Category Archives: Tips

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.

 

CS Praxis Pass By Reference Video Tutorial

I recently presented a session on the ETS Computer Science Praxis Test at the Arkansas Computer Science Education Summit.  One of the questions in the study companion warranted further investigation.  This video walks you through the concepts pass-by-value and pass-by-reference and shows you how to solve problems like Question 17.

Comment or reply if you have additional questions about this concept or would like to see more videos like this one covering questions in the study companion.

BYOD Upgrade Cards

I recently posted about my Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom policy, which uses four color-coded levels to communicate to students appropriate and inappropriate uses of their personal mobile devices within the context of they day’s learning activities.  After successfully implementing the BYOD level policy, I figured out I could leverage it as a reward for good behavior.

BYOD Upgrade CardsIn coming up with this, I pondered long and hard the question, “What can I give students that costs me nothing, that they will actually want, and that isn’t a violation of law or school policy?”

With a little colored card stock and a special hole punch from the craft store, I started awarding students punches for positive reinforcement of good behavior.   As long as you adhere to your BYOD level regularly, students will welcome a little flexibility in how they use their devices when they earn an upgrade.

My BYOD Classroom Policy

When I started teaching Mobile Application Development a couple of years ago I knew I would only be successful if students got to install and test apps using their own phones.  Fortunately, my school’s policy allowed for use of mobile devices at the discretion of the teacher.  I put considerable thought into my Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, and here’s what I came up with.

BYOD SignI devised a color-coded scheme to communicate to students at a glance how freely they should use their devices at any given time.  Green, which is never used, allows students free reign over devices — games, texting, social media, anything goes.  Yellow expects students to frequently interact with devices for learning.  Periodic use of a device in Yellow mode for personal reasons is acceptable, but only briefly.  Red expects students to keep their devices put away.  This would be an appropriate context for in-class presentations.  White requires phones not be present at all, for situations like high-stakes testing.

At the beginning of the year I clearly establish what types of behaviors are and are not appropriate at each BYOD level, and I frequently refer to the level when correcting phone-related student behavior.  Consequences are clearly laid out in the policy, which is among the papers I give students to take home at the beginning of the year.

Check back soon for a post about how I integrated the BYOD level into a classroom management reward system.

Maslow’s for Mobile

I shared this on my Facebook page a few days ago, and laughed.  Then, I began to think about how desperate and anxious my afternoon students are when their phone batteries are low.

Battery emojiHave you ever walked out the door without your cell phone?  If you’re like me, you’ll turn around and go get it if it won’t make you late.  And when I am without it, I often feel a little out of sorts.  Magnify those feelings to hormonal teenage proportions, and you see why I think a charged phone is somewhere in the lower two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for the modern student.

In traditional classrooms, it’s simple to say, “No phones allowed,” and consider the problem solved.  Even when it’s in a purse or a pocket, 6% battery still nags at kids.  In a connected classroom like mine, I acknowledge their situation and do what I can to resolve it.

Charging spotI got a great deal on a 24 port powered USB hub last year.  [Note:  This hub only charges iPhones if the hub is connected to a computer]  After putting it in my classroom I noticed a lot of battery anxiety disappear, and students were better able to focus on their work.

I’ve seen some teachers who require their students to turn in their phones at the beginning of class, either on a desk or in wall-mounted shoe holders.  I found that the charging spot worked as a voluntary phone collection spot that the students were happy to use.

Cables on magnets

If you want to go a step further, you can provide USB cables, too.  We use these in my Mobile Application Development class when we create Android apps.  You can get 50 of these round magnets at Wal-Mart for less than $5.00.  They work great for tangle-free cable storage using the side of a filing cabinet or other metal surface.

Each educator will develop his own ways of managing student technology, and I’d love to hear how you do it in the comments section below.  I’ll be sharing my “Bring Your Own Device” classroom policies in a more detailed post next week.