CryptoClub Afterschool and Online: Broad Implementation
As a part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program funds research and innovative resources for use in a variety of settings. This Broad Implementation project would scale up the CryptoClub Project, an afterschool and online program designed to engage middle school youth in mathematics and cryptography. The project builds on previous successful work and evaluation that is ready for scale up using a train-the-trainer model implemented through a partnership with the National Girls Collaborative. The project will train 160 new CryptoClub leaders who will then train 800 new leaders at 20 hub sites reaching 9600 students. In addition, professional development modules and webinars will continue to refresh leader skills. Other project components include an online multiplayer cryptography game, weekly challenges through social media, and digital cryptology badges for students.
The research uses a think-aloud method with students as they actually attempt to solve the cryptology problems using mathematical thinking. Three think-aloud studies will be performed during the Project. The research team will code transcripts of the interviews for evidence of the mathematical thinking intended to be addressed by each activity, as well as capturing unexpected kinds of thinking. Tasks will also be rated according to the type of knowledge elicited. A written report will include statistical analyses of the think-aloud and interview responses, interpreted in light of the overall CryptoClub goals. The findings will contribute to both future research efforts and practice. The evaluation by EDC uses a quasi-experimental design, which assesses project outcomes for trainers, leaders, students, and Internet users. EDC will also investigate the fidelity to the CryptoClub model as it is scaled up. These studies have strong potential for informing numerous other projects that are at a stage where scale up is under consideration.