#CSEdWeek in Review

Computer science is at the heart of our day-to-day operation here at SAS Curriculum Pathways. So we understand the market demand for talented coders, data analysts, web developers, and the like. That's why, during the recent Computer Science Education Week, we were happy to volunteer our time at local schools and  lead students in the Hour of Code.

As part of a larger SAS-wide effort, Curriculum Pathways developers and specialists descended on area classrooms to spark interest in computer science. Volunteers came away from the hour amazed at the level of engagement and at the enthusiasm for coding. A silent classroom full of 8th graders coding away? A dream no one thought was possible.

Chris Barefoot, Software Developer, working helping students with Code.org activities.

Chris Barefoot, software developer, helping students with Code.org activities.

Social studies specialist Molly Farrow and SAS developer Holden O'Neal led 7th and 8th grade students. O'Neal noted,

It was fabulous to have every student taking on the role of a coder and realizing that everything they see on a web page only works because someone wrote the code to make it work. We hit F12 on the Code.org site and showed them how every color, every movement they were seeing in the game was a result of a specific, efficient, amazing code!

Students enjoyed the session so much that Farrow and O'Neal were asked to lead a second hour for high-functioning students with autism.

Similarly, software developer Chris Barefoot and professional-development specialist Ralph Moore teamed up to teach students in an after-school science club. They too wowed students by asking them to name their favorite website and then showing them the source code of the page. The pair contextualized the lesson and explained how they use computer science to create educational software. The take away message was similar to the one emphasized by software developers Tony Castrogiovanni and Phil Issler: pick your passion and use computer science to solve problems in that area. Students then started coding on Code.org.

Software Developer, Jen Mahone, leads students in the Hour of Code.

Software developer Jen Mahone leads students in the Hour of Code.

Software developer Tom Richards didn't let a lack of technology keep students from participating in the Hour of Code. Equipped with an "unplugged" lesson, Richards and his team paired students up, one "computer" and one "coder." The coder was tasked with telling the computer how to draw a predefined image. Just as you would when writing a real program, students had to debug their "code" until the picture matched perfectly. Students walked away with the understanding that computers do exactly what you tell them to do, not necessarily what you want them to do.

At Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School, software developer Jen Mahone, put a twist on the traditional Hour of Code. Instead of coding, she introduced students to another principle of computer science, data mining. Using actual criminal justice data mining techniques as a guide, students in Mahone's classroom aggregated fictitious data points from multiple sources to identify a perpetrator. Mahone reflected, "Computer science is about much more than coding. To broaden participation in CS, it is important to make that point clear."

While we'd like celebrate Computer Science Education Week 52 times a year, events like this help to advocate for more CS in public schools. No matter what your favorite subject, an understanding of computer science will serve you well in today's digital world. Until next year!

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ELL: Hour of Code, Hora del Código, Heure de …

During Computer Science Education Week, the Hour of Code challenges students of all ages (and languages) to learn and participate in the basics of coding, engineering, computer science, and gaming.

Social media sites are flooded with images of kids using technology, learning programming, and creating code. Twitter hashtags in English (#hourofcode), Spanish (#horadelcodigo), and other languages provide information about coding, as do the following websites:

Colorín Colorado, a bilingual site for families and educators of English language learners, highlights the importance of getting young kids involved in computer programming and offers a number of helpful resources.

As these sites make clear, CSEdWeek targets a global audience. Moreover, the Hour of Code is about collaboration. Approaches like pair programming and “Ask 3 then me” are well-suited to English Language Learners (ELL). Working in a supportive language learning environment, ELLs and other students can learn from each other and solve problems together. This process enhances listening and speaking skills.

According to Cleopatra Jones, an ESL kindergarten teacher, the exposure to coding also “fuels a love of math and science.” And in reply to a #kidscancode Twitter chat question about the proudest moment from the #HourOfCode, Kelly Kayser Carey, a 4th grade ELL teacher from Nashville,  tweeted the following:

Ell hour of code

Hurray for the Hour of Code … in as many languages as you can shout it!

