Posted by CSTA Conference Committee on May 13, 2022

Chicago skyline reflected on Lake Michigan. CSTA 2022 6-8 Session recommendations
Here are some suggestions from the 6th to 8th Grade Committee.

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CSTA 2022 features over 200 sessions, and you don’t want to miss it! We know that navigating that much content can be overwhelming, so the 6th to 8th Grade Committee has highlighted specific sessions that they think you’ll love!

A Playful Learning Approach to Computer Science Education 

Presented by Estelle Ashman
July 16, from 9-10 a.m.
This interactive workshop introduces Digital Schoolhouse’s unique approach to playful learning in computer science classrooms. Participants will play a game of Cat on Yer Head and find out how to use Just Dance to teach programming concepts and video game design.  Digital Schoolhouse’s innovative activities and free adaptable resources are pioneering a unique approach to professional development in primary schools across the United Kingdom. Underpinned by evidence-based research and combined with groundbreaking career education, this approach successfully bridges the gap between academia and industry, aptly equipping students for the future digital economy.

Cybersecurity Virtual Escape Room: Stop a Ransomware Attack on a Car! 

Presented by Dharra Prashaad, Azucena Rodriguez, Kelly Sturner, and Jacqueline Otmanski 
July 16, from 1-2 p.m. 
Come experience a virtual escape room designed to get students solving problems in teams as cybersecurity analysts! Our escape room is inspired by the real research facilities and computer scientists at a national laboratory. Students explore a fictional scenario in which a phishing scheme is infecting car dashboard computers. As they work through puzzles to stop a cyber-attack that is making cars act possessed, they learn real concepts in cybersecurity along the way.  At this session, try to escape our room and get free access to our escape room for your students. Participants will also get to “look under the hood” and learn how the experience was designed and built using backwards design, concepts of cybersecurity, a desire to get students thinking and collaborating like STEM professionals, and the freely available tool Google Slides. You will leave with pro tips, lessons learned, and a winning recipe for how to create your own engaging and educational virtual escape room!

Mobile Apps Programming: A Yearlong Curriculum for a STEM Middle School Classrooms 

Presented by Anna Burago 
July 15, from 1-2 p.m. 
Middle school STEM students are motivated and eager to learn. But how can teachers decide which curriculum and programming language to choose? How can educators ensure that these learners’ skills, potential, and enthusiasm continue to grow? Mobile apps are an excellent playground to let students grow as coders and creators, learning skills that empower them to tackle real problems and create meaningful change.  This presentation shares a yearlong STEM curriculum for mobile app programming created at the Prime Factor Math Circles and School of Programming in Redmond, WA. Designed for sixth- and seventh-grade students, the curriculum uses’s AppLab environment to teach advanced algorithmic coding skills, web and mobile app development, JavaScript, and digital design. As a more mature environment than Scratch that nevertheless has a strong visual component, AppLab is great for middle schoolers.  The curriculum uses projects and exercises to teach important computational concepts. Students learn how to design interactive, media-rich mobile applications, code for event-driven programming, perform algorithmic problem-solving, work with UI elements, and get their first glimpse of working with databases. Full of connections to geometry, algebra, and physics, the assigned projects keep kids motivated and challenged. This session will share the curriculum outline, demonstrate student projects, and share resources with fellow teachers who are passionate about CS education.

Build an Enigma Machine to Bring Tactile Encryption into the Classroom!

Presented by Charles Gardner, Laurie Salvail, and Brittany Pike
July 15, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. 
Explore cryptography using nothing more than paper, tape, and a potato chip can! In this session, we’ll learn about the Enigma machine, a cypher device used to encode messages during World War II, then make our own machines and practice encrypting and decrypting messages. This simple Enigma machine is easy to make and can fit into any classroom.  Participants will receive a snack-size chip can and colorful printout to decorate their can. The operation of “rotors” on the chip can will give a sense of just how complex a scramble the Enigma machine really offered. Completion of this activity leads smoothly into discussion of the power of computers: historically, the first operational computer was created to crack the code of the Enigma machine. Attendees will leave with resources and a meta-lesson on integrating this topic into a range of classrooms.

Offline Coding with Board Games

Presented by Patrick Cullinane
July 15, from 2:30-3:30 p.m.
Get your students off the computer and start them thinking about coding through board games! This session identifies three potential board games to for educators to use in the CS classroom. We will share discussion points for students, the fun and learning of the board games, and how it all relates back to computer science. The games include Potato Pirates, which teaches logic, conditions, and variables; its sequel, Enter the Spudnet, which focuses on how the internet works; and, if time allows, Mechs vs. Minions, which requires planning ahead and programming moves in order to win. Participants will have the opportunity to play these games and see some lessons plans used in the classroom. As a group, we can then discuss ways for attendees to use these games in their particular classroom context and share other resources on this topic.

Integrating HackerRank Into Your CS Classroom Culture

Presented by Catherine Tabor
July 15, from 2:30-3:30 p.m.
Have you seen advertisements for coding contests hosted on HackerRank? Did you want to sign your students up, but feel unsure about how to use the platforms? If so, this session is for you. We’ll go over how to create contests and integrate them into the CS classroom, comparing the features of different platforms so that attendees’ students can start entering all of those online contests. Participants will compete in a contest of their own, navigating the platforms in the role of student participants, thereby preparing them to help students do the same. If you are new to HackerRank contests but want to participate, or if you want to learn how to make your own contests, this session can help!

