Vintage Computer Festival — five events this year!

If you’re looking for novel ways of inspiring students, then consider giving them some hands-on exposure to the past at a Vintage Computer Festival event.

Vintage Computer Festivals are a series of family-friendly events celebrating computer history. The event formed in the 1990s and gradually spread to other parts of the country and into Europe. Each event has an exhibit hall where anyone can see and try out historic computers from the 1960s-1980s. There are also keynote speeches by celebrities and VIPs, technical classes, tours of nearby museums, consignment sales, and more.

Upcoming editions include VCF East (April 15-17, New Jersey) and VCF West (August 6-7, Silicon Valley). Children enter free for most of the event.

These events are the only place where your students can see things such as a 1960s DEC minicomputer, 1970s systems such as an Altair 8800 or Apple-1, and all manner of 1980s eight-bitters — all up-and-running. Take a learn-to-solder class, play a round of Zork, see a UNIVAC mainframe, and learn how to load BASIC from paper tape.There’s no better way to make students appreciate modern smartphones than to see an 800-pound Cray supercomputer or boot a Commodore 64 into a flashing cursor prompt.

The series producer is Vintage Computer Federation which is a 501(c)3 educational non-profit. In addition to the shows, the Federation also owns the Vintage Computer Forum online discussion site, incubates regional chapters, and operates its own hands-on computer museum.

– Evan Koblentz, president, Vintage Computer Federation

www.vcfed.org 

evan@vcfed.org 

facebook.com/vcfederation 

twitter.com/vcfederation 

DRAFT 2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards: We Need Your Feedback—Again!

Much excitement and activity continues to take place in the K-12 Computer Science Education space. The K-12 Computer Science Framework and the Computer Science for All initiative started by the White House both continue to evolve. Many states and school systems are working to implement computer science into their curriculum. And, the CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task force continues to refine the draft 2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards.

Thanks to all of you who took time to provide us feedback on the draft 2016 CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards during the first review period. We received many great recommendations and comments about the standards. The CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force members met in person on March 5 and 6 to read and analyze the feedback that we received. They have been diligently working to revise the first draft of the 2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards to reflect the feedback. The second DRAFT of the 2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards is now ready for public review and feedback. We need your assistance once again!

Please take some time to review the revised 2016 draft standards and complete the 2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards Feedback Form. This will provide the CSTA Standards Revision Task Force members with additional constructive feedback that will assist us as we seek to refine the standards and make them most useful for K-12 educators. You will have the opportunity to give us detailed feedback on individual standards in each of the grade levels (Level 1, Grades K-5; Level 2, Grades 6-8; Level 3A, Grades 9-10 (for all students); Level 3B Grades 11-12 (enhanced standards for students who wish to further study CS). You will also be able to provide feedback on all the standards for a grade level within a concept area.

Feedback for this second review period will be accepted from April 6 through April 20, 2016. The task force members will analyze this feedback and further refine the standards as needed. CSTA is committed to an iterative process that allows multiple drafts and revisions before publication. Our goal is to release the interim 2016 standards at the 2016 CSTA Annual Conference.

We want your feedback. We need your assistance. Please thoughtfully complete the CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Feedback Form. This second round of feedback on the standards will be accepted until April 20, 2016.

Thank you for your time, expertise, and enthusiasm in supporting K-12 CS education.

Deborah Seehorn, CSTA Board of Directors Past Chair & CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force Co-Chair

Tammy Pirmann, CSTA Board of Directors District Representative & CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force Co-Chair

Website Links

Computer Science for All https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/01/30/computer-science-all

K-12 CS Framework http://k12cs.org/

2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force http://www.csteachers.org/?StandardsTaskForce

CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Process http://www.csteachers.org/?StandardsProcess

2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards Feedback Form http://www.csteachers.org/?SubmitYourFeedback

2016 CSTA Annual Conference http://csta.acm.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/sub/CSTAConference.html.

 

 

 

DRAFT 2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards: We need your feedback!

No one can doubt that it is an exciting and busy time to be a K-12 computer science educator: an announcement from the White House about the new CS for All initiative, a new K-12 CS Framework under construction, an emphasis on cybersecurity education in the K-12 classroom, new curriculum products, new computer science standards in Arkansas, Florida, and Massachusetts (to name a few states), computer science for all New York City students, and professional development opportunities for CS educators. Scarcely a day goes by in the news/media without some mention of K-12 computer science education and what it should look like.

The CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force members have been diligently working to revise the 2011 CSTA K-12 CS Standards to ensure they are current, valid, and the best they can be. The task force members very much appreciate all of you who took the time to provide us with input on the 2011 CSTA K-12 CS Standards during the public feedback period in September – October 2015. Your input, along with the draft K-12 CS Framework and practices, standards from other states and countries, and related national standards informed the task force members as they revised, deleted, and added to the 2011 CSTA K-12 CS Standards. You may view the standards development process on the CSTA Standards Webpage. The first DRAFT of the 2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards is ready for public review and feedback. We need your assistance once again!

Please take a little time to review the revised standards and complete the 2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards Feedback Form. This will provide the CSTA Standards Revision Task Force members with constructive feedback that will assist us as we seek to refine the standards and make them most useful for K-12 educators. You will have the opportunity to give us detailed feedback on individual standards in each of the grade levels (Level 1, Grades K-5; Level 2, Grades 6-8, Level 3A, Grades 9-10), Level 3B (Grades 11-12). You will also have the opportunity to provide feedback on all the standards for a grade level within a concept area. (The draft K-12 CS Framework Concepts are Computing Devices & Systems, Networks & Communication, Programs & Algorithms, Data & Information, and Impacts of Computing.)

Feedback for this initial review period will be accepted from February 16 through March 3, 2016. The task force members will analyze this feedback and refine the standards. CSTA is committed to an iterative process that allows multiple drafts and revisions before publication. We anticipate another review period sometime in the spring of 2016, as the project budget allows. Our goal is to release the revised standards at the 2016 CSTA Annual Conference.

We want your feedback. We need your assistance. Please thoughtfully complete the CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Feedback Form. This initial feedback on the standards will be accepted until March 3, 2016.

Thank you for your time, expertise, and enthusiasm in supporting K-12 CS education.

Deborah Seehorn
CSTA Board of Directors Past Chair
CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force Co-Chair

Tammy Pirmann
CSTA Board of Directors District Representative
CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force Co-Chair

Website Links

Computer Science for All https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/01/30/computer-science-all

K-12 CS Framework http://k12cs.org/

2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force http://www.csteachers.org/?StandardsTaskForce

CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Process http://www.csteachers.org/?StandardsProcess

2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards Feedback Form http://www.csteachers.org/?SubmitYourFeedback

2016 CSTA Annual Conference http://csta.acm.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/sub/CSTAConference.html.

 

 

 

CS Principles and Creativity

Students will likely need exposure to, and practice with the CS Principles big Idea “Creativity” many, many times before a “creative – innovative – mindset” is comfortable and natural. You may have to undo years of “non-creativity conditioning.”

It is not enough to tell students that creativity is important; you must show students that you value creativity by actively engaging in it yourself. I don’t have to tell you that a unit exclusively “on creativity” is bound to fall flat!

So how can we build creativity and innovation into the very core of CS Principles? A few suggestions from a variety of experts:

  1. Let students know that there are usually multiple paths that lead to understanding.
  2. Arrange student collaborations that provide meaningful (to them) real-world, problem-solving opportunities.
  3. Provide lots of project and performance choices that employ a variety of “intelligences” whenever feasible.
  4. Encourage them to look for and experiment with new things and ideas.
  5. Encourage questioning.
  6. Be sure your grading does not penalize “less than successful” creativity. Students will not feel free to experiment if their grade hinges on some abstract measure of success. The true reward for being creative is purely intrinsic.
  7. Encourage them to mistakes as opportunities for learning rather than failures.
  8. Enable students to exchange, value, and build upon the ideas of others. Share interesting examples of technological creativity that you run across in the media.
  9. Make time for informal interactions between students.
  10. Offer a safe environment that encourages risk-taking. Avoid a competitive and extrinsically rewarding classroom, by providing a friendly, secure, and comfortable environment.

What do you do in your classroom to build the creative capacity of your students? Share with us!

 

 

The Growing ECEP Alliance

By: Mark Guzdial

The NSF Alliance Expanding Computing Education Pathways has expanded dramatically over the last few months. There are now 11 states in our cohort: Alabama, California, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. The participants in the state cohort are leaders in their state to improve CS education and broaden participation. They are teachers, policy-makers from state education departments, higher education faculty, and industry.

The state cohort has monthly calls where we discuss progress in each state, share experiences, and make suggestions in other states. Each call has a guest speaker who addresses an area of concern for the cohort. Jane Kraus from NCWIT talked to us about working with high school counselors to promote computer science degrees and careers. Heather Carey from Constant Contact talked to us about how to engage with industry. We will be having our first annual meeting with our expanded cohort the day after the RESPECT conference (see web page) in Charlotte.

