An Update on Apps for Good in Arkansas

Exactly two years ago I met Debbie Forster, the then co-CEO of Apps for Good at a conference in New York City. After attending a breakout session detailing how the UK-based program was being piloted in the US, I knew immediately that it would be a great fit for Arkansas.

Apps for Good was founded to empower young people to change the world through technology. Then less than six months old, Coding Arkansas’ Future helped school districts meet the new state mandate to provide all Arkansas high schoolers with the opportunity to learn computer science.

Apps for Good agreed to a four-teacher pilot on the spot, and in January 2016, students began incorporating their coding skills into real-world projects of their choice. The initial prototypes came to market just a few months later at Arkansas’ first Apps for Good Festival in April 2016.

In 2016/17, the program expanded to offer Apps for Good resources to all teachers participating in Coding Arkansas’ Future. With a full school year to prepare and unlimited access to industry experts, the April 2017 festival grew to include more than 80 students from a dozen schools from around the state, representing projects with backboards, elevator pitches, presentations, and hands-on demos.


Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson opened the event with a keynote praising students for their hard work and assuring them that the technical and project management skills displayed would be in high demand for years to come. Local industry representatives gave feedback on the student prototypes and answered questions about working as a technical professional in Arkansas.

Now, in 2017/18, Arkansas has more than 40 classrooms implementing the program, and we are on track for our largest festival yet in spring 2018.

ASMSA Entrepreneurship Instructor, Steve Rice attended the 2017 festival and has been previewing new course content that will soon go live. “The traction and rapid expansion of the Apps for Good program in Arkansas speaks not only to the quality of the program but to the importance of computer science and innovation education for all of our students.”

Apps for Good takes the often dry and abstract computer science concepts and places them in an active context. According to Rice, the approach, “…is based on modern, lean startup methodology. In addition to powerful, experiential project-based learning in computer science, Apps for Good teaches students valuable communication and critical thinking skills that make them more well-rounded and better-prepared for the workplace of the future.”

The rapid growth of the program in the state has fostered increased interest from local companies. There has been a sharp rise in the number of technical professionals who have signed on to serve as Apps for Good Experts, as students move their ideas forward through the pipeline.

Looking forward, we expect more and more middle school teachers to adopt the program to help meet the state’s “Coding Block” requirement. By the end of 8th grade, all students are expected to have completed a minimum of 4-6 weeks of computer science. Apps for Good is a fantastic resource to help these teachers empower their students to solve authentic problems.

The content creators at Apps for Good have just completed a new Internet of Things course that Arkansas schools will have access to soon, and student teams can take a close look at all the ‘things’ powered by code and explore ways they can design their own solutions.

Apps for Good has been an invaluable partner for Coding Arkansas’ Future. Together, we have left an indelible mark on the lives of students across the State and have created a brighter future for them as they advance through their academic career.

Midsouth Google Summit

Registration is open for the Midsouth Google Summit July 17-19, 2017  in Trumann, AR.

So much of my world is held together by Google Apps! Every time I attend a Google Summit I come away with new and different ways to leverage this suite of tools to be a more effective educator.

Shameless plug:  I’ll be doing a pre-conference session at this summit!  This full-day session helps educators with absolutely no background in coding understand and meet the state’s new K-8 computer science requirements.  We will take a deep dive into the standards, get our hands dirty making Android apps with MIT App Inventor, and learn how the Apps for Good initiative empowers students to create solutions to real-world problems.

Come see me!

Announcing ASMSA CS4HS

Through a generous grant from the Google CS4HS program, The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and Arts (ASMSA) is thrilled to expand our Coding Arkansas’ Future initiative to reach even more teachers!  To grow the community of educators prepared to teach first-year high school computer science (CS) in the future, we are opening an online section of our CS1 and CS2 courses to teachers who need to learn CS before they teach CS.

Delivered through a combination of asynchronous weekly learning modules and interactive video support sessions, participants will complete all the same lessons and assignments high school students enrolled in the course experience.  ASMSA’s CS Specialists designed the course to meet the state’s new CS learning objectives, and have empowered a team of “Lead Learners” to support participants throughout the year.

