Computer Science Education Support Surging: But Who's Going to Teach It?

“In the coming years, we should build on that progress…offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.”

—President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 2016

Due in large part to Code.org’s advocacy campaign and their remarkable Hour of Code event, support for K-12 computer science education has grown tremendously. Localized, grassroots efforts have transformed into a national campaign to ensure all students have equitable access to computer science courses at school--and by computer science, we mean programming, robotics, computational thinking skills, etc. as opposed to computer fluency concepts like keyboarding and business applications. Can you hear the CS education enthusiasts cheering? However, such momentum begs the question: but who's going to teach it? Let's start with the good news.

Relevant Changes in CS Education Policy

While a lot of educational leaders in this country are chatting about computer science (including the President during the 2016 State of the Union Address), the most compelling evidence of this movement is in policy reform.

  • Computer science listed as a core academic subject. A crowning achievement for the computer science education world came in December 2015 with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) reauthorization, now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which listed computer science as a core academic subject alongside English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, etc. Moreover, twenty-eight states plus DC now allow CS courses to count toward graduation (as of 2/3/16).
  • Increased funding. In the wake of the ESSA, the White House announced the CS For All (#CSforAll) initiative this past weekend (January 30). The initiative hopes to "empower all American students from kindergarten through high school to learn computer science...to be creators in the digital economy, no just consumers." The initiative also calls for "$4 billion in funding for states and $100 million directly for school districts" to expand K-12 CS professional development and teaching materials. This funding builds on additional opportunities (e.g., National Science Foundation) announced late last year for professional development and support for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), which includes computer science.
  • Computer science as a required offering (read: computer science in every school). In 2015 Arkansas passed legislation that requires all secondary schools to offer computer science by 2015-2016. The Natural State now joins Texas with this requirement. New York City, Chicago Public Schools, and San Francisco schools have made a similar promise, following the example set by Broward County, FL, and Charles County, MD. Other states, such as Florida, are predicted to follow suit in the coming years.
  • Computer science required for graduationChicago Public Schools announced last year that computer science will be a required graduation credit. In other words, all students must take computer science in order to graduate from high school.

If the past 24 months is any indication of the future, we can expect to see several more states and districts adopting similar policies to broaden participation in computer science—a welcome effect for many. In a recent study, approximately 91% of parents agreed they want their children to learn computer science; and more than half of parents, teachers, principals, and administrators feel learning CS is just as important as learning subjects such as math, English, science, and history. However, many students, especially minority students, do not have access to computer science courses. With additional federal funding, states and districts can remedy that problem. Along with the demand from educational stakeholders, it’s reasonable to predict a dramatic shift in the CS landscape over the next 10 years.

Let's start by taking a look at the number of students that have taken (and are predicted to take) the AP Computer Science A exam and the number of college graduates who have received (or are predicted to receive) a Bachelor's degree in CS from 2000 to 2025. We've seen a couple of spikes in CS graduates over the past 50 years—and the data suggests we're on the verge of another one. Not only that, but the number of students taking AP Computer Science is on the rise as well. We used trendlines based on data from 2000 to today to predict growth in both AP CS enrollment and CS graduates, and the results are telling. We should also note that, this fall, the College Board is scheduled to launch a new, more accessible AP course, AP Computer Science Principles; therefore, our predictions are likely quite conservative.

CSinterest

Existing Resources

While these policies might be recent news, the need and motivation for computer science education is not. Because CS is vital to many companies today, the need for skilled computer scientists is growing rapidly. As a result, a lot of large companies and organizations, like SAS, have been philanthropically supporting K-12 CS instruction for years—especially since 2013, following the popularity of the Hour of Code.

While the tech industry is known for many things, agreeing among themselves on big issues is not one of them. Except for this one. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, SAS and so many others compete vigorously for talent, ideas and market share, and yet they have come together to support broadening access to computer science education. I’m proud of my colleagues and humbled by their trust on this important issue and hope that the tremendous success of the Hour of Code is only a sign of good things ahead.

—Hadi Partovi, Co-founder and CEO, Code.org. Testimony before Congress 1/9/14

Resulting from students’ and teachers’ desire to go beyond an hour, CSEd is now rich in free, comprehensive instructional resources (e.g., Code.org, Exploring Computer Science). Such support is expected to increase as the Framework for K-12 CS Education project continues to make headway this year. In fact, as we mentioned above, the effect has bubbled all the way up to the College Board.

In sum, we computer science education enthusiasts now have the nod from state and federal government—which means more support, more money, and more justification for CS courses—and a great start on creating curricular resources to get these courses off the ground. Excellent news for computer science.

