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August 30, 2012

Membership Benefits

CSTA has recently produced a brand new Members Benefit brochure. If you have not received a copy, you can access it by clicking on the Membership Information tab on the CSTA website.

Or- if, like me, you are terribly busy as it is the beginning of the school year and you do not hardly have time to read this blog, let alone, all the text in the brochure, let me sum it all up for you!

What Are Your Member Benefits in a Nutshell?

1) Communications
a. The Voice: bimonthly, relevant and engaging articles and classroom ideas
b. The Advocate Blog: ~1-2 times per week- sharing of new ideas and current issues
c. CSTA Connector: quarterly- keeps institutional members connected to key CS Education strategies
d. The Globe: quarterly e-newsletter for international members- provides global perspective on CS education

2) Curriculum Resources
a. Web Repository: searchable database of peer reviewed lesson plans
b. CSTA K-12 Science Standards: core set of learning objectives for computer science curriculum

3) Policy Resources
Five different documents designed to help YOU advocate for Computer Science Education at the local, state, and national levels. These, as well as other items such as an advocacy tool kit, can be found under the Advocacy/Outreach tab on the main CSTA Website.

4) Professional Development
a. CS&IT: the annual conference focused on K-12 CS Education
b. Professional Development Videos: includes presentations and panels from various CSTA Events
c. CS Snipits Podcasts: provide a quick look at interesting CS education topics or people.

5) Career Resources
Simply too many to mention by name, but that is a good thing! Items vary in design from career brochures, classroom posters, lesson plans, research on the latest in CS education, and promotion of CS Education Week. All items are accessible online and links to specific resources can be found embedded in the membership brochure!

So What now? Simple. Access and use some of your member benefits today! Keep in mind, to access some of these resources you will need to set up your ACM Web Account. If you have not already done this, instructions are available in the Member Benefit Brochure! We hope that you will take full advantage of the resources available to you in the quest to see CS Education expanded throughout the globe!

Mindy Hart
At-Large Representative
Membership Committee Chairperson

Posted by cstephenson at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2012

Next Generation Science Standards Should Include CS

On May 11, the Washington, DC-based group Achieve released its first public draft of the "Next Generation Science Standards" or NGSS. These standards, coupled with the Common Core standards for mathematics are meant to define how states should think about K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Since these standards will ultimately drive what gets taught in science classrooms across the country, the stakes are high.

Computing in the Core (CinC), which runs CSEdWeek, is deeply disappointed that both the math and science standards leave computer science by the wayside. While the math standards are well on their way to being implemented and assessed, Achieve's new effort on the science standards is still in development, and they need to hear from you about the importance of having real, engaging computer science in these standards.

The development of the NGSS is a state-led process managed by Achieve. The twenty-six participating states and their supporters hope these new K-12 science standards will be "rich in content and practice" and "arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades" to provide students an "internationally benchmarked" science education. CinC and computer science educators argued early on in the process that these standards should reflect the importance of teaching and learning computer science in the country's elementary, middle and high schools. The draft, while it includes elements of "computational thinking" falls far short of our expectations and does not reflect the needs for students in the digital age. CinC sent Achieve a letter explaining its concerns:

Computing in the Core and its members are committed to changing K-12 computer science education policies in a way that supports exposing more young people to computing in grades K-12 and giving more computer science educators the support they need to teach the crucial discipline. While the NGSS letter and the efforts of CinC members in the standards development movement are good examples of our concerns and actions, voices from the field are important as well. Articulating these messages to Achieve as they gear up for a second iteration of these standards and to local and state leaders during CSEdWeek events are invaluable contributions to the CS cause.

Weigh in with Achieve, explain your concerns to your colleagues, friends and neighbors and ask them to get involved, and plan an event to raises these issues around CSEdWeek this year.

Della Cronin
CSTA Policy Consultant

Posted by cstephenson at 07:51 PM | Comments (1)

August 27, 2012

What Inspired You?

As the school year rolls around again, what professional development did you participate in that inspired you for the new year? I recently attended a CS4HS session at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and was truly inspired to spice up my teaching with some new hardware and software. I am grateful to CSTA, Google, Lenovo, and CAITE for sponsoring this great workshop.

