Pearson at the Forefront of Merging Computer Science with the Humanities

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Professor Kim Pearson

A $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will allow Associate Professor of English Kim Pearson and colleagues from Villanova University to design new ways to bridge together college-level courses in computer science and the humanities.

“What the NSF does with a lot of its programs is it tries to create models that other educational institutions can replicate or the industry can replicate,” Pearson said. “So the idea here is to be able to create this model curriculum, rigorously evaluate the results, pick up on what works, and modify, adapt, or at least have somebody acknowledge how to do this.”

The classes Pearson and her research colleagues plan to create will include some blend of “writing, video, theater, and computing,” she said. Pearson will prototype a course of this nature in the spring semester, when she teaches a virtual games course with Ursula Wolz, TCNJ professor of computer science. Students in that class will implement storyboards and prototypes (designed by students from a fall-semester games course) to produce a video game that combines digital media, storytelling, and computer science.

“We’ve been doing the games course for several years, creating these virtual games,” Pearson said. “One of the things we’ve found is that everyone—the computer scientists, writers, and designers—gets a perspective they wouldn’t get otherwise.”

As part of the grant, Pearson and her collaborators also plan to create workshops at which they will showcase to other professors what each can do to implement computing into his or her own pedagogy. Pearson said one of the main reasons she and her collaborators decided to apply for the grant was because many faculty and students in the humanities have yet to really think through the role computing can play in their particular disciplines—despite the fact that many professions are becoming increasingly computing comprehensive. At the same time, it has become crucial for computer scientists to have a range of communication skills, Pearson added.

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