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CSTA has many sessions dedicated to expanding knowledge in the CS field. Navigating that much content can be overwhelming, so we have compiled a list of sessions for Middle School computer science teachers that we think you will benefit from!

Programming + Plants: Digital Agriculture with the micro:bit

Presented by Jake Roark

July 16, 2024, from 9 a.m. to noon PT

*This session is a pre-conference workshop and can be added to your registration for an additional charge

In this workshop, we will dig into the world of digital agriculture, where computers, sensors, and code work together to transform the way we cultivate plants. Participants will first be introduced to the micro:bit, a microcontroller designed to teach coding to early learners through a hands-on, visual learning approach. We’ll learn how sensors can be integrated into the micro:bit to monitor the well-being of a plant, measuring conditions like soil moisture, water level, and temperature. At the end of the workshop, participants will leave with their own micro:bit, sensor kit, and plant pal. Please bring your own laptop (with internet access capability and a USB -A port) to this workshop.

Introduction to Paper Circuits and Coding with an Illuminated Story

Presented by Ivy Daniels, Barbara Liedahl, and Angela Batten

July 16, 2024, from 1-4 p.m. PT

*This session is a pre-conference workshop and can be added to your registration for an additional charge

Create your own illuminated story! This workshop builds on the art of expressive circuitry on paper with easy-to-use surface-mount LED stickers, conductive tapes, and craft materials. Attendees will learn how to add coded interactivity by programming a microcontroller, which uses Microsoft MakeCode (a block-based coding language) to blend art and technology in a fun and exciting way. We’ll complete sentence blanks to describe a scene, turn the sentences into an illustrated story, and add an LED circuit to the page. Finally, we’ll use the Chibi Chip to program the lights and animate the stories, using light to evoke the narrative mood.

Participants in this workshop will receive an overview of paper electronics concepts and skills, an introduction to microcontroller programming, examples of classroom projects, ideas for blending art and engineering approaches in the classroom, and support in developing a classroom activity of their own. This hands-on workshop will inspire educators to create learning opportunities that develop skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and inquiry. Attendees should bring a computing device with a 3.5mm audio port and USB-A port.

Game Design and Development as DEI Catalyst

Presented by Christopher Kerr

July 17, 2024, from 9-10 a.m. PT

This session draws on a decade of classroom experience in teaching CS while also helping students become good human beings. Why should that matter? As we look at tech industries and the rapidly changing world, we can clearly see the need for computer scientists to use compassion and empathy in order to design software that works for every person.

In this session, participants will learn how to introduce students to the many obstacles that limit people from accessing video games and other technological advancements. We explore the physical, cognitive, and cultural entry points and biases that can limit a person’s access to software. As part of a capstone event, students create and exhibit a final project that highlights diversity, equity, and inclusion, develops soft skills, and creates interdisciplinary connections—which in turn leads to diversified CS enrollment.

This conversation is software agnostic. Whether participants use Unity, Android Studio, Construct, Unreal, Scratch, Game Maker, or some other platform, these activities and principles can be applied to your curriculum with ease!

Wordplay: Accessible, Language-Inclusive Programming

Presented by Amy Ko

July 17, 2024, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. PT

Few coding platforms are accessible to English-language learners, and even fewer are accessible to students with disabilities. But none are both accessible and language-inclusive—until now. In this breakout session, we’ll introduce a new platform that is both of these things. Wordplay is a free, web-based platform for creating interactive, accessible typography that celebrates the world’s languages. Wordplay makes it easy to create richly interactive programs with very little code, while centering many of the powerful ideas in computer science. We’ll discuss possible ways to teach computer science and other subject areas with Wordplay, give you time to make Wordplay programs of your own, talk about gaps between the platform and your teaching needs, and brainstorm units and curriculum that use the platform.

Get Hands-on with CS and Content: Support Integration with a Physical Computing Toolkit

Presented by Bridget Castelluccio and Corey Rogers

July 18, 2024, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. PT

How can classroom and content teachers find the time to add computer science to an already packed curriculum? Invite physical computing devices and robots to the learning party!

In this session, we’ll learn how the development of a physical computing toolkit helped classroom teachers to meaningfully integrate CS into content areas. We’ll share a how-to guide for multiple PreK–12 physical computing devices and robots. The resulting toolkit will include overviews of 16 physical computing/robot devices, vocabulary and content connections, research-based pedagogies from Hello World’s Big Book of Computing Pedagogy, a curated instructional resource library, and lesson plans for all grade levels.

Presenters will share our own state context, how and why we chose the devices to include, the role of state CS projects and initiatives in the toolkit’s growth, and our strategies to embed equity and inclusion in this work. We’ll outline how our initial how-to guide led to collaboration with district instructional coaches and classroom teachers to design and implement lessons that simultaneously address CS and content standards. Finally, we’ll provide time, a thinking routine, and a graphic organizer for participants to explore the toolkit, make connections to their own learning environments, and plan next steps for their classrooms.

Cybersecurity Escape

Presented by Sylvia Wood and Catherine Tabor

July 19, 2024, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. PT

In this session, participants learn how to build and use physical escape rooms to assess topics in cybersecurity. We will walk you through finding a theme, creating locks, and developing the clues for escape rooms at a level of complexity that suits your students’ needs. We will offer suggestions, supply a list of materials, and allow attendees to experience one of our escape room scenarios. While this session’s escape rooms use cybersecurity concepts, this strategy can be adapted for use with any topic and set of problems.

Register for CSTA 2024

Be sure to head to the full conference program to read more about these recommendations and plan which sessions you want to attend. If you haven’t registered for the annual conference yet, head to the CSTA 2024 website to secure your spot. We are excited to see you there!