We held a session at the CSTA 2015 Conference in Grapevine on “Changing Computing Education in Your State.” We talked about the kinds of changes happening in Massachusetts (Rick Adrion), Georgia (Mark Guzdial), and California (Debra Richardson) — what’s been most successful for promoting change, and what’s been the most challenging. (Slides are available here.) Then we broke the audience into small groups by region (e.g., Midwest, West, Southeast) to talk about how to make change and find opportunities to collaborate. The session was videotaped and will become available at the conference archive.

Some of the common issues that we heard:

  • Some states are choosing to grow CS at the elementary and middle school levels. Nationally, ExploringCS and CS Principles are growing, but there is less pre-high school CS curriculum available.
  • It’s challenging to develop curriculum/learning standards for CS and teacher education programs and teacher certification. They interact (e.g., you want teachers to get credentials for taking the education programs that prepare them to teach to the standards) and they all take a lot of time to develop. The processes have to be timed right so that they interact and inform each other productively.
  • Each state’s policy works so differently, at all of the elementary, high school, and post-secondary school levels. There aren’t any good guidebooks for “How Education Works In My State.”
  • Higher education faculty should be able to play a role in policy and advocacy, but that’s not how their job is defined and they don’t always know where and how to play a role (see previous point).
  • We heard from some states where there is interest in writing a landscape report (see our page of resources to help in writing a landscape report) and organizing a group, but it’s hard to find a leader, a plan, and to organize the effort.
  • Texas was highlighted as a state with a lot of sticks (e.g., requirements from the state to implement policies to promote computing education) but no carrots (i.e., incentives or funding to build capacity).
  • Several states told us about competition between funding for CTE and for CS programs. For example, there are arguments within states over whether Perkins funding (see here for explanation) can be applied to CS classes, even if they’re not classified as CTE programs. The answer is “Yes,” but not all states agree with that interpretation.

We in ECEP are excited to be working with this larger group of states. We’re learning a lot about different models for change in computing education policy. We are pleased to be working with CSTA members and chapters in our cohort states because of their passion for computing education and their insights into the school systems in their states.

We’d love to see more student-developed apps like NeverLost

Image

A child goes for a walk in the nearby forest… all of a sudden she realizes that she has lost her way. How can she alert her guardian that she may be in danger, especially when she has a mental handicap? A challenging situation no doubt, calling for a practical solution… which came in the form of the “NeverLost” app, designed and coded by a group of students from four collaborating schools in Corfu, Greece.

As the website is in Greek only, I will attempt here to present an overview of their work.

The four schools met and got down to work on their first task: to roll out a plan. Here are the steps:

  • Investigate application requirements.
  • Carry out market research to explore the competition in apps designed for kids.
  • Design functions.
  • Delegate tasks to the individual schools.
  • Code app in App Inventor.
  • Design app in Photoshop.
  • Transfer design to App Inventor.
  • Publish app in Google Play Store.
  • Design and develop webpage.

Next they decided which school would be responsible for each stage of the plan; “Kato Korakiana Vocational High School” would work on the design of the app and the webpage, and Amfipagites Middle School, the 2nd General High School and the 4th General High School of Corfu would collaborate on developing the app and writing the code in App Inventor.

They concluded that the app should include six functions:

  • Make phone call (e.g. dad, mom, guardian)
  • Send message (e.g. dad, mom, guardian)
  • View your location on map
  • SMS your location (Latitude and Longitude coordinates)
  • SMS your location on map
  • Settings (assign phone number to receive calls and messages)

Finally, they decided that a short video would help explain the concept to potential users, so they filmed a “trailer” for their app.

The project was presented with great success at a Computer Science Teachers Conference in Northern Greece and received wide appraisal in the national press and the Internet. Μore information is available on their Facebook page or directly by email: scroll to the bottom of their webpage for details (I have checked that their admins are eager to answer questions and provide info in English).

We would really love to see more great projects like this: the students and teachers involved deserve all the credit in the world for their social awareness, teamwork abilities, app market savvy and  competitive design skills. Keep an eye out for this year’s video competition of the CSTA Equity Committee themed around Computing for the Common Good: dates and guidelines to be announced soon!

Mina Theofilatou
CSTA International Representative
Kefalonia, Greece

 

neverlost_app

Public-Private Partnerships in Computer Science Education

By: Lorilyn Owens, Director, Oracle Academy North America

Industry partners are content providers, augmenting and enhancing curriculum resources. Industry partners are funding sources, helping support classroom resources, professional development, and extracurricular clubs and activities. Industry partners provide volunteers to support classroom teaching, lending expertise and credibility to real-world ideas. All of these ideas were expressed by experienced educators at the 2014 CSTA conference during the Oracle Academy panel discussion focused on how to maximize public-private partnerships to better support computer science (CS) education. When it comes to CS education, which approach is right? Or are they all right? The lively discussion only began to scratch the surface. We did learn, however, there is no one right answer.