But who’s going to teach it?

The Demand for CS Teachers

By coupling predicted implications from existing and pending federal, state, and district-level policies with various data sources (AP Computer Science enrollment, current CS course offerings, U.S. educational institution projections, U.S. teacher projections), our trendlines predict a significant demand for computer science teachers over the next 10 years. Right now, just one in four schools teach CS programming courses, only 21 states provide pathways for teacher credentialing in CS, and many states do not require a CS teaching credential to teach computer science.

Here's the harsh reality: very few teachers have official CS credentials. Of the 206,059 public school teachers in New York, for example, only 2,271 have the Computer Studies teaching certification. That's 1.1%.

Based on the data and facts we've already presented, we know that statistic is bound to change. In fact, we're predicting that by 2025, CS will be taught in the majority of schools and that one-sixth of all secondary teachers will be called on to teach computer science—a fair prediction considering CS is now listed as a core academic subject. Using these numbers, we expect that the United States will need more than 30,000 secondary teachers qualified to teach CS by 2025. On the other hand, if CS training for teachers stays the same as it is now, we could expect a shortage of more than 23,000 teachers.

CSteacherDemand

4 Existing Professional Development Models

School officials, state leaders, and other organizations are already well aware of the looming CS teacher shortage, with many groups providing low-cost and free options for professional development. Preparing educators to teach this up-and-coming discipline is complicated because of the many competing factors including formalized teaching credentials, the ever-changing landscape, teacher turnover, and much more. Below we’ve outlined the most promising potential solutions for closing this gap; however, each comes with a viable counter-argument.

Potential Solution 1: Develop online PD courses that can be widely distributed at a nominal cost (e.g., Microsoft’s TEALS program).
Counter-argument: Many feel this is a stop-gap effort due to the high rate of teacher turnover, especially in the STEM fields. Statistics suggest teachers appointed to go through such programs are likely to change schools or occupations within 5 years; thus, continuously training new teachers does not promote a culture of CS education compared to established disciplines that are more resistant to the effects of teacher turnover. For more details, read The Revolving Door: Computer Science for All and the Challenge of Teacher Retention.

Potential Solution 2: Develop online, virtual courses for students taught by established CS educators that can be widely distributed across the country.
Counter-argument: As seen in other disciplines, computer science instruction benefits greatly from just-in-time, personalized feedback. Fielding specific student questions, troubleshooting programming bugs, and other classroom dynamics demand the need for in-person support. Read more: “Seeing Myself Through Someone Else’s Eyes:” The Value of In-Classroom Coaching for Supporting Exploring Computer Science Teaching and Learning.

Potential Solution 3: Instruction provided by local CS professionals or CS graduates.
Counter-argument: In order to deliver effective instruction, educators need “in-depth computer science knowledge as well as strong pedagogical content knowledge, developed through a computer science methods course.” In other words, there is a lot more to teaching than just knowing the content. Read more: Learning to Teach Computer Science: The Need for a Methods Course.

Potential Solution 4: Develop College of Education pre-service programs following a consistent curriculum model such as one that includes traditional education and CS courses, field experience, and industry mentorships (e.g., see A Curriculum Model for Preparing K-12 Computer Science Teachers; Georgia Tech's methods course).
Counter-argument: Although CS teaching programs currently exist (e.g., Purdue, Georgia Tech), they currently suffer from under-enrollment. Is it a lack of undergraduate’s interest or confidence in computer science, and is this due to a lack of exposure to CS in K12? Or is it the appeal of job opportunities and generous salaries waiting for those who do CS rather than teach it? Probably both.

As the CS education world continues to work out the best course of action, we should mention some additional good news. As part of listing CS as a core subject through the ESEA reauthorization and ESSA, states can finally make a justifiable case for allocating funds specifically for CS professional development programs. We're already seeing a surge in the number of states creating pathways to CS teaching certification (currently 21)—a “bug” in the CS education system for quite a while. As such programs are created, experts like the Computer Science Teachers Association warn that states should communicate and strive for consistency.

For more on the progress, challenges, and open research questions related to computer science education, check out Dr. Mark Guzdial’s Computing Education Blog and proceedings from ACM’s Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (or attend their conference this March in Memphis, TN; see you there!).

This post was cowritten with SAS Research Scientist Jen Sabourin.

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Virtue and Virtuosity in Biology VLabs

Biology, the study of life, is a beautiful, exciting, and rapidly changing discipline. In the last 60 years, we’ve discovered the link among all living things through our growing understanding of genetics. This has opened doors for new discoveries across all of biology, from the study of cells to ecological interactions.