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Pick Your Passion and Apply Computer Science

Computing is part of everything we do. We are, quite literally, surrounded by computing: Cisco says that there are now 1.5 connected devices for every human and that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices. Keep in mind there are 7.2 billion humans. (Learn more about the Internet of Things).

The best part of computer science isn’t that there are so many machines providing job security for those who know how to code, but the opportunity to focus all that computational power on solving interesting, complex, challenging problems and thus to have a positive effect on the world.

 

Ed is right in the video above, “Computers are everywhere in every field.” With so much computing, you really can find applications in any domain. This is what makes computer science special. You can pick your passion and find an application of computer science, and if you can’t, then you've likely found an area ripe for innovation. You can find applications in fashion design, art history, and social justice to name just a few burgeoning fields. Every organization needs a website; everybody wants an app. Imagine you're a natural-science museum curator who knows how to code. Immediate applications include a digital visitor’s guide for smartphones and interactive exhibits that use touch screens or even virtual reality to place museum visitors in exotic settings.

Future computing applications have boundless potential to enhance lives and improve the world. Great opportunities await those diverse, interdisciplinary teams with the expertise to design creative solutions to challenging problems. Here at SAS Curriculum Pathways, we apply computer science to education and create innovative and free edtech. Our team members have backgrounds in education, computer science, design, and more, ensuring that every project is addressed from myriad perspectives, fueled by informed passions, and guided by expert knowledge. Understanding how code works, what approaches can best solve programs, and how to foster creativity--all these elements are vital to a well-informed, effective collaboration.

Mitch Resnick summed up the value of computer science as a fundamental skill in his TED talk:

…it's useful to think about this analogy with language. When you become fluent with reading and writing, it's not something that you're doing just to become a professional writer. Very few people become professional writers. But it's useful for everybody to learn how to read and write. Again, the same thing with coding. Most people won't grow up to become professional computer scientists or programmers, but those skills of thinking creatively, reasoning systematically, working collaboratively--skills you develop when you code in Scratch--are things that people can use no matter what they're doing in their work lives.

So what problems or challenges do you find fun? In what domain might you apply computer science? For some great examples, check out dotdiva.org’s profiles of women using code in roles often overlooked for their computing applications. Don’t forget that if you know how to code, your passion can be flexible too. If you get bored with a problem, there are plenty more out there to tackle, and your computer science skills can transfer from one domain to the next. With more than 1 million jobs available in computing and a lack of trained coders to fill them, there are great opportunities to explore diverse applications and find your passion through computer science.

If you haven’t gotten started with computer science yet, you still have time to complete your #HourofCode as part of Computer Science Education Week. Be sure to check out some of our favorite resources and other computer science posts, especially this one for girls.

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#CSEdWeek: Math is Kinda Important!

problemsolverssmallMath is essential to a successful career in computer science. That’s right! Jobs such as those listed below require algebra, calculus, discrete math, and other courses.

  • Software engineer/developer (every industry)
  • Social network analysis
  • Gaming
  • Anti-terrorism/cybercrime/fraud detection
  • Data scientist (sports/business/finance)

Math and computer science share terminology and notation. Computer scientists use math concepts and skills every day. As Brian Greene says, "monumental upheavals in science have emerged time and again from following the leads set out by mathematics." You want to work with computers? Math needs to become second nature.

Concept: Algebra
Early in an algebra course, students learn to define, evaluate, simplify, and operate with functions. These skills are critical in higher level algebra courses when students learn about a fifth function operation: composition. The composition of functions is the result of evaluating one function in a second function. That is, given f(x) and g(x), we can define the composition of the functions as f(g(x)) and g(f(x)).

Given f(x) = 2x + 3 and g(x) = x + 1,

mathppt8

 

 

 

 

Given a function that adds “s” to the end of a word, add-s(“run”) = “runs”,  and a function that puts two words together, sentence(“day”, “tripper” = “day tripper”, the composite function third-person(verb) = sentence(“she”, add-s(verb)) represents the singular form of a verb.Within code, programmers use composition to represent a specific process. The idea is to take a known and produce different results. Here’s an example of a simple code to create a sentence.

