Wednesday, July 20, 2016

AP CSP teacher summit

I was invited to join approximately 70 other computer science teachers at the AP Computer Science Principles (CSP) Teacher Summit immediately prior to the annual AP Annual Conference held in Anaheim, CA, July 13-17, 2016.  I must admit other than attending a webinar in the winter about the CSP course and upcoming test I had not previously focused my energy on AP.  I specifically was targeted on making my own class work and was not yet worried about the AP CSP alignment or whether my students would pass the test.  Actually, I didn’t even know there was a new AP computer science course on the horizon until AFTER I selected my curriculum to teach a new computer science course at my school.

What I found was AMAZING! During this meeting I had a small opportunity to share my experience piloting Harvard’s CS50 as an AP course but more importantly I got to hear about the journey of all the other computer science teachers using other curriculum. I talked to teachers that had not yet taught CSP, some already submitted a syllabus and selected curriculum and some had not selected curriculum yet.  I got to hear from teachers that have been involved with testing curriculum over the past 3 years, and teachers that have been on this journey for 8 years.  I got to hear about the revisions of the test, the curriculum framework, and WHY different curriculum works in different situations. This was such a wonderful professional experience to hear and learn about the process and to join a community of educators all teaching the same course with the same objectives including The White House initiative of #CSforAll.

Now, I’ve discussed communities a lot over the last few blog posts and the last thing I wanted to do is have one more community to participate in but this is worth it!  I now not only have a connection with people that are teaching the same CS50 curriculum but also a community of educators to draw ideas on topics just in case I need another angle whether it be for a certain student, a group of students, or my entire class. I am very thankful to be included in this experience.

If you are teaching AP CSP I strongly encourage you to join the teacher community. If you are looking to bring an entry level computer science course to your school look into AP CS Principles.  It is well thought out!

Something I learned about while at the AP CSP meeting was about bridging diversity in computer science.  I learned about programs I had not yet heard about that I can use in an array of my computer technology courses.  In addition to CSP I teach software applications, and 4 – 8 computer technology. I encourage parents and other teachers to check out these resources as well.
  • Facebook’s Tech Prep initiative has resources for teachers and parents as well as ideas of where to start.
  • National Center for Women & Information Technology has resources for encouraging women in the field.
I appreciate the efforts of College Board, Lien Diaz and the AP CSP team, the pilot educators, and the community surrounding this course. I look forward to getting further connected in this computer science community. 

Microsoft Tools for the Computer Science classroom

Last week while attending CSTA 2016 I learned about several computer science tools for my classroom. I have been teaching how to use Microsoft Office tools since 2005.  In a time when several resources are free I have not backed down on the use of Microsoft Office in the classroom or its viability in the workplace.  And now Microsoft Office is free for students with a .edu email address. Although our school district’s one-to-one initiative includes Chromebooks and the software of choice includes Google Drive and Chrome Apps, I still make the effort to use Microsoft Office Software in my classroom lab.  My Software Applications course is a tagged course in the Ohio transfer module and I teach it at the high school for college credit.  But up until now that is all I used Microsoft tools for, office productivity.  The office productivity skills are wide with Microsoft Office as you can start at presentations, documents and spreadsheets, then incorporate formulas, and macros in common Office products and even SQL statements in Access.

What I didn’t realize is the software available for my computer science course specifically.
Visual Studio Community – an IDE for creating modern applications for Windows, Android, and iOS, as well as web applications and cloud services all for FREE.

Xamarin – ability to deliver native Android, iOS, and Windows apps, with a single shared C# codebase.

Azure - a collection of cloud services including analytics, computing, database, mobile, networking, storage, and web. I found a fun looking contest for students to learn more about using Azure.

Additionally, if you want to learn more about the software products or software development as a teacher, professional, or for your CS50 final project?  There’s a class for that.  Microsoft offers free courses at Microsoft Virtual Academy, via, and at Channel 9.

I’m looking forward to growing my skills and offering new tools for my students that I can see them using outside of the classroom.  Who knows, after a few more courses I might be on my way to the new Microsoft Professional Degree.

CS50 workshop - San Diego

I knew in my mind I needed to write about this at the time, but I ran out of time in my rush and desire to take every empty hour to see San Diego. But, that's all about choices and a different blog. With that said, this post may make many edits as I "remember" things I wanted to say.

After teaching CS50 AP at Cedarville High School over the past year I was invited to speak to on boarding teachers about my experience. I chose to speak about the community surrounding the CS50 experience. There is so much community! Feel free to view my Prezi.

First, community is addressed within our own school. I chose CS50 because my teaching philosophy matched the philosophy I saw in the lectures and support I saw form the Harvard course. In my classroom I play music, encourage students to work together, create hashtags specific to the course and include students in demonstrations. And of course we had our own CS50 t-shirts. Each individual educator who teaches their own CS50 course brings their own sense of community to the course.

There are opportunities for students to continue to foster their own sense of community beyond the classroom. Like the CS50 course targeted to college students and beyond there are communities of online support for the high school students that teachers can choose to share with students after discussing academic honesty and the types of help that is acceptable.

There is a community for educators teaching the course such that after providing proof of their educator status they can join in on conversations with other teachers to further discuss strategies, grading, teaching tips.

The community I had not anticipated was the relationship between high school teachers and the Harvard staff. For many of us teachers we are the only teacher at our school or maybe even district teaching this course that is aligned to the AP CSP framework. This course puts students on track for taking the new AP CSP exam offered May, 2017. 

The CS50 AP staff really listen to the teachers and try their best to support their needs. I was most impressed with the summer interns who at 19 years old approached me at our first gathering to ask about my CS50 pilot year. These students took CS50 themselves at Yale and Harvard and one of them even took the course in high school. 

I shared with them which PSets I completed with my students and the items I'd like to see from a teaching standpoint that could really make managing the course easier. These rockstar students presented a sample of the new CS50 portal the next day and worked after our meeting to implement the features I requested the night before! 

Awesome example of what CS50 students can accomplish and what the CS50 team is bringing to the course to help teachers!

Stay tuned to CS50 AP to learn about the new features available to teachers.