VLabs such as Mendellian Genetics allow students to collect data, make observations, analyze findings, and draw conclusions.

As we develop more complex knowledge, we must find new and more effective ways to teach biology. A typical biology textbook contains forty chapters, maybe more. Students and teachers alike may be overwhelmed by the amount of information in a biology course. How do you cover all the content? How do today’s science teachers achieve the ideal so beautifully articulated by the Nobel Prize winning biologist E.O. Wilson?

From the freedom to explore comes the joy or learning. From knowledge acquired by personal initiative arises the desire for more knowledge. And from the mastery of the novel and beautiful world awaiting every child comes self-confidence.

While there isn’t a single approach to good science teaching, showing students how the process of scientific discovery works is one of the best ways to light up their eyes and awaken Wilson’s “desire for more knowledge.” Evidence shows that students learn better by discovering principles the way real scientists do. How do we teach students not only science concepts, but also how to investigate the natural world and solve challenging problems?

VLab: Stream Ecology

Our biology virtual labs clarify abstract concepts in novel ways that provide a practical means of instruction. Experiments that might be dangerous, difficult, or expensive are no longer off-limits. Think of a typical “wet lab” in which students investigate osmosis. What limitations might students encounter? Will they actually see the movement of water? Will dialysis bags and solute concentrations be labeled correctly?

VLab: Membranes

By using our virtual lab on membranes, students understand how pressure, temperature, and extracellular solute concentration affect water movement through cell membranes. If students make a mistake, they simply reset the simulation. Although virtual labs do not replicate the real world exactly, they excel at presenting certain features in a controlled environment. Some experiments that would take months or years to complete can be simulated in a class period. For example, in the VLab: Disease Dynamics, students investigate how infectious diseases affect human population growth.

During traditional labs, you might notice some students feel lost and unsure of the next step. They need to practice inquiry. Virtual labs provide students with experience in a self-paced setting. Throughout these lessons, carefully selected questions help students learn the content, maintain interest, and use various cognitive skills. Students make predictions, experiment using multi-step procedures, gather and convey data visually, draw conclusions, and communicate their results.

While no one would argue that virtual labs ought to completely replace traditional labs, more and more teachers are recognizing the benefits VLabs offer, particularly as they become more sophisticated. “The idea that virtual labs are a poor substitute” for the work students will do as professionals “is not actually true anymore,” says Gerry Hanley, assistant vice-chancellor for academic technology services in the Cal State system.

Our virtual labs include biological processes ranging from cell division and genetics to photosynthesis, ecology, and evolution. Virtual labs help students grasp difficult concepts in a way that mere words or the static images cannot.

Check out the rest of our biology virtual labs:

Vlab: Enzymes
VLab: Photosynthesis
VLab: Membranes
Vlab: Microeveolution
Vlab: DNA Replication
Vlab: Cell Division
Vlab: Modern Taxonomy

We also have VLabs in Earth and Space Science, Physics, and Chemistry!

VLab: Free Fall

VLab: Free Fall

 

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The Unlikely Marriage of Mathematics and Literature

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” –Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

It is almost certainly a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s opening line from her great novel is one of the most memorable ever written. The American Book Review places it second on its list of the 100 best first sentences from novels.

Of course, Austen’s book, like the opening line, is about marriage—more specifically, the unlikely marriage of a seemingly mismatched couple. At first, the woman and man fall victim to their own pride and prejudice about one another. Only after they are able to overcome these obstacles can they marry happily.

mathLitWhich brings me to another so-called truth that I fear has been universally (and wrongly) accepted: mathematics and literature are a mismatched couple. As a student and then as a young English teacher, I admit that I found no poetry in mathematics, no art in algebra. I saw literature and math as circles that scarcely touched—and never overlapped.

But like Austen’s couple, I have set aside my pride and prejudice and discovered that a happy marriage between math and English is indeed possible. I’ve learned that innumeracy and illiteracy are equally dangerous conditions and that the treatment for both may sometimes involve the same medicine.

Nowhere is that connection more evident than in “Small Change,” a short poem by Tim McBride. One of three poems in the SAS Curriculum Pathways resource Exploring Poetry about Families, it is a coming-of-age story about a child who is given a choice between two pathways to earn money. His poor decision, based on his failure to understand a fundamental mathematical principle—in this case the concept of exponential growth—leads to embarrassment and frustration.

tmpoem

The narrator’s uneasy awareness that “the obvious had not been true” is an epiphany of sorts. It results in this case from a truth revealed to the child by mathematics. But equally important, it is a truth revealed to readers by the poem.