  • third-person(“sing”) = “she sings”
  • third-person(“drive”) = “she drives”
  • third-person(“work”) = “she works”

Source: http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~bh/ssch3/part2.html

Skill: Problem Solving
Problem solving is a key mathematical skill. Mathematically proficient students can do the following:

  • Analyze and make sense of a problem
  • Consider multiple methods for finding a solution
  • Develop a plan of action
  • Determine the validity of the solution

In algebra, students learn to factor. For example, students learn that 3x + 6 = 3(x + 6). Later in higher level courses such as pre-calculus, students use factoring to prove trigonometric identities. For example, students prove that

mathppt7

 

 

Programmers are problem solvers! Like proficient math students, programmers must be persistent, patient, logical, and accurate. As you consider a future in computer science, remember this: the skills you learn in math courses will be critical in your career.

Want to get started? Try out our free online Algebra 1 course!

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Open Letter to the Girls of the World

Dear Girls of the World,

girls

Source: http://hourofcode.com/us

I spent a lot of time as a young girl like you, wondering what type of career I might like. Now I’m part of a profession that is growing fast, with plenty of openings for high-paying jobs (a projected 1 million jobs in 2020, actually!) and lots of great applications. Sound cool?

I’m a computer scientist.

Now maybe you’re thinking, “Wait, girls don’t really do computer science,” but you would be wrong! Just look at me! In fact, 10 million girls gave it a try during last year’s hour of code!

Sometimes it’s easy to forget about the diversity in certain fields, and computer science is one of them. There is a very clear, often reinforced, stereotype that every computer scientist looks, acts, and thinks the same. They’re nerdy boys who like video games and tinkering with computers. Well, while those nerdy boys are great (I even married one!), they sure aren’t the whole picture.

As a computer scientist myself, I don’t play many video games, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t particularly like computers. I like being creative, teaching, and solving puzzles. Many people who meet me are surprised I’m a computer scientist – but they shouldn’t be. Computer science is all about solving puzzles and being creative; you’re building something new every day! You have to find creative approaches to exciting problems, and then you get to solve those problems using cool new technology! How does teaching fit in? Well, I develop educational software. If I taught in a classroom, I’d reach maybe 30 kids a year. But now, the projects I work on reach hundreds of thousands of kids a year. It’s pretty awesome!

Computer science is full of people who don’t fit the stereotype, and they bring a diversity and difference of ideas that are critical to the field. Consider Marissa Mayer, CEO and president of Yahoo!, for example. She used to be a ballet dancer and admits to loving cupcakes and high fashion. She agrees that there is a need to show off the diversity within computer science. In an interview with The Huffington Post, she said, “The stereotype of that very complete and rigid picture of what being a computer scientist means really hurts people's understanding and ability to identify with the role and say, 'Yes, this is something I can be in and want to be in.'"


We need a diverse group of people to join in. If everyone thought the same way and had the same backgrounds and interests, we’d miss out on a lot of important insights. Grace Hopper is a perfect example of how the diversity of ideas can lead to innovation. She is one of the founders of modern computer programming. She proposed that computers could “understand” English commands rather than the complex, mathematical binary languages that were used before. Her superiors laughed at this proposal, but her prototypes proved that it could be done and revolutionized the way computer programs are written today.

The world is full of diversity, and so is the world of computer science. People have different backgrounds, personalities, and interests. In fact, women have found some amazing ways to combine computer science with their other passions. It's incredible all the things you can do with computer science!

So how can you join in? The #HourofCode and #CSEdWeek give a great peek into the world of computer science, a way to dip your toe in the water and see what it’s all about. So join in with millions of other girls around the world (me included!) in this learning event. See you soon!