For more than 20 years Oracle, through its flagship philanthropic Oracle Academy program, has worked to advance computer science education and make it more accessible and engaging to students everywhere. Oracle Academy supports continuous computer science learning at all levels, and makes available a variety of resources including technology, curriculum and courseware, student and educator training, and certification and exam preparation materials.

Over the years, we have seen tremendous progress with public-private partnerships. Recently there has been an influx of both industry and nonprofit organizations that provide support for computer science education. While some of the resources come with a hefty price tag, many of them are free or low cost. The resources often differ in scope and objective. Some resources are vendor specific and some are vendor neutral and focus on core concepts and foundational knowledge. Some resources are event driven and others are curriculum based. Some resources focus on students and others focus on educators. There are e-books, videos, software, games, and countless websites with downloadable resources. With so much available, how do you choose what is right for you and your students? Rather than solely considering the available resources, perhaps you should also look at the resource provider and seek an opportunity for a public-private partnership.

Although we cannot provide specific guidance, in our experience, effective public-private partnerships in support of CS education do three things:

  1. They provide an opportunity for true engagement. If an industry partner is seen only as a project funder with little direct engagement with students or teachers, it is a missed opportunity for all involved. Seek a partnership that helps foster a strong and supportive community of practice, and provides support for educators at all levels.
  2. They are mutually beneficial. The arrangement should clearly articulate what the industry partner can offer the educational institution and what the educational institution can offer the industry partner. All involved need to be sure they deliver on commitments.
  3. They help address the need. Don’t lose sight of the problem you are trying to solve. Have a good understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and what is needed to achieve that goal. Then, seek a partnership that truly helps to deliver what is needed. Finally, consider including success metrics as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of the public-private partnership in addressing your needs.

Access to computer science education, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, is a defining 21st century social issue. Technology permeates our lives and drives the global economy. Future growth requires people with strong computer science skills. As we work collectively to prepare the technology innovators of the future, consider engaging in public-private partnerships to support your efforts. They can be effective avenues to increase access and opportunity in CS education.

Out of Your Seat Comp Sci: Coding Using the Kinect

By: Doug Bergman, CSTA 2015 Annual Conference Presenter

One of our most successful and popular high school Computer Science classes is also one of our most challenging: Coding for the Kinect camera, where the students spend all semester working on a single project using the Microsoft Kinect. The Kinect API, using the C# language, allows students to collect and interpret 3D skeletal streaming data. Because of the nature of the technology, classes tend to be extremely collaborative and active. But what kinds of projects can the students do, after all they are only in high school, right? You’d be surprised– simulations, games, interactive activities, tutorials, analysis programs, and learning tools. The thought processes involved in moving from the standard keyboard/mouse 2D input forces students to think in 3D space and also to use gestures, motions, and positioning. Check out this presentation to find out more, but don’t expect to just sit back and watch—I am looking for volunteers in the audience to try out real student projects, and we’ll walk through the code together to see what this code looks like. We’ll even build a small program together to show how students can work through their logic of developing functioning code. Yes, your students not only CAN do this, they will LOVE it.

You can attend Doug’s session on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, plus more by registering on our conference page.

Teaching and PBL

By: Moslem Cherif, CSTA Member

As we know, learning is becoming something of a bore for students in our days. This problem gets bigger day after day, without intervention or mediation of anyone. The solution here, is to use a type of learning that can create motivation for students, and here we have the idea of PBL.

PBL (Problem Based Learning) is a method to motivate the students based on self- learning, knowing that our current methods can become a little lazy.

Giving a problem to solve, or a project to finish can motivate any student and give him/her the energy to search and to use their imaginations. This method fosters active learning, improved understanding and retention, and development of lifelong learning skills.

As with any method, PBL has limits and drawbacks. It can cause disruption when working on a team, and it may also complicate the evaluation.

10 Lessons Learned from Developing a PK-12 Computer Science Program in SFUSD

by Bryan Twarek
Division of Curriculum & Instruction, San Francisco Unified School District

Computer science (CS) is becoming increasingly critical to a student’s success in preparing for college and career. In today’s digital age, all students must develop a foundational knowledge to understand how computers works and the skills required to creatively solve real-world problems. However, the vast majority of schools do not yet offer computer science instruction. In fact, in San Francisco public high schools, only 5% of students are enrolled in a computer science class, and only half of the schools offer a single course. Even at the schools that do offer computer science, the students in these classes are generally unrepresentative of the schools’ population as a whole, with far fewer females and students of color.