And the poem gets at a wider truth about learning in general. “The human mind was designed by evolution to deal with foraging in small bands on the African Savannah,” says cognitive scientist Steven Pinker in How the Mind Works. We’re great at solving complex communication problems because that was essential to our survival, but faulting our minds for becoming confused by games of chance, statistical problems, and exponential growth patterns, Pinker says, “is like complaining that our wrists are poorly designed for getting out of handcuffs.”

Daniel Kahneman—a Nobel Prize winning psychologist and behavioral economist--makes a similar point in Thinking, Fast and Slow, where he poses this question: “Are people good intuitive statisticians?”

“We already knew that people are good intuitive grammarians, “Kahneman adds.”At age four a child effortlessly conforms to the rules of grammar as she speaks, although she has no idea that such rules exist. Do people have a similar intuitive feel for the basic principles of statistics?”

Kahneman’s research reveals that almost all of us are a bit like the boy in the poem. And he isn’t just talking about the slackers who fell asleep in math class. Indeed his findings reveal that “even statisticians were not good intuitive statisticians.” To make reliable estimates, they need to understand and apply the tools of their discipline.

For students willing to apply themselves, both literature and mathematics offer ways to expand and enrich our minds. Both move us beyond the realm of everyday speech: literature into a world of emotion and moral complexity, mathematics into a world of logical rigor that is the foundation for some of our most creative insights.

Both disciplines help us cultivate our potential and live more fully human lives.

Mathematics and literature—a suitable marriage indeed.

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“Not To Decide… Is To Decide!” Solving the Riddle for 21st-Century Learning

My social studies teacher, Mrs. Rupert, had a favorite response to sleepy, disengaged students: "Not to decide ... is to decide." Turns out it is a quote from Harvard Professor Harvey Cox, but she adopted it as her mantra. Back in the 1980s in western Pennsylvania, disco and Reaganomics were the rage, and Mrs. Rupert wanted us to know that we were embarking on a lifetime of important decision-making.

A lot has changed since then. Hip-hop has replaced disco (thank goodness), and the internet has just about replaced textbooks, but Mrs. Rupert’s maxim still applies. If we decide to let circumstances or other people make our decisions (both large and small), we engage in a form of apathetic fatalism that stunts both intellectual and personal growth.

21centuryDecisionsWith the abundance of information and changing demands of the workplace, 21st-century students need opportunities to practice making decisions more than ever. In Defining a 21st Century Education, Craig D. Jerald describes the need for less hierarchy and supervision and more autonomy and collaboration to prepare students for a less predictable and more spontaneous workplace.

Seminars, simulations, and many other forms of project-based learning are great ways to help students make decisions that lay the scaffolding in their own education process.

Here are 5 easy ways to help students develop independence and decision–making skills:

  1. Stop at strategic moments in a story, an experiment, or a historic event, and announce a “Decision Point” where students are charged to make the next critical decision and defend their choice. There are fun social media voting tools that can diagram results like polling data, but the key is for students to get comfortable explaining their decisions.
  1. Assign open-ended, project-based learning that engages student leadership and organization in every aspect of the experience. If you are preparing for a science fair, make sure students act as project managers, facility managers, and publicity agents for the event. If you are producing a play, make sure there is a student director, stage manager, and stage designer, and give them real authority to make decisions that have consequences (even if the results suffer). And always engage in a constructive “post-mortem” analysis of projects. Honest feedback is essential to honing decision-making skills.
  1. Set up revolving seats on a “student honor council” to review class management issues and ethical debates. If students offend or insult one another, a peer-led committee could evaluate consequences and lead class discussions on resolving class issues. Social decisions are as important as academic decisions.
  1. Periodically give students a choice of assignments: Write a paper/ give a class presentation / or create your own mechanism for illustrating the content and skills you have learned.
  1. Offer a “Fun, but Fruitful, Friday” once a month, with a revolving committee to plan and lead the activities in class that day.

One surprising challenge for teachers is to know when to step out of the way. In the recently acclaimed movie Most Likely to Succeed, one of my favorite scenes shows a teacher at High Tech High in San Diego giving students a diagram and short explanation that they are having a seminar and will need inner and outer circles. He then tells them to arrange the chairs and tables in the room accordingly. It was as if he'd asked them to split an atom! But they gradually became more comfortable and confident taking a hands-on role in their educational environment. Making small, practical decisions helps to grease the wheels for the tougher ones down the road. Active participation in all aspects of learning is the goal.

Like all riddles, Mrs. Rupert’s riddle is a clever turn of phrase to make you stop and think. If displayed at the front of the room and silently pointed to every once in a while to make a dramatic gesture, as she did, it would have an impact.  But as teachers it also presents a powerful challenge: How can we let go of the reins a bit and provide added opportunities for students to develop decision-making skills?

