funding will support Dr. Ni and colleagues in working with teachers from three school districts to address two themes: (1) the adaptation of existing curricula for online learning and (2) research on the impact of remote learning on underrepresented students.

“This groundbreaking work is critical for understanding how to effectively convert K-12 education to remote delivery and working to address the digital divide that we so often see in underrepresented communities,” said Jason Lane, dean of the School of Education. “Professor Ni’s work further represents the School of Education’s long-time commitment to excellence in social justice and online education.”  

Ni and team will work with teachers to adapt their curriculum for remote learning, introducing culturally relevant computing pedagogies that engage secondary students and their families together, with special attention to underrepresented students, and highlight cultural heritage and student self-expression. They will also create resources and structure to build a remote professional learning community (PLC) for teachers across the three districts in the project – in Lowell and Methuen, MA and Schenectady, NY.

The funding augments an existing NSF grant, Collaborative Research: CS Pathways RPP: A District Ownership-based Approach to Middle School Computer Science, which she is working on with UMass Lowell Computer Science Professor Fred Martin and team.

The focus of year 1 was on building partnership, district structure and resources, and teacher capacity.  Ni and UAlbany researchers including doctoral students Gillian Bausch and Rebecca Benjamin, are partnering with the three middle schools in the Schenectady City School District, to create an inclusive, culturally-responsive, and sustainable middle school computer science and digital literacy program, aligned with the new NYS K-12 Computer Science and Digital Fluency Standards.

The School of Education is a national leader in the delivery of online graduate education and in teaching teachers how to teach in online and remote formats. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the School as one of the top 10 in the country for providing an outstanding online learning experience for students. In March 2020, the School also launched, an online resource hub to support teachers and parents in navigating the new remote learning environment.