It is critical that we address this need with an equity mindset and ensure that all students have access to computer science, beginning in the earliest grades. With this in mind, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has committed to expanding its computer science programming to ensure that all students at all schools have experience with high-quality computer science instruction throughout their PK-12 educational career.

Currently, we are developing a policy and implementation plan for integrating computer science into our core curriculum. As part of this work, we are crafting a PK-12 scope and sequence of essential knowledge and skills to be taught at each grade level. We will pilot at select schools next school year, with fuller implementation in 2016-2017.

I would love to share 10 lessons that I have learned through my experience with this initiative:

  1. There is a lot of excitement around computer science.
    Many schools had a taste during the Hour of Code and are now asking for more. Through surveys and interviews, we have determined that the vast majority of teachers, administrators, students, and families support expanding computer science instruction. In fact, 100% of surveyed teachers responded that it is important for their students to learn computer science.
  2. Most adults don’t have prior experience with computer science.
    It is challenging to begin teaching a subject that most never learned themselves in school. While most of our current high school computer science teachers have a degree in CS or relevant industry experience, this is not a scalable practice. We will have to develop teachers from within the district, and they will need to learn the content before learning how to teach it to their students. For this reason, we plan to utilize dedicated computer science teachers at all grade levels, rather than have all multiple subjects teachers to integrate a new discipline into their classes.
  3. Defining computer science is tricky.
    Many people mistake computer science as educational technology (i.e., integrating computing into teaching and learning). Others believe that computer science is just programming. Developing a thorough, yet concise definition of computer science is challenging even for experts. It’s been helpful to present the five strands in CSTA’s K-12 Standards as a way to simple way to articulate the various aspects of computer science. 
  4. We must begin teaching computer science at younger ages.
    Unfortunately, we have noted that females and students of color are underrepresented in computer science classes, even as young as sixth grade. Therefore, we must reach children before they develop constructs of who pursues and excels in STEM fields. We plan to normalize computer science education by guaranteeing access to all students when they first enter our schools in kindergarten or pre-kindergarten. 
  5. Little academic research and few curricula exist.
    There has been little academic research on K-12 computer science education since the days of Seymour Papert, which makes it difficult to know exactly what to teach and how to teach it. Additionally, there are very few cohesive computer science curricula targeted for elementary and middle school students. Only within the last one to two years have organizations like Code.org and Project Lead the Way created K-5 CS curricula, and it will likely be several more years before we have a clear picture of what works well.
  6. Great things are happening outside of the classroom.
    While few of our students currently take computer science classes, some excellent nonprofits, community-based organizations, and individual teachers have worked to fill in these gaps. Clubs, after school activities, one-time events, and summer programs offer additional opportunities to engage with CS. Some try to reach all students, including: Mission Bit, FIRST Robotics League, CS First, and Coder Dojo. Others target underrepresented populations, including: Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, Chick Tech, and Hack the Hood.
  7. We must attack this issue from multiple angles.
    Developing a plan to go from 5% of students to 100% takes time, but we recognize that if we wait for our plan to be fully implemented, we will miss many students. We can start providing computer science education even before we create new classes by advocating for and supporting clubs, after school activities, and informal opportunities outside of the classroom. We can also quickly start trying ideas out with interested schools and teachers who already have the technology and time for instruction or space for integration. Additionally, we are also working to bring CS classes to more schools by leveraging industry professionals to volunteer and develop our teachers through the TEALS program.
  8. It is important to leverage successes.
    It is easier to gain traction when there are successes to point to. We already have strong three-course computer science sequences at two high schools, so we are using these as models for expanding to other high schools. Plus, pilot programs will allow us to learn from their trials, successes, and struggles as we develop our plans for scaling to all schools in the district.
  9. Competing priorities make it hard to fit in.
    Even when various stakeholders agree to the value of providing computer science education to all students, it still leaves the contentious questions of where and how this fits into the schedule. That is, how many hours do we devote to CS, and do we integrate into existing classes or create new ones? if we have dedicated CS teachers at all levels, we have to hire more staff, but we gain better quality control and more effective teacher development. On the other hand, if our science, math, and multiple subjects teachers teach CS, they can leverage their strong relationships with students and more seamlessly integrate with other content areas, but the majority don’t have background experience and are already working to transition to the Common Core, alongside many other important school and district initiatives. Since few K-12 models exist, it’s even more difficult to come to a consensus.
  10. Our plan will have to be continuously updated.
    The field of computer science is still relatively new, and technologies quickly become outdated. We must acknowledge that the field will continue to rapidly evolve in sometimes unpredictable ways, and as such, our plan for teaching computer science will also need the flexibility to continuously adapt.