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Three Actions to Support Your Professional Learning

 

tweetdeck2“The number of chats I follow on Twitter is out of control! The information on my dashboard is overwhelming!’

I know the feeling. My monitor often looks like something you’d expect to see in an air-traffic control tower or the cockpit of a fighter jet. To preserve my sanity and manage the content, I use Tweetdeck, which organizes the information on my dashboard into multiple columns.

Why do I have so many columns? Twitter is one of the tools I use to engage in professional development and to build my Professional Learning Network (PLN). The input I get from the posts and chats keeps me up-to-date on education practices and new technologies. Professional development options for educators are popping up everywhere. Here’s what’s trending.

Engage in Social Media (or at least follow along)

Social media has emerged as a critical element of professional learning.

Social media has emerged as a critical element of professional learning.

Social media platforms offer instant opportunities to learn about best practices and innovative instruction. There is an abundance of information, but it can be personalized by following specific Twitter hashtags (e.g. #edtech, #satchat), Instagram groups (EdTech Baton) and Pinterest boards. Find what is right for you by searching and selecting which live chats to participate in. The level of engagement can vary from trolling for information, posting a thought or opinion, or getting involved in deeper discussions. You can also search for archived materials and conversations.

Read blog posts for professional growth or to participate in what is being called social reading, which includes skimming and scanning the comments section to make connections, share ideas, and summarize thoughts. Getting SmartEdutopia, and Education Week are three popular online communities that offer a variety of blogs from guest bloggers. Many websites list their social media outlets. Be sure to check out what is offered from SAS Curriculum Pathways.

Attend an Online Conference

Engage more and spend less. Online conferences provide unique opportunities for professional development. They tend to be organized around a specific theme or strand and use chats, webcasts, or platforms such as Google Hangout, Periscope, and Voxer to interact. The ISTE Virtual Conference offers free professional learning that “takes advantage of global connectivity to offer a slice of the conference experience to anyone, anywhere.” Want to participate from work or home? No problem. Educause and Global Education Conference have virtual options for their face-to-face conferences.

There’s a reason Edcamps have taken off. The unconference model that is participant-driven and encourages discussions provides high quality, personalized professional learning. And now you can have a connected and participatory learning experience, virtually. Participate in Edcamp Online to propose a session, share ideas, and engage in interactive dialogue. If you are looking for classroom projects, be sure to register for Edcamp Global, which will host their 24-hour online Global Classrooms conference later this month.

Get Yourself a Title

Take a look at profiles on social media, and you are sure to see Google Certified Educator or NAIS Teacher of the Future. These titles distinguish educators with specific expertise, knowledge, and abilities. Google for Education offers various performance-based certificates for mastering and integrating Google tools in the classroom. You determine your needs and find training or professional development to help you earn the certificate. NAIS requires teachers to engage in conversations and work together to develop resources and guidance. Likewise, ambassadorships provide in-depth professional development. Ambassadors are usually expected to advocate, share, and work with others to promote innovation in teaching and learning. Here are some programs to consider:

PD options are limitless. My Tweetdeck columns will keep expanding to include groups and hashtags that interest me. I’m keeping up with trends and personalizing my PD. I encourage you to do the same.

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Hamilton: History and Hip Hop Join Forces

The groundbreaking popularity of Hamilton: An American Musical serves to remind educators of music's powerful role in learning. Songs often enhance learning with infectious, foot-tapping messages that merge with the beating of our hearts and pumping of our blood to engage a wider spectrum of the brain.

Before writing his hip-hop smash hit, Lin-Manuel Miranda recognized Hamilton’s face on the $10 bill and probably knew he was a Founding Father killed in a duel.

Before writing his hip-hop smash hit, Lin-Manuel Miranda recognized Hamilton’s face on the $10 bill.

But how does the life of a Founding Father become a Broadway musical? Fairly simple it turns out: After reading Ron Chernow’s 700-page Hamilton biography, actor and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda was awe-struck. He decided that a musical celebrating the feverish intellect and unparalleled accomplishments of Alexander Hamilton was “what the world was missing.”

Before writing his hip-hop musical, Miranda admits that he recognized Hamilton’s face on the $10 bill, and he probably knew that this Founding Father was killed in a duel.

Most U.S. History teachers know at least one more thing. Hamilton wrote many of the seminal Federalist Papers that framed and explained the basis of the U.S Constitution. He provided the blueprint that took the colonies beyond revolution and into the complicated details of running a nation.

First, here's a condensed version of Hamilton's impressive achievements.