Beginner’s Mind: Hip-Hop as a Framework for Empowering Marginalized Students in Computer Science                                                  

Presented by Nicole (NJ) Rivilis and Alex Bean 
July 16, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. 
Hip-hop has a rich history of leveraging technology to create positive change in the community and can serve as a powerful foundation for inspiring student innovation in the CS classroom. Mainstream CS pedagogy emphasizes creativity and collaboration, values that are key in the hip-hop world. Hip-hop makes technology approachable and accessible to students. The idea that technology can create music is exciting and immediately rewarding as students produce their own projects. Computer science concepts from binary to loops and recursion can be communicated through the language of music production. This breakout session will include a brief history and cultural overview of hip-hop, real examples of student-produced music, related lesson plans. Participants will also have structured time to explore digital music production technology tools such as Audiotool and EarSketch.

Cyber Sleuths: Building Cyber Skills to Solve Today’s Cyber Problems

Presented by Ronald Woerner and Dr. Lisa McKee 
July 16, from 9-10 a.m. 
This rapid-fire presentation showcases tools, applications, and websites used by professionals in the fields of IT, cybersecurity, and data privacy to solve common problems. Attendees will learn ways to detect sensitive, private information on the internet, map their own digital footprints, and experiment with tools such as Nmap, Microsoft Sysinternals and PowerToys, OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) and cyber-attack frameworks, browser add-ons like NoScript, and many more. The session demonstrates tricks and techniques to share with students as they build their critical technology and professional skills. It also provides a variety of websites, references, and resources to help technology educators do their jobs well and keep their cyber skills sharp. Come join us for Cyber Sleuths!

Redefining Project-Based Learning and Physical Computing 

Presented by Robert Leeman 
July 16, from 9-10 a.m. 
Project-based learning (PBL) is an approach to teaching and learning that is often poorly defined and misunderstood. Many teachers find it difficult to adopt project-based learning because it sits at the center of a daunting Venn diagram of pedagogy, practice, learning theories, technology, and specialist subject knowledge. While it is more resource-intensive than traditional didactic approaches, project-based learning is a powerful tool that has the potential to teach students how to be resilient, tech-savvy problem solvers accustomed to working collaboratively with gracious professionalism.  In this session, we will explore the worlds of physical computing and project-based learning. We’ll draw together the common orthodoxies, pedagogies, and practicalities into a new model for project-based learning with physical computing. This approach melds best practice, professional development, and teaching and learning resources into a compelling course offering for schools that seek to inspire and engage the next generation.

Snapping in Class: Image Processing in Python

Presented by Misha Kutzman 
July 17, from 10:30-11:30 p.m. 
This session shares a project-based unit that teaches students the image processing techniques used by their favorite social media platforms. High school students love connecting with one another through Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and other social media. Instead of pestering students to put away their phones and pay attention in computer science class, we designed a project-based unit in Python to help them understand how images are processed.  In this unit, students created their own image filters, text, time stamps, sticker and emoji overlays, and facial recognition for adding dog ears and beards. The students followed the agile development process, with each group selecting a different task to complete during a two-week sprint cycle. In addition to coding image filters using the Python Imaging Library and OpenCV, student tasks included investigating and selecting an appropriate IDE (integrated development environment), designing a user interface, system integration, unit testing, and compilation into an executable. At the end of the unit, students had created a powerful, full-to-use software package, and they were thrilled with their accomplishment. We are delighted to share the details of how to implement this project in your middle or high school computer science classes.

Using a micro bit with Scratch

Presented by Katie Henry and Jared O’Leary
July 17, from 9-10 a.m.
Absolute beginners are invited to experience a differentiated physical computing and computer science classroom that meets learners where they are. Utilizing Scratch and micro:bits, participants will self-select into interest-based groups to begin creating a project that deepens their own understanding of physical computing and computer science education.  The session will start by modeling the resources we plan to explore by demonstrating project walkthroughs, extensions, remix projects, and more, all available as free resources from BootUp Professional Development’s student portal. Next we’ll teach participants how to use the micro:bit to augment a Scratch project. We’ll share more than 40 free Scratch project walkthroughs, each of which have the potential to use a micro:bit to augment a project. While attendees are using these free resources, presenters will walk around and model rhizomatic learning practices and facilitation techniques. At the end of the session, participants will have time to share what they learned with each other, unpack the pedagogies modeled in the session, and ask any questions they may have.

APPy Hour! 

Presented by Gregg Stone and Alefiya Master 
July 16, 10:30-11:30 a.m. 
This session introduces attendees to MAD-learn, a professional online app-building tool. Building apps does not have to be a tedious and daunting project. The MAD-learn program allows users to easily build content-rich, visually impressive mobile apps that can better connect school communities. With quick access to the finished product on iOS and Android devices, users are empowered to create technology that serves the community, solves problems, builds “edupreneurship,” and shares ideas with the world.  The workshop will walk through the six-step app building process, which includes establishing an app “shell,” developing the app’s visual design, identifying and integrating relevant content, and finally testing and retooling toward a finished product. Students can work independently or in teams to emulate an authentic mobile app creation process. The session will introduce participants to formal lessons with a range of time options (from 12 hours to 35 hours or more) that follow the design thinking process.
While we’ve selected a few sessions to highlight, we encourage you to check out the full agenda on the website. You can filter by grade band as well as CSTA teacher and student standards. Be sure to check out our equity-focused sessions across all grade levels. Be sure to register for CSTA 2022 before July 10!