Yes, K-2 Can!

I often hear comments like