For the past two years, cohorts of Arkansas high school teachers have partnered with ASMSA to simultaneously learn and teach CS through our CS+ program.  While this has been a good fit for many schools, the CS4HS program is designed specifically to reach teachers who were not eligible for CS+.

While enrollment in the online course will not be capped, 18 Arkansas educators who plan to teach CS1 & CS2 in the future will be selected to attend a series of face-to-face support sessions in July, October, and April.  Additionally, registration, meals, and housing costs will be covered for these participants to attend the Computer Science Education Leadership Summit in Russellville.  Finally, tuition scholarships for 4 hours of undergraduate college credit in CS will be available to assist participants who need the course credit for an Additional Licensure Plan.

Please see the ASMSA CS4HS Frequently Asked Questions document for additional details.  To enroll in this course and to be considered for face-to-face support and/or a tuition scholarship, complete the enrollment and application form by June 6, 2017.

Apps for Good in Arkansas

More than 80 students from schools across Arkansas will showcase mobile apps they created in their computer science classes at the Apps for Good Festival at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on this Friday.  Governor Asa Hutchinson will address the group, and industry representatives will try out the student prototypes.

Apps for Good is a United Kingdom-based education technology charity working to power a generation to change their world with technology. The organization works alongside educators to develop a free, flexible course framework that infuses digital learning with teamwork, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Students find a problem they want to solve and apply new skills to make a real-life app, exploring the full product development cycle from concept to coding to launch.

The participants include students from Bryant High School, Cross County High School, Dardanelle High School, Greenwood High School, Lake Hamilton Junior High School, Pulaski County Special School District, Searcy High School, White County Central School, and the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts (ASMSA).

Instructors from most of these districts are working in tandem with Daniel Moix, ASMSA’s computer science education specialist, to offer the Essentials of Computer Programming Plus course on-site at their respective schools this year through the Coding Arkansas’ Future teacher mentoring program. In the future, those faculty members will teach the course on their own.

Next year, ASMSA has plans to partner with more than thirty districts to offer two new courses, Computer Science I and Computer Science II, using the same blended professional development approach.  In addition, a pilot cohort will be testing out an Advanced Placement Computer Science A offering, giving students who want to continue their study of computer science a pathway forward.

“We want students to shift from being consumers of content and to become empowered as producers. We want to go from thinking about what can I buy in the app store to what can I put in the app store,” Moix said.

This festival is an opportunity for each of the teams to celebrate their work. “By design, this is not a competition. It’s purely festive. We want them to be proud of their accomplishments for this year,” Moix said.

Representatives from local technology companies including Apptegy, First Orion/PrivacyStar, and Metova, Inc. also plan to attend.  “The skills that these young people are developing and demonstrating are exactly those that are increasingly in demand,” said Allison Nicholas of First Orion.

Debbie Forster, Apps for Good Co CEO, will join the festival from London via Skype, as will Robert Schukai, head of applied innovation at Thomson Reuters.

“We’d like to offer our congratulations to all of the student teams taking part in the Apps for Good Festival in Arkansas,” Forster said. “The students and their teachers have impressed us with their enthusiasm.”

“At Apps for Good, we want to change technology education forever — to turn young tech consumers into tech creators and prepare them to tackle the 21st century workplace. Our course teaches not only digital skills, but also arms students with essential real-world skills such as teamwork, problem solving, confidence and resilience. We’re excited to see what the students have come up with and can’t wait to see Apps for Good grow in the U.S. Arkansas has offered us a great start to our work here.”

This is the second year Apps for Good has been held in Arkansas as a pilot program for the United States. Moix worked with Forster to introduce the program to a group of Arkansas schools resulting in the first U.S.-based Apps for Good festival in Spring 2016. It was held at ASMSA.

“Over the last five years, Apps for Good has grown in the U.K. from supporting a handful of schools and students to more than 1,100 educational institutions and more than 75,000 students in 2016,” Schukai said.  “With this base firmly established, we are thrilled at Thomson Reuters to be partnering with Apps for Good as it starts to expand internationally.”