Tom Lauwers introduced us to Finch Robots, a cool sleek design that includes all the regular motors and sensors you would expect, with an accelerometer and a beak that can light up to any RGB color you wish. Its low price point ($99) makes it a viable option for the classroom. The Finch robots also support a variety of programming languages, so it is an easy fit for any CS curriculum.

In addition to the Finch robots, we spent a morning learning and experimenting with MIT's AppInventor software. Led by UMass Lowell's Fred Martin and Mark Sherman, the forty teachers in the workshop were quickly creating apps and downloading them onto our new Lenovo tablets, a bonus takeaway from the workshop (along with a Finch robot!). I marveled at how quickly we were able to code an app, download it, and have it running on the Android device. What a motivator that will be for students, to write a mobile app to show off to friends and family.

I left this workshop so excited to try out both in my class, and wondering how I will manage to adapt my curriculum to fit them. But I am determined to incorporate these awesome technologies into my teaching. One of my goals in my introductory course is to engage and motivate students to explore the possibilities of computing. I think that Finch robots and AppInventor will help me to achieve that goal.


Karen Lang
CSTA Board of Directors
9-12 Representative

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

August 23, 2012

CS is Featured in the Kahn Academy

Normally when preparing to write a post for the Advocate Blog, I collect my thoughts for several days prior to starting to write. I had collected some great ideas about the Gender Gap in STEM fields (as well as the dearth of other underrepresented groups in STEM), particularly in Computer Science. But we are all too familiar with those shortages. Then I came upon some great news about new resources for Computer Science educators. And so I thought, maybe that's what I should write about...and so it will be.

The first news I encountered was the announcement that the Kahn Academy had a new Computer Science site. The Kahn Academy posts free videos about hundreds of topics related to core subjects. How nice that Computer Science is being included with that group! Then, upon exploring the site, I found that it was much more than just videos. Instead of videos, there are two vertical panes; the left pane allows students to enter code, and the right pane displays the output. Now this is something like the W3Schools tutorials for teaching students HTML and CSS, and is done very well indeed. The changes to the code affect the output dynamically (immediately without any extra effort on the part of the learner). This is an interactive site and not a video! The students learn to create graphics, animation, and to develop games. Students will love it! Salman Kahn is the creator of the Kahn Academy and has the backing of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In reading the article, I learned that Mr. Kahn has degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT. So what took him so long?

This is a great way to teach Computer Science! Students begin with experimentation and creativity and then delve deeper into concepts. As John Resig wrote in his blog post last week: rather than starting Computer Science education off by explicitly teaching how a computer works or fundamental programming concepts (like variables, logic, control structures, etc.) you put the student into code of graduated complexity and encourage them to manipulate, explore, and write their own programs. What fun! It has even been suggested that perhaps math should be taught using a similar method. Hmm, that might really increase the interest in students studying STEM subjects! And apparently, I was not the only person who found the Kahn CS site really good news. There are a multitude of praises available on the Internet. Casey Brown wrote for OpenSource.com:

As the world demands more and more computer scientists, Khan Academy's computer science program could not have been introduced at a better time. The new curriculum was debuted yesterday in a video featuring John Resig, Khan Academy's Dean of Computer Science, and Sal Khan, Founder of Khan Academy.

But my favorite quote is this one from Liz Dwyer in the August 17 Good Education:

Given that knowing how to code is increasingly seen as essential in the 21st century as knowing how to read or write, Khan's effort joins a handful of existing learn-to-code platforms, like the popular Code Academy and Udacity. Given that millions of people around the world view Khan Academy videos every month, the potential to ensure that even greater numbers of learners have the computer science skills they need is pretty exciting. Besides, with so many great options, now you really have no excuse for not learning to code

So it seems that people other than CSTA do indeed know that Computer Science is a 21st century skill! CS has indeed come of age in 2012! Have some fun exploring the Kahn Academy Computer Science site and reading the multitude of blog posts about it.