A self-taught immigrant from the island of St. Croix, Hamilton became George Washington’s right-hand-man during the Revolutionary War. Commanding infantry at the Battle of Yorktown, he escaped enemy fire and helped force the British surrender. Following the Revolution, Hamilton was equally accomplished:

  • As mentioned above, he wrote most of the Federalist Papers, which helped convince states to ratify the Constitution. His essays demonstrated the practical advantages of a central (federal) government. See Federalist 51, 68, 69, and 74.
  • He served as the first secretary of the treasury and stabilized a post-war economy in shambles.
  • He established a gold-based currency system and paid off a huge war debt.
  • He helped craft Washington’s foreign policy, including the Neutrality Proclamation, avoiding entanglement in foreign wars.
  • Not only did he argue for a paid military and the U.S. Coast Guard, but he also introduced a bill to establish a military academy at West Point.

It took Miranda’s fast-talking jib-jab, hip-hop styled lyrics to convey even a fraction of the Hamilton's ideas. Here’s an example of the captivating verse in his Cabinet Battle #1, in which Hamilton  addresses his nemesis, Thomas Jefferson:

Hamilton
Thomas. That was a real nice declaration
Welcome to the present, we’re running a real nation
Would you like to join us, or stay mellow
(Doin’ whatever the hell it is you do in Monticello?)
If we assume the debts, the union gets
A new line of credit, a financial diuretic
How do you not get it? If we’re aggressive and competitive
The union gets a boost. You’d rather give it a sedative?
A civics lesson from a slaver. Hey neighbor
Your debts are paid cuz you don’t pay for labor

 Jefferson
We plant seeds in the South. We create.

Hamilton
Yeah, keep ranting…

Since the day we learned the alphabet by chanting our ABCs, we've known the power of rhythm and song to motivate and help imbed learning. But the immense popularity of this show is a good reminder that complicated ideas and storytelling can be enhanced by musical presentation.

So remember, if you are teaching elementary school students, wouldn't it be fun to sing along with Sal the mule traveling 15 miles on the Erie Canal ("Low bridge, everybody down").

And even a Lady Gaga tune can be a good vehicle for remembering some key details from the French Revolution

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SAS Curriculum Pathways Best of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, let's look back on the great year at SAS Curriculum Pathways. Again, we saw record-breaking new users, soaring student usage, and tons of app downloads. While we love all of our 1,500+ resources, here are the ones that teachers and students used the most in 2015.

3 Top Resources

Algebra 1

Explore video and text that address concepts covered in Algebra 1. As you complete the course units, you'll learn how to solve equations and inequalities, identify sequences, graph functions, display and analyze data, simplify radical and polynomial expressions, and factor polynomial expressions.
algcourse1

Writing Navigator

Writing Navigator is a suite of tools to guide and support students in all four stages of the writing process: planning, drafting, revising, and publishing. Writing Navigator is now available at writingnavigator.com, on the iPad, and chromebook; it's also an Add-on for Google Docs.
Writing Navigator Suite

Punctuation Rules

Explore the most common punctuation marks and their uses. You'll learn the rules of punctuation; demonstrate the connection between punctuation and meaning; and provide specific words, phrases, and clauses to create sentences and apply what you've learned. And, believe it or not, you'll have fun. You can complete the quizzes to check your understanding.
Puctuation Rules

3 Top Apps

Flash Cards

FlashCardsRoundedCreate, learn, and share flash cards. You can download and play decks in any subject, create new decks in a variety of question formats, and share your decks with others (for iPhone, iPad, and iTouch). Easily add pictures, drawings, and audio to your decks. The Flash Card app is now available on the web as well. Learn more about SAS Flash Cards here.

Math Stretch

SAS Math StretchUpdated earlier this month, SAS Math Stretch provides a suite of activities to develop elementary math skills and number sense. The app includes exercises that target counting, number relations and operations, as well as telling and manipulating time. Settings allow students, parents, and teachers to control the level of difficulty for each activity. Download SAS Math Stretch today from the App Store and Google Play!

Reading Records

ReadingRecsRoundedAvailable in the App Store and Chrome Store, Reading Records allows users to monitor reading skills in a more time-efficient manner. Students read and record a passage, answer related quiz questions, and retell what they've read in their own words. The tool's library contains numerous reading passages (various Lexile® levels, both fiction and nonfiction); teachers can also generate passages themselves. See how Reading Records can work for you!