This year’s festival will be held in the UALR College of Engineering and Information Technology Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Students will give elevator pitches, hands-on demonstrations, presentations and will display posters and backboards for their projects.

 

Arkansas educators interested in offering Apps for Good in their schools should register here to receive more information.

Coding Reality at ASMSA

The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts is excited to announce a unique opportunity for Arkansas educators interested in learning more about Computer Science and 3D Printing. Through the ASMSA Coding Reality workshop, twenty middle school and high school teachers from ten school districts will receive hands-on experience, professional development credit, and a 3D printer to take back to their schools.

There is no fee for this workshop, and ASMSA will cover housing and meals for the duration of the stay. In return, participants are expected to host interdisciplinary learning experiences that promote Computer Science at their campuses using the resources and skills taken away.

The ASMSA Coding Reality workshop will be held June 6 – 8 in Hot Springs. Interested parties should read the Frequently Asked Questions Document and review the Coding Reality Agreement before applying online.

Applications are due by noon May 10, 2017. Districts accepted into the program must provide a signed copy of the agreement by June 1, 2017. Questions about this offering should be directed to Daniel Moix, ASMSA’s Computer Science Education Specialist, at moixd@asmsa.org or (501)622-5168.

Student Summer Camps at ASMSA

Summer at ASMSA offers exciting camps where rising sophomores can participate in fun and challenging programs focusing on art, music and acoustics, mathematics, computer programming, and robotics. Camps are tuition free and space is limited.

AEGIS PROJECT M.A.R.S. CAMP (July 16-21, 2017)

In conjunction with the Arkansas Department of Education, ASMSA is excited to offer Project M.A.R.S. (Mars Autonomous Robot System) Camp. Project M.A.R.S. Camp is a summer residential program for 32 rising sophomores. All applications will be seriously considered, however, students from low-income backgrounds will be given preference. The camp will provide an exciting hands-on experience in the field of robotics. Camp activities will center on building and controlling robots in the context of performing tasks remotely on Mars and the creation of mobile apps for robot control.

NERD C.A.M.P. (June 18-23, 2017)

ASMSA is a place where the state’s top students in mathematics and computer science can soar among talented peers. Nerd C.A.M.P. (Computational Analysis, Math and Programming) will help students understand the links between subjects through classes in mobile app development, number theory, and other mathematic principles. We wear the name “nerd” as a badge of pride because being a nerd means getting excited about technology and solving problems. Students should have strong prior experiences in math and an interest in coding.

ASMSA SUMMER ARTS BRIDGE (June 18-23, 2017)

As part of ASMSA’s efforts to expand opportunities for students interested in fine arts and humanities within the school’s residential program, we’re excited to offer the Summer Arts Bridge. Students may choose to participate in one of the following experiences.

  • Studio Art is an activities-based initiative to help grow students’ excitement about the arts. Students will engage in different processes including oil painting, observational drawing, collage, abstract design, basic wood shop skills, and art criticism.
  • Folk Music offers Arkansas students a chance to learn to play and perform folk songs, build a working 4-string guitar, and explore the physics behind the production of sound and music. No previous experience or musical training is required.

Selection for all camps is competitive. Students must be rising sophomores for each camp. All camp activities — including tuition, housing, meals and class supplies — are free. Applications will be accepted until all spots are filled, with preference given to students who complete their application by April 30, 2017.

Learn more and apply online at http://asmsa.me/summeratASMSA

ASMSA CS+

Arkansas high school teachers and districts interested in learning to teach Computer Science are invited to join ASMSA’s Computer Science Plus program this summer and next school year. In short, ASMSA will be mentoring a cohort of teachers in the new Computer Science I and Computer Science II courses which are replacing Essentials of Computer Programming.

The program begins with a boot camp at ASMSA June 25 – 30 followed by year-long support using digital learning tools including Canvas LMS, Zoom Video Conferencing, and a ton of Google Forms. The cost is $500, which includes housing and meals on our campus during the boot camp, digital delivery of the curriculum, and a full year of support.