In addition to the Kahn Computer Science site, other news I came across this week concerned the National STEM Digital Library http://nsdl.org/. "NSDL is the nation's online portal for education and research on learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics." Once I read about that, I decided to explore the site to see if CS was included in STEM on the site. It is! A simple search of computer science produced about 60 links, including one to CSTA's home page. Clicking on the left-hand navigation bar for Resources for K12 Teachers produced additional links to NSDL Collections, including one for Computational Science. Clicking on that brought me to more links, including links for Tutorials (including Java programming tutorials), Code Libraries, and Algorithms. Users can browse the system based on a number of different fields. Users can also register for a Computational Science Education Reference Desk (CSERD) User Account at the site. CSERD is a Pathways portal of the National Science Digital Library and funded by the National Science Foundation. Resources at CSERD may be of more interest to our higher education faculty CSTA members.

It was truly gratifying to read so much good press about computer science all in one week. And it was wonderful to find good resources for CS teachers available at the click of a mouse. There are so many resources available to teachers available and becoming available. There is indeed a renewed emphasis on computer science. I would definitely say that Computer Science has made the big time.


Khan Academy to Launch Computer Science Curriculum, PC World, August 14
Coders Get Instant Gratification With Khan Academy Programming, Wired, August 14
Khan Academy Wants to Teach You Coding, Good Education, August 17
John Resig's Blog Post
The Kahn Academy
Computer Science at The Kahn Academy
National Science Digital Library
Computational Science Education Reference Desk

Deborah Seehorn
CSTA State Department Representative

Posted by cstephenson at 02:43 PM | Comments (1)

August 21, 2012

Day of the "Tech" Girl

October 11, 2012 is the first ever International Day of the Girl Child. The United Nations set this date aside to recognize that empowerment of and investment in girls is critical for:

  • economic growth;
  • the eradication of poverty;
  • meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them;
  • breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence
  • This day provides focus to efforts that are helping girls gain "the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community."

    "Tech" Girls
    We know that one very important way to empower girls to imagine and achieve new futures for themselves is by providing them with solid foundational knowledge of computer science concepts and inspiring them to share their vision with the globally connected community.

    What's the problem?

  • The ratio of women studying computer science in college is less than 20% (US stat).
  • Stereotypical images about computer science, like it's boring, hard, anti-social and irrelevant, persist.
  • By age 13 girls determine a positive or negative attitude towards subjects like computer science.

    Alternate realities

  • Through hands-on experience, girls recognize that computing is about creativity, connecting people and changing the world.
  • Mentors help break down the stereotypes behind computer science.
  • Parents and schools understand the importance of computer science education.
  • Change the world!
    The under-representation of women in computing and its affect on society are complex issues, but we cannot let the scope of these issues stop us from attempting to make a difference in the lives of girls right now. The International Day of the Girl on October 11 provides us with an opportunity to engage girls, their families, their schools and the wider community about the power of computing.

    Changing the world requires passion, commitment, resources and collaboration. If you have read this far, you've got the passion and commitment to empower girls. Please share your ideas for Day of the "Tech" Girl activities and events. I'll start by suggesting we use #dayofthetechgirl as the hashtag.

    Submit an idea
    View ideas

    International Day of the Girl resources
    10x10. Educate girls, change the world
    Day of the Girl

    Tech Girl Resources

    CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association)
    Black Girls Code
    Computer Science Collaboration Project
    Dot Diva
    Fab Fems
    Girl Develop It
    NCWIT Scorecard (National Center for Women & Information Technology)
    Teen Tech Girls

    Kim Wilkens
    Technology Activist

    Posted by cstephenson at 01:27 PM | Comments (2)

    August 17, 2012

    Montessori and CS in K-8

    There has recently been a lot of discussion about improving computer science education and the need to include the elementary and middle school students in the process. As a K-8 technology teacher, this age group is always on my mind. After attending a recent Scratch Conference at MIT, I am convinced, more than ever, that 21st century computing skills have an important place in even the earliest rungs of the K-8 ladder.