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Why Does Computer Science Need an Advocacy Week?

underrepAs we’ve discussed, computer science is everywhere, and its prominence is growing as our economy depends more and more on technology. Computers and technology are, by all measures, booming industries that aren’t going anywhere.

So you may wonder, if computer science is at the heart of all this growth and progress in our economy, why does it need its own advocacy week?

Simply put, we lack competent and trained computer science professionals, which isn’t just a problem for those hiring managers, but for all of us. Insufficient talent and diversity means innovation will lag. Any way you look at it, there are more CS jobs than there are qualified candidates, and that’s a big deal.

Computer science jobs are growing at twice the national average. Code.org predicts there will be 1 million more jobs than computer science students in 2020. This is a major shortfall and should be a call to arms for all advocates of computer science.

CS Stats

Source: http://code.org/stats

Let's discuss the issues underpinning that prediction. To start, nine out of ten schools don’t offer computer programming classes at all. In fact, no students in Wyoming took the AP computer science exam in 2013. For the few schools that do offer CS courses, half of the states don’t count computer science classes toward graduation credits--an obvious priority for students. Instead, the classes are seen as electives and training, not a core discipline.

Our two cents: we are talking about one of the most in-demand professions here, one with a million open jobs by 2020, and high schools aren’t even counting classes in that subject toward graduation? Shouldn’t high schools be encouraging (or even mandating) students to take classes in this subject? Overwhelmingly, yes.

Another implication hidden in these statistics is diversity. While this topic is a post in itself, here are the highlights. As Forbes study noted in 2011, diversity is the key to innovation and "critical to driving the creation and execution of new products, services, and business processes." Thinking outside the box demands varied perspectives, backgrounds, and areas of expertise. Unfortunately, computer science, a discipline at the forefront of today's innovation, is shockingly homogeneous. Code.org estimates 75% of our population is underrepresented in computer science. In 2013, 3 states had no women take the AP computer science exam, 8 had no Hispanic students do so, and 11 had no African American students. These are among the reasons why some of the largest tech companies, including SAS, are getting behind the Hour of Code.


Again, computer science touches nearly all professions and will continue to be a foundational and essential skill for working in the information economy, not simply for programmers and those in strictly technology-based careers.

So why does computer science need its own advocacy week?

  • Because we are not keeping up with demand.
  • Because today’s employers do not have employees with the necessary skillset.
  • Because diversity drives innovation, and, currently, 75% of our population is underrepresented in computer science.
  • Because students with a strong background in computer science can get a job in any sector when they graduate.
  • Because the stability of our technology-based economy and society depends on it.

So spread the word about computer science, and advocate where you can. Educators, parents, students, and tech professionals alike have the power to promote computer science. Need help getting started? Check out these handy materials available for free from Code.org or share our list of Hour of Code activities.

 

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What does Computer Science really mean?

We want to start the week by defining computer science. It’s a foundational skill, and although we celebrate with the Hour of Code, it is much, much more than coding. In simple, digestible language, Pat Yongpradit, Director of Education at Code.org, tweeted this definition of computer science:

Yongpradit went on to suggest coding is only one of computer science’s several principles, along with Internet, data, algorithms, societal impact, creativity, and abstraction—a perspective echoed by College Board’s latest AP CS Principles course. Our students must understand that many computer science careers do not involve coding at all. The stereotype of a computer scientist sitting behind a desk all day hacking away at code is no longer relevant in today’s digital economy.

hourOfCode

A succinct and informative definition of computer science proves difficult because the discipline dovetails so freely into other fields. Conversations about "What is computer science?" almost always turn into "look at all the amazing applications of this field!" But this is exactly the point! It is a foundational skill that is relevant to almost every profession, with more "cool applications" than we could possibly name.

Let's compare computer science to another, similarly basic skill: writing. People who know how to write can be novelists or television broadcasters or museum curators or doctors. Indeed, you can’t be a doctor if you can’t write proficiently. Similarly, people who know how to code can be computer scientists or doctors or museum curators or… You get the picture. Coding and a basic understanding of computer science are huge stars on your resume since computing touches almost every discipline today. And as the world grows more digital, computer science skills are becoming an absolute necessity.

