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June 19, 2009

Computer Science For K-8? Yes! (With Curriculum Resources!)

* Do you teach students in elementary or middle school?
* Do you teach high school and find that students come to you with (incorrect) preconceived notions of what computer science is?
* Do you want to encourage your school or district to develop or enhance CS instruction at the lower grades?
* Can we teach computer science before high school?
* Can we engage girls' interest before they hit the age where they hear that girls aren't supposed to like/succeed with technology?

If you've been hanging around this blog or connecting with CSTA folks for any length of time, you've heard of the ACM's A Model Curriculum for K-12 Computer Science, a vision and broad outline of computer science education in grades K-12. This curriculum consists of four levels, the first of which is for grades K-8.

CSTA has been developing implementation documents for these levels, first for Levels II and III, and now for Level I: Foundations of Computer Science . The Level I framework is in its final stages of development, and the authors are asking for critical review and feedback.

This document provides an outline and objectives; it does not describe a single course but "a broad and integrated set of student learning outcomes, held together by a coherent concept of computer science for younger students...(It) can be the starting point for a teacher, school, district, or state to make computer science a vital part of K-8 education" (from the Level I Overview).

The subject matter is divided into twelve topics, which are grouped into three categories:

Computers and software applications
Topic 1: Parts of a personal computer
Topic 2: Standard software
Topic 3: Operating systems
Topic 4: Networks
Topic 5: World Wide Web and Email
Problem solving with computer science
Topic 6: Representing information digitally
Topic 7: Problem solving and algorithms
Topic 8: Computer programming
Social context of computing
Topic 9: Privacy and security
Topic 10: Evaluating and using information from networked sources
Topic 11: Human-computer interaction
Topic 12: Computers in society

Each topic is divided into grade ranges K-2, 3-5, and 6-8, with focus areas and sample activities in each range.

How can we teach these topics?

To support the ACM Model Curriculum, CSTA developed the CSTA Source Web Repository: K-12 Computer Science Teaching and Learning Materials. Level I resources in the repository were originally organized into six classifications, to match the 1998 version of ISTE's NETS (standards) for Students (ISTE 1998), plus one for "Algorithmic problem-solving tools."" However, to align with the new curriculum for Level I, we are currently reclassifying these resources, as we'll do with any new resources that are being added, to match the new topic list above.

Check them out!

P. S. The upcoming CS & IT Symposium (June 26, Washington, DC) also includes several sessions of interest to teachers in K-8: Making CS Happen in K-8, Scratching the Surface of Computer Science with Scratch!

Debbie Carter
Co-Chair, CSTA Professional Development Committee

Posted by cstephenson at 11:55 AM | Comments (2)

June 08, 2009

CSTA Leadership Cohort Update from Washington (State)

As a member of the CSTA Leadership cohort, I have had an exciting year in Washington. A group of very dedicated educators and business members have been working since January 2009 in the formation of a chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association in Western Washington State. We have met monthly since January 2009. We are a small team, but a very passionate one. We have been discussing what we want our group to accomplish, setting goals that are attainable and not overwhelming ourselves attempting to accomplish too much. There is so much that we would like to do, but we are taking small steps and ensuring that that which we do take on is done well.

We have started to put together a list of resources that have been vetted by our members, as well as information on programming language selection for courses. We have also shared information on related workshops in the area that our members might attend.

We were able to put on a very successful computer programming competition, hosted by the University of Washington in Seattle. A very capable member of our group was willing to relocate a contest she had planned to put on at her high school to the University of Washington. Members' industry contacts supplied us with many volunteer judges from industry. The University of Washington provided space, student-led tours of the Computer Science and Engineering facilities, some interesting lectures and lunch and snacks for the contest. Thanks to fast and efficient planning, the contest was a great success. We plan on repeating it in the fall and spring each year.

We are on meeting hiatus for the summer, but are planning a discussion on Alice 3.0 (if it releases on time) in September once we all return to school. We are also looking into other possible workshops and contests that we could offer to teachers and students, and will continue sharing information with our members, as well as other groups interested in what we are accomplishing.

We are a small team, but we are determined. There is a lot that we hope to accomplish, and we will over time.

Greg Kilpatrick
Puget Sound CSTA (pending chapter approval)

Posted by cstephenson at 08:17 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2009

Exploring Robotics Options

At Georgia Tech, our students must take a senior design class before they can graduate and I often have them work together in groups to create something for me to use in my outreach to K-12 students. For example, I had a team create a LEGO robot that used the light sensor to read colors and play music. I had another team use an accelerometer to create a remote control for a LEGO NXT robot. I also had a team that created a bop-it type game using the PicoCrickets.

This semester I had some of my students create an activity for the Pleo robot from Ugobe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleo). These robots look like a baby dinosaur and act as if they are alive. They like to be petted and make noises to tell you if they are happy or sad. They have a color camera, a tilt sensor, sound sensors, and lots of touch sensors.

These robots are very engaging for both boys and girls. My research team tried the robots with several groups of elementary and middle school students. When they asked the kids what the worst thing about the project was the kids said, “ you made us leave the robots to go to lunch”. The robots can currently only be programmed using MySkit which is similar to Flash. Ugobe was working on a development kit in a C like language and had released a beta version of this environment. The biggest problem with the Pleos is the battery life. A fully charged battery only lasts about 1.5 hours and it takes 4 hours to fully charge.

Unfortunately, Ugobe has filed for bankruptcy. We bought 12 Pleos so that we can use them in our summer camps and outreach programs. Hopefully another company will buy the rights to these and continue this promising new direction in robotics. See http://coweb.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/943 for the materials my senior design team created for the Pleo.

Barb Ericson
CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 12:50 PM | Comments (0)