    Kindergarten, and, in some cases, pre-school, is the ideal time to expose young children to computer science. According to the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, young children are primed for learning. Her approach focuses on developing a child's independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child's natural psychological development. She believed "Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment."

    Montessori emphasized constructivism - the idea that children acquire knowledge by acting on the world around them. This model is a perfect fit with computer science and computational problem-solving. Constructivism stresses the importance of a child's active participation in the learning process Computer programming places the emphasis of learning on the child by allowing her to take on the active role of designer and builder. At the same time, the iterative nature of computer programming, (i.e., start with a clearly-stated idea, create a working prototype, experiment with it, debug it when things go wrong, get feedback from others, then revise and redesign it) teaches students to think reflectively about the problem-solving process itself. Hence, computer science is a practical and powerful way for teachers to implement constructivist learning in the elementary classroom.

    In order for young children to develop competency in computer science from a natural learning process, parents, teachers and administrators should support this effort. Unfortunately, many adults, instead of encouraging their children to explore computer science, share their knowledge of computer technology in the form of "smart" devices and Apps. According to a 2012 study conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop (iLearnII, An Analysis of the Education Category of Apple's App Store, Carly Shuler, 2012) over 80% of the top selling apps in the Education category of the iTunes store target children. In 2009, almost half (47%) of the top selling apps targeted preschool or elementary-aged children. By 2012 that number increased to almost three-quarters (72%). While not necessarily a bad thing, parents and teachers should focus their energy on encouraging children to become developers, not consumers, of technology.

    It has long been assumed that only adults, including college and high school students, can understand the basics of computer science. However, recent studies have shown that even children as young as age four, can learn to program.

    The Tangible Kindergarten (TangibleK) Project study, conducted by the DevTech research group at Tufts University, demonstrated the potential of integrating robotics and computer programming into early childhood learning experiences. This research team found that children as young as four and half were able to successfully program a robot to complete a variety of challenges (Kazakoff & Bers, 2011). According to their website: "The overarching goal of the Tangible Kindergarten project was to explore how we can help young children to develop computational thinking by engaging them in computer programming and robotics in a developmentally appropriate way."

    Building on the philosophy of Maria Montessori, where students are provided specifically designed "materials for development", the TangibleK curriculum provides ways for young children to engage directly with the programming environment, thus helping preschoolers to take charge of the learning process.

    Because of the proliferation of Apps and other technologies, families and educators are looking for guidance. Now is the time to take charge of the conversation and steer it towards creating a generation of technology producers. According to Professor Marina Bers, Director of the DevTech Research Group, "Computers for most people are black boxes. I believe kids should understand objects are 'smart' not because they're just smart, but because someone programmed them to be smart."

    Students no longer have to wait until high school to experience the learning benefits of computer science. I am eager to share my love of computing with my K-8 students and thanks to the research from Tufts University, I now have the resources to make that happen.


  • TangibleK Project: http://ase.tufts.edu/devtech/tangiblek/
  • Lego WeDo: http://www.legoeducation.us/eng/search/wedo/_/categories/products/elementary/lego-education-wedo
  • Scratch: www.scratch.mit.edu
  • Scratch Jr.: http://ase.tufts.edu/DevTech/ScratchJr/ScratchJrHome.asp

    Patrice Gans
    CSTA K-8 Representative, and Chair, K-8 Task Force

    Posted by cstephenson at 04:30 PM | Comments (2)

    August 15, 2012

    CSTA Cyber Security Poster Under Development

    In recent months the federal government has expressed increasing concern about our cybersecurity, that is, with our ability to protect the complex computing and communications systems needed to protect our citizens and carry out the business of our businesses and indistries. In the coming months, CSTA will be working with the National Security Agency on a project which we hope will increase awareness of this issue and encourage students to take the kinds of courses that could provide them with critical skills and access to careers that can make a critical difference.

    Each year, CSTA creates a classroom poster focusing on some key aspect of computer science education and student engagement and this year, in conjunction with CSEdWeek (December 9-15, 2012), we will be releasing a poster focusing on cybereducation. Right now we are in the early design stage but we know that what we would like most to communicate with students is that there is a critical need and they really can help "save the world with their brains".