 

We also released a new book all about mobile learning, Mobile Learning: A Handbook for Developers, Educators, and Learners. This book provides research-based foundations for developing, evaluating, and integrating effective mobile learning pedagogy. Be sure check out all of our #MLearning resources here, at sascurriculumpathways.com/mobilelearning.9781118894309_500X500

3 Top "New in 2015"

Explore! Primary Sources

Explore four centuries of primary sources provided with historical context and content-based questions to encourage active reading. Curated for grade-level and content needs, resources are perfect for both student inquiries and teacher-led activities. Start practicing for the new SAT evidence-based reading section that promises at least one encounter with Founding Documents.
explore1

Algebra Chrome App

Our complete Algebra 1 course (described above) is now available as an app for Chromebooks. And it's free! Check it out here in the Chrome Web Store. The full course is now even easier to access from your Chromebook.
algebra1

Writing Reviser Add-on

We've released the most popular tool from the Writing Navigator suite, Writing Reviser, as an Add-on for Google Docs. This add-on provides students with feedback about their writing and enables them to address a range of potential writing problems, including weak verbs, mind-numbing prepositional phrases, dangling modifiers, and faulty sentence structure. Best of all, this all happens right inside your Google Doc. Give it a try; it's free!
Writing Reviser

3 Top Videos

The top 3 videos all come from the Spanish Video Library series. And we recently released a new app for AppleTV that contains all 3 top videos and more.

Home-min

 

Los meses del año

This video is designed to build mastery of the language, introducing and reinforcing Spanish vocabulary for the months of the year. Watch and listen as native speakers discuss the question, ¿En qué mes estamos?

 

Los días de la semana

This video builds language mastery, introducing and reinforcing Spanish vocabulary for the days of the week. Students watch and listen as native speakers discuss the question, ¿Qué día es hoy?

 

Las estaciones

Spanish vocabulary for seasons and the weather are introduced in this video. Students watch and listen as native speakers discuss the questions, ¿Qué tiempo hace? and ¿Cuál es la estación?

 

3 Top Tweets

 

3 Top Blog Posts

5 Reasons Young and Old Writers Need the SAS Writing Reviser Add-on for Google Docs

image of the Writing Reviser add-on highlighting all prepositional phrases

All prepositional phrases in a writing draft highlighted by the SAS Writing Reviser.

 

How to Find the Perfect App: The Great App Checklist

The Great App Checklist, go.sas.com/MobileLearning.

The Great App Checklist, go.sas.com/MobileLearning.

 

How to Get Started with the Writing Reviser Add-on for Google Docs

Find Writing Reviser from the Google Docs Add-ons menu.

We hope you've enjoyed and benefitted from these and all our resources. We look forward to working with you in 2016.

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Spanish Video Library for Apple TV

"Apps are the future of television,” Apple boldly proclaimed with the recent launch of the next-generation Apple TV*. Among other new features, Apple TV now includes access to the App Store, allowing users to personalize their entertainment experience without having to buy a new television. Just plug the device into the back of your TV and start streaming, playing, and, best of all, learning!

So while you're unwrapping your new Apple TV this holiday season, the SAS Curriculum Pathways Spanish Video Library will be waiting for you in the App Store. It's the perfect companion to those who want to learn a second language in the new year!

Hero-minThe Spanish Video Library app for Apple TV offers the same visually dynamic videos found in SAS Curriculum Pathways and on the SAS Curriculum Pathways YouTube channel. The videos build mastery by introducing and reinforcing vocabulary in the target language, providing content for beginning-level Spanish learners, and presenting vocabulary words and phrases used in context and spoken by native speakers. You’ll now also get video catalog capability, fully featured interactive vocabulary reviews, and video transcripts.

Home-min

Each video centers on an inquiry question such as ¿Qué tiempo hace? ¿Qué día es hoy? or ¿Quiénes son?

video-min

A vocabulary list allows the learner to hear the word pronounced on its own and used in a sample sentence. Spanish and English pronunciation practice are available.

vocab-minThe transcript offers the full conversation from the video. Learners can read for understanding or foster reading skills by skimming for main ideas and scanning to locate specific information.

transcript-minWe hope you enjoy the videos presented in our first Apple TV app:

  • Las estaciones
  • Los días de la semana
  • Los meses del año
  • La casa
  • La escuela
  • La gente
  • La familia

*Apple TV is an HDMI device that hooks up to your TV, creating an experience that will make you think you're playing with an over-sized iPad. In the classroom, teachers can use it on a television or a projector to demonstrate apps or display teacher and student work.

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A Good #STEM Day

STEM, you’ve heard the acronym before, right? Well, in case you've been hibernating, STEM refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; schools have promoted it for years. And every year SAS partners with a local middle school, sending out volunteers who inspire students to consider STEM careers. This year many of my fellow SAS Curriculum Pathways team members volunteered!

