K-12 CS Teacher Takeaways from SIGCSE 2020 – Part 4: Curricula & Tools
Posted by Bryan Twarek on May 29, 2020
Classroom ResourcesCS Research
Posted by Bryan Twarek on May 29, 2020
SIGCSE provides an important forum for computer science education research, and it is unfortunate that this year’s conference was canceled. In this four-part series, I’m excited to share some learnings and practical takeaways relevant to K-12 CS teachers to help ensure practitioners benefit from this great work. This final segment focuses on K-12 curricula, tools, and platforms.
Scratch Act 1 is an introductory curriculum for students in grades 3-5, and Scratch Encore is a secondary curriculum for students in grades 5-8. These creative but structured curricula created by Diana Franklin, David Weintrop, and colleagues at the CANON Research Lab have a full set of teacher resources (e.g., sample projects, worksheets, support materials) and utilize the TIPP&SEE learning strategy, which has been shown to lead to learning gains. The curricula include culturally-relevant projects; in Scratch Encore, there are three module strands with the same technical content but three different interest options (multicultural, youth life, and gaming). See also their paper and slide deck on piloting Scratch Encore.
MIT Media Lab researchers and collaborators created a curriculum to teach middle school students about artificial intelligence (AI) and ethics. It aims to bring awareness of the technology to the children who are all growing up while surrounded by AI and help them become both conscientious consumers and designers of AI. Through a series of lessons and activities, students learn technical concepts-such as how to train a simple classifier-and the ethical implications those technical concepts entail, such as algorithmic bias.
Post-It Pandemonium (6-12)
Post-It Pandemonium is a 2019 Nifty Assignment created by Jeffrey L. Popyack. This “unplugged” activity exposes data structures and algorithms involved in image representation and compression, using multi-colored Post-It Notes.
Interdisciplinary CS Workshop (6-12)
Veronica Liesaputra, Guillermo Ramirez-Prado, Bashar Barmada, and Lei Song developed a one-day workshop that showcases the interdisciplinary nature of CS and the various ways computing can help students discover and solve societal problems. The computational thinking activities centered around themes of multiculturalism, cybersecurity, and air pollution are described in their paper and visualized in this slide deck.
CS for Incarcerated Youth (6-12)
Kirsten Mork, Theresa Migler, and ZoÃ« Wood created a curriculum to introduce CS to incarcerated students within a juvenile hall. The 5-week curriculum was built around creating a simple 2D game in Processing (see image on the right for an example) and is described in their paper.
CMU CS Academy (9-12)
Carnegie Mellon University’s CS Academy is a free, online, interactive high school CS curriculum that teaches Python programming through graphics and animation. They also provide free teacher training and technical support. See also: more information and teacher resources.
AI4ALL Open Learning (9-12)
AI4ALL Open Learning offers free, adaptable, classroom-based artificial intelligence (AI) curricula for high school teachers. ExploreAI is an introductory curriculum that focuses on what AI is, its impact on the world, and ethics. A second module on Sentiment Analysis & Natural Language Processing teaches the benefits of machine learning models and the basics of programming.
Introduction to Computational Thinking (9-12)
Introduction to Computational Thinking is a new high school curriculum using CodeWorld created in partnership between the Louisiana Department of Education and LSU. It is designed to bridge Scratch- and Java-based courses, teach abstraction, emphasize semantics over syntax, and encourage student creativity. See Fernando Alegre and his colleagues’ paper and slide deck describing lessons learned from piloting the course.
Teaching Security (9-12)
The Teaching Securitylessons introduce the foundational ideas of cybersecurity, built on threat modeling and the human-centered nature of authentication. The materials are prepared by subject-matter experts with research backgrounds in the technical workings and social implications of cybersecurity: Maritza Johnson, Julia Bernd, Daniel Garcia, and Buffie Holley. The lessons are designed to meet the cybersecurity learning objectives in the AP Computer Science Principles framework, but they are flexible enough to be used in any high school computer science class or program.
Cybersecurity Education with RoboScape (9-12)
RoboScape is a collaborative, networked robotics environment that makes key ideas inCS accessible to groups of learners in informal learning spaces and K-12 classrooms. RoboScape is built on top of NetsBlox, an open-source, networked, visual programming environment based on Snap! that is specifically designed to introduce students to distributed computation and computer networking. See also Bernard Yett and his colleagues’ paper and slide deck.
The Beauty and Joy of Computing (10-12+)
The Beauty and Joy of Computing(BJC) is an AP Computer Science Principles curriculum with the goal of helping underrepresented students enjoy and succeed in CS. In their paper, Paul Goldenberg and his colleagues present the design principles used to develop the course. See the slide to the right for an example. See also their slide deck and video presentation.
Elements of AI (10-12+)
Reaktor and the University of Helsinki created a free, self-paced online course to help people to be empowered, not threatened, by artificial intelligence. Introduction to AIis a free online course for everyone interested in learning what AI is, what is possible (and not possible) with AI, and how it affects our lives – with no complicated math or programming required.
Computers, Ethics, and Public Policy (11-12+)
Hilary Cohen, Rob Reich, Mehran Sahami, and Jeremy Weinstein created a set of ethics case studies (algorithmic decision-making, facial recognition and data privacy, autonomous vehicles, and the power of private platforms) to prompt discussion on ethics, public policy, and technology. See also videos of guest speakers and their paper describing the design of the undergraduate course.
Integrated CS Instruction
Integrating CS with other subjects requires careful design to ensure synergistic learning.
Learning Through Abstraction (6-8)
Aakash Gautam, Whitney Bortz, and Deborah Tatar presented their work to help middle school students learn through abstraction, a concept key to both science and CS. In one example unit on the natural carbon cycle, they examine multiple representations including a programmed simulation of cows grazing and plants growing and the chemical reaction for photosynthesis. The varied representations offer rich opportunities to deepen engagement with abstraction and core science concepts. Access all three integrated curricular units, and learn more in their paper.
The STEMcoding Project (7-12)
DNA Sequencing (11-12+)
DNA Sequencing is a lesson from CS50 that explores the intersection of computation and biology. This activity reinforces reading files and string manipulation and is appropriate in a CS1 or CS2 class, or when students have some familiarity with strings and lists and reading files. See also the 2020 Nifty Assignment video presentation.
David Weintrop, Diana Franklin, and colleagues at the CANON Research Lab developed the Teacher Accessibility, Equity, and Content (TEC) Rubric, a computing curriculum evaluation instrument designed to help educational decision makers and teachers make informed decisions about which computing curriculum to use in their classrooms. It provides criteria with which to measure the quality of K-12 CS curricula along the goals of designing for:
Culturally-Relevant Computing and Students with Exceptionalities
Advanced Learning of Concepts and Practices
Teachers as Learners
Tools and Platforms
Edfinity is an online assessment platform that allows teachers, curriculum developers, and researchers to create, organize, and share assessment items. Teachers can search a growing repository of items by grade level, standard, concepts, and curriculum, including innovative problem types (e.g,. Parsons problems, hotspot / point and click, and code correctness). Edfinity is free for teachers but requires a fee for student use. Learn more about a project to develop a community of practice for K-12 CS assessment.
Amphibian is a tool that helps students move from blocks to text-based programming. With this plugin, students can use both blocks and text versions of Java and other languages supported by the IntelliJ environment, using the same Droplet editor that is found in Pencil Code and some Code.org exercises. Contact Jeremiah Blanchard if you want help using.