    The poster should be available by early November and any CSTA individual member (membership is FREE) can request a classroom copy. In addition, programs that are CSTA institutional members (membership is FREE for the first year) can order larger numbers of copies to distribute at events. Announcements will be posted on the CSTA website as soon as the poster is available.

    Chris Stephenson
    CSTA Executive Director

    Posted by cstephenson at 01:03 PM | Comments (1)

    August 12, 2012

    Changes I Plan To Make

    Recently I read an article by Noa Gutow-Ellis a 10th grader in Houston, Texas:


    that was highlighted on Twitter by Edutopia. In her article she describes an outstanding teacher. She states that there are four traits that make a teacher remarkable:

  • Teachers that care about us both in and out of the classroom
  • Teachers that are beyond passionate
  • Teachers that plan unforgettable lessons
  • Teachers that aren't afraid to be challenged.
  • As I was reading the article, I was thinking about how I could emulate each of these qualities in a computer science classroom because I want to inspire my students to learn computer science.

    Here are my thoughts about the first point: Teachers that care about us both in and out of the classroom. Some of my students are in the U.S. without parents. They have student visas and live with a relative or board with another family. I have presented lessons on phishing schemes that have benefited my students in the past. I can think of one student that after my presentation was caught in a phishing scam and approached me for advice. I am also taking this into the future. I plan to have guest speakers during Computer Science education week to discuss possible career choices for my students.

    For the second point: Teachers that are beyond passionate, I need to share my passion. I will have to find a way to stay energetic because my computer science classes have been schedule at the end of the day rather than at the beginning. I am still thinking about this one. I need to bring in how computer science is used in areas that my students are interested in.

    I have some ideas for the third point: Teachers that plan unforgettable lessons. I attended a Tapestry Workshop a few months ago where Seth Reichelson from Florida spoke about his lessons. I hope to incorporate some of those into my class. Also, during the same workshop, Robert Luciano from Pocono Mountain East High School, Swiftwater, PA spoke about using logic problems as a warm-up activity. It motivates his students to get to class to start working on them. Linda McDaniel from Wesleyan School, Norcross, GA during the Tapestry Workshop told me that she tried it this past school year and it had the same affect on his class. I have purchased Critical Thinking, The Daily Spark from Amazon to use as logic problems. Also, the parent support group at my school has agreed to purchase 9 Finch robots for my class. I want to use these as part of an unforgettable lesson.

    The last point is Teachers that aren't afraid to be challenged. I am willing to let students question what we are doing and suggest a better way to do it. I enjoy and welcome the challenge that their way is better and let them work to prove it.

    I am looking forward to the beginning of the school year and working to incorporate each of these traits into my computer science classroom.

    What are your ideas about incorporating any of these traits into your computer science class?

    Myra Deister
    CSTA At-Large Representative

    Posted by cstephenson at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

    August 03, 2012

    Local Professional Development Rocks!

    Last week I was honored to present and attend CSTA Rocks Ohio! in Columbus, Ohio. This workshop, sponsored by CSTA and Google, was attended by 35 other CS educators from around Ohio and provided professional development opportunities on a dozen different topics over a two and a half day period.
    Angie Thorne and Stephanie Hoeppner (CSTA Ohio President and Vice President) deserve thanks for the planning of the event involving other CSTA members with presenting CS topics. Each session allowed attendees to widen their knowledge and most importantly, to network with other CSTA members in Ohio. Time was provided for hands-on exploration as well as lecture formats.

    This opportunity gave local teachers a chance to participate in quality CS professional development that they might not have otherwise had access. Personally, I was able to meet several other CS teachers and a chance to meet a fellow teacher face-to-face that I have only known through email. At the end of the workshop, I think we all had a good time learning new ideas for our classrooms and fellowshipping with other CS teachers.

    Thank you CSTA and Google for making CSTA Rocks Ohio! possible. I look forward to more opportunities like this in the future!

    Dave Burkhart
    CSTA and CSTA Ohio Memeber

    Posted by cstephenson at 11:45 AM | Comments (1)