That skill set starts with knowing how a computer works—the languages it understands and the way it processes information. Learning how to code is, in essence, understanding how to “speak” the same language as a computer. This then leads to understanding how to leverage computers to solve problems—applying data mining techniques to criminal justice data, generating computer models of genetic structures, or developing artificial intelligence techniques to simulate one-on-one tutoring for education, just to name a few. The video below highlights the breath of the field, and as you can see, computer science, despite its name, is much broader than computers and science.


Next time you're asked, “I’m not a nerd, so why should I be interested in computer science?” respond with this follow-up question: “What is your passion?” In most cases, the answer will have a significant computing application, and if it doesn't, you'll have discovered an untapped opportunity! Stay tuned for more inspiration about computer science this week on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter as we continue to take part in #CSEdWeek14 and the #HourOfCode!

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Our Favorite #HourOfCode Resources

compSciEdWeekNext week is Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), and we know many teachers and students of all ages are preparing to take part. The easiest way is to participate in the #HourOfCode--committing one hour of class time to a coding activity. We understand that leading an #HourOfCode activity might seem daunting to instructors without previous coding experience. But fear not! Vast plug-and-play, self-guided resources are available (and almost all free!), so facilitating a coding lesson can be fun for anyone.

Give #CSEdWeek and the #HourOfCode a try with some of our favorite resources to guide you. It doesn't matter if this is your first stab at coding or if you're just learning to read (wait, what are you doing on a blog?). You might love princesses or Angry Birds, or you might not even have a computer (again, how are you reading this??). No matter what, there’s a tutorial, game, or guide for you. Here are our favorite resources to use during your Hour of Code:

Elementary School

  • Frozen. This game from Code.org enables kids to ice skate in patterns, using blocks to write code (while they still learn that text code is occurring “under the hood”) and ultimately sharing their product with friends and their social network.
  • Scratch Jr. From the creators of Scratch, the Scratch Jr. programming interface is specially designed for young coders, ages 5-7. Follow these instructions for engaging young students in the Hour Of Code.
  • Kodable. With the tag line “learn to code before you can read,” Kodable offers several resources and modules for young kids, including classroom plans to teach coding. Kodable is free for classrooms with 25 or fewer students.
  • Made with Code. Google's Made with Code projects provide students with step-by-step instructions for getting started with coding. One timely activity involves decorating the nation's holiday trees at the White House.
  • Robot Dance or Mirror Images. Use these "unplugged" activities to get young students thinking like computer scientists regardless of access to technology.

Middle School

High School

  • MIT App Inventor. Using this free programming interface from MIT, these four lesson plan ideas allow students to create their own Andriod apps, an extremely relevant and exciting facet of computer science.
  • TouchDevelop. The team at TouchDevelop offers a great introductory video with a breakdown of what code is and all the things that depend on it. Several tutorials help children learn coding in various environments. You'll find excellent supporting materials to plan lessons for the Hour of Code.
  • Best Technology. With this "unplugged" activity, students discuss and debate the more influential technological inventions of the past 20 to 30 years.
  • Codecademy. Challenge your students to move beyond the visual, block-based programming languages. This #hourofcode lesson from Codecademy uses a step-by-step approach to introduce students to the JavaScript programming language.

All Ages

  • Flappy Code. Create the popular game Flappy Bird in about 10 minutes. Check out this tutorial.
  • Play Studio. This activity provides a natural progression from the introductory lessons, offering more challenging coding concepts like conditional logic and the ability to create more sophisticated programs.

Looking to go beyond an hour?