Sign up using this form, and we will be in contact with a formal agreement between your school and ours.

The Details

What’s CS I & II? These are a pair of one-semester courses that replace Essentials of Computer Programming next year. CS I and II are a framework that can be taught as CS with an emphasis in coding, CS with an emphasis in mobile application development, CS with an emphasis in security, CS with an emphasis in networking, or CS with an emphasis in robotics. ASMSA CS+ teaches CS with an Emphasis in Programming, courses 465010 and 465020.

What’s ASMSA CS+? CS+ is a year-long partnership between an Arkansas school district and ASMSA. The district identifies a teacher and a group of students interested in learning CS I & II. ASMSA provides professional development, curriculum, and year-long support as the on-site teacher learns to teach CS I & II. The students earn credit for the course which meets Act 1280 (digital learning) and Act 187 (HS coding) requirements for the district. ASMSA CS+ teaches CS with an Emphasis in Programming, courses 465010 and 465020.

What Happened to ECP? Arkansas has laid out plans for a comprehensive K through 12 Computer Science pathway. Students entering high school next fall will have greater exposure to CS concepts than ever before, and they should be ready for a more rigorous high school computer science experience. Many of the concepts from ECP are present in CS I & II, although they may be at an enhanced level of rigor. I have prepared a crosswalk between the two that you may find helpful.

Will there be apps? There will not be a substantial “app” component built into the course, although sites offering ASMSA CS+ will be eligible to participate in Apps for Good. We will grow coding skills in the Processing environment (designed for creating graphics and data visualization) before we transition to Java using a professional IDE to meet the data structures and algorithms objectives.

Is This Principles? No. ASMSA CS+ is a program specifically-designed to meet the Arkansas CS I & II learning objectives and to build in-state CS teaching capacity. It is not related to the Advanced Placement CS Principles course, which is not directly aligned with Arkansas CS I & II standards.

I encourage you to act quickly, as our next cohort is filling up faster than ever. If you have questions about the program, please contact Daniel Moix or Dave Slaymaker at ASMSA.

Animate Your Name!

Beginning next with the 2017-2018 school year, all districts in Arkansas will offer a “coding block” to students in grades 7 or 8.  Per the standards, this course must run a minimum of 5 weeks and include text-based coding and problem solving.

Codecademy, a company that hosts self-paced online lessons for several programming languages, recently released a very short JavaScript activity that teaches you how to animate your name.  This is perfect for standards A.2.B.1 and A.2.B.2!

There’s sufficient scaffolding in the activity that teachers with minimal experience should easily be able to support students completing the exercise.  There is nothing to install, either.  As it runs completely in the browser, it should run just fine on Chromebooks.

I felt their coverage of conditionals was a tad disconnected from the activity, so would encourage you to teach it with this modification:  Have students create a final product that draws short names with squares and long names with bubbles.

New Year, New Courses

The high school computer science landscape is changing next year in Arkansas.  Whereas there was previously a fragmented patchwork of courses and codes (some earning elective credit, others earning mathematics credit, and a subset counting toward CTE programs) the new courses and standards mesh sensibly together.

Previous courses, codes and credits

All previous courses and codes such as CTE Programming 1 and 2 are no longer valid beginning next year.

The new standards are available on the ADE Computer Science Standards page, but helpful details including the new course codes are available in the ADE Computer Science Fact Sheet.

Any of the previous introductory programming courses — Essentials of Computer Programming, Programming 1, Computer Science & Mathematics — should be replaced with the new Computer Science 1 & Computer Science 2 courses.

K-8 CS Standards Crosswalk

Beginning next year schools in Arkansas will incorporate the K-8 Computer Science Embedded Standards (K-4, 5-8) into everyday classroom instruction.  To help with this, the Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative has brought together classroom teachers, library media specialists, and computer science content specialists to explore the connections between the new standards and existing ELA, Mathematics, and Science standards.

The results of these workshops are available right now, and new additions are on the way.  Questions about the standards and alignments can be answered by any of the ADE Computer Science Specialists.