Our STEM Career Day lessons had students apply knowledge from STEM subjects to work through a real-world problem. Many of the lessons included a short video showing how SAS solutions are used in key industries and how students can collaborate to solve a related problem. Each class ended with a discussion that linked STEM careers to the topic.

Wednesday, I walked into West Cary Middle School prepared to be a floater. Basically, that means my job was to be available: to assist with questions, to replenish materials, and to replace a volunteer, if necessary. As I stood in the hallway awaiting the bell, I reminisced about my 13 years of teaching. Ah, the sound of the kids hustling through the halls! (Well not all of them hustle.) The sight of creative projects on the walls, the lockers, the tiled floors, the backpacks! All these brought back fond memories of teaching. Then the bell rang: it was time to work.

My first stop was room 511, where SAS volunteers Tom and Frank were teaching a Stat Wars lesson. Named after a video series created by two SAS employees, this lesson discusses statistics and probability. Using spinners, students find the probability of earning the big prize. Tom and Frank discussed their positions at SAS and the way STEM relates to what they do. Next, they asked students to name some uses of statistics. As a student yelled out, “Sports,” it was time for me to move on. I needed to borrow a couple of spinners from this classroom and deliver them to another. Plus I had to be available to other classrooms.

Peeking at a schedule, I saw that my colleague Ada was teaching the criminal justice database lesson in room 528. That lesson focuses on the work SAS did with the North Carolina state controller’s office, which was having problems accessing criminal information due to multiple database locations. SAS integrated the databases to create the Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services (CJLEADS). Armed with their activity booklets, the students looked attentive when Ada asked, “Who wants to be our Chief Investigator and read the first two paragraphs?” It was time for me to slip out and check on another classroom.

Up next, room 507, where Molly and Emily were teaching the WildTrack lesson. Now it was time to track tigers! I was just in time to see students try to match an animal to its footprint and explain the logic behind their guesses. This lesson is based on research that uses statistical software created by SAS to track animal populations. As the students began to investigate how many tigers made six footprints, I slipped out the door and headed for the computer science lesson.

Just down the hall in room 512, I found Lucy and Isaiah working with students on an unplugged computer science lesson. My timing was perfect! The students were already working collaboratively, and one group was ready to test their code. On the floor were two large colored circles and two sticky notes. Students had created a program using coding blocks and QR codes to guide Sphero, a small app-enabled ball, through an obstacle course while changing colors at specific times. From the starting position Sphero took off! It headed straight for the green circle and turned green! Then it headed for the red circle and turned red. Success! The students’ program worked beautifully. “Now”, Isaiah said to the team, “I want you to reprogram Sphero to move through the course and then reverse the route.” The students nodded and went back to work on their code.

I visited several other new classrooms and popped back in on a few I’d already visited as students wrapped up their lessons. I saw excitement in the volunteer’s eyes and engagement in the eyes of many students. I could go on, but I think I’ll stop here and just say this: it was a good day!

Check out our homepage to learn more about SAS Curriculum Pathways and other STEM activities!

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What an Hour of Code Looks Like

Activities that leave classrooms full of students hungry for more are every teacher's dream. The Hour of Code again and again produces stories of engaged students, not just focused on but delighted in their work. The Hour of Code calls for critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, and problem-solving skills to create games, solve puzzles, or navigate robots in real or virtual worlds. Students have so much fun (and so do the teachers and our SAS Curriculum Pathways volunteers)!

Now, while we didn't conduct any sophisticated research studies analyzing the causality of the engagement we witnessed, I think we can make a few assumptions. Sure, students love the Hour of Code for the novelty; this activity differs from what most students do on other days. But then there's the creative element, which personalizes the games or stories the students' code tells. They make it their own. Their work differs from yours or mine. Further, the Hour of Code lets them fail early and often. There is no expectation to get everything right on the first try. And that's where countless volunteers become amazed by the persistence, the tenacity, the grit students show with coding. And they are having so much fun!

Here is a recap of a few Hours of Code we had the pleasure to lead this CSEdWeek—Star Wars, Minecraft, Sphero, and lots of fun!

... And lastly...

 

Want to learn more about #CSEdWeek, the #HourofCode, and coding? Check out these how-to-get-started ideas:

Join Everyone (Well, 150 million) in the Hour of Code and CSEdWeek

Our Favorite #HourofCode Resources

Need Weekend Plans? Code with your Kids!

Computer Science is Everywhere: Coding in Your Art/Music/PE Classroom

A (CSEd)Week in the Life

And if you want to see more computer science in your local public school, here's how to get involved!

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