  • Courses from Code.org. For grades K-5, these self-paced, interactive lessons are filled with video tutorials and helpful feedback. Specifically designed for early readers, Course 1 uses images, not text, to guide students through activities.
  • Google's CS First. These downloadable, free curricula provide materials for facilitating computer science clubs. The focus is on showing the applications of CS (e.g., Music, Fashion & Design) and providing a supportive group environment for learning how to code. Setting up a club is a great way to go beyond the Hour Of Code.
  • Hopscotch. With seven, 45-minute activities and lesson-plan materials, Hopscotch (a free iOS app) provides a wonderful resource for integrating coding into your curriculum.
  • Code Academy. With over 24 million registered learners, Codeacademy provides a wide range of  resources and tutorials for learning to code.

Lastly, is coding you day job? There's an Hour of Code activity for you too! Enhance students' coding experiences by providing personalized, relevant hints to Hour of Code activities.

Coding is fun, and it’s the basic language on which all computer science knowledge can be built. We hope that taking part in the Hour of Code can be a fun experience and shine a light on a skill and capability that students didn’t know they had.

There’s a growing recognition that computer science is a vital field of study (although one that, we feel, is still undervalued, but we’ll discuss that next week!). And there are many, many resources to teach coding, the basic building blocks of computer science. While coding is simply a starting point, a solid understanding of how to code teaches kids how to think (to paraphrase Steve Jobs) and enables the deeper study of computer science.

Let us know what resources you’re planning to use, and please share this post with other teachers to encourage them to try the Hour of Code.

 

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You're Invited to the Hour of Code and CSEdWeek!

compSciEdWeekWhat: Every year we celebrate Computer Science Education week to emphasize that, in our information economy, students need  a strong set of coding and computer science skills. The Hour of Code  is the most popular way to take part, and we hope you'll join us! Over 48 million students have participated. The #HourOfCode is a great introduction for students of all ages!

 

Who: Everyone is invited to participate, and we encourage all teachers regardless of subject or grade (you’re never too young!) to teach coding this week. Computer science has relevance to all fields, and showing students those interconnections is a great idea. (More on this next week!)

When: December 8-14 is Computer Science Education Week (#csedweek), and you can do the #hourofcode anytime that week.

Why: Learning how a computer works and understanding how to solve problems with computers are foundational skills for kids, like learning biology or any other core subject. The increasing importance of technology means that tomorrow’s leaders will need a strong understanding of (and proficiency in) computer science and programming, no matter what their field of study. (Expect more on this next week too!)

How: The Hour of Code is the easiest way to join the computer science fun. Stay tuned for a big post later in the week with our favorite teaching resources, including leveled modules for different ages. Look for tweets and blog posts on the topic; follow #csedweek #hourofcode #kidscancode.

We'll be monitoring a few Twitter Chats too. (Hope to see you there!)

  • #kidscancode Tuesday 8pm ET hosted by @Kodable
  • #CSEDWEEK Thursday 6pm ET hosted by @NCWIT
  • #csedweek14 Wednesday 7pm hosted by the CS10K Community

Let us (and everyone) know: Share and commit to the Hour of Code to join in on the #CSEdweek fun. The Hour of Code is also the “largest learning event in history” (according to Code.org.) Comment here, or share this post with your colleagues. If you’re a parent, ask your school to take part. If you have never tried code before, now is the time to give it a shot!

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Writing Navigator: Now a Free App!

Writing Navigator–a powerful suite of tools that guides students through the process of planning, drafting, revising, and publishing their written work–is now available as a free app.

Already available as a web-based resource in SAS Curriculum Pathways and as a Chromebook app,  the new iOS app places this innovative tool in the hands of students no matter what platform they use for writing.

Here's a quick overview:

 

And here's a longer look at how the four Writing Navigator tools–Planner, Drafter, Reviser, and Publisher–work together.

 

Learn more about how to integrate Writing Navigator in your classroom:

TBLs: Getting Personal with Writing Reviser
Expressive Synergy: Writing Navigator + Punctuation Rules!
Fighting Plagiarism in the Digital Age
Strategies for Reading Nonfiction
Publish Don’t Perish with Our Innovative Writing Publisher
Supporting AP Success – English
Genesis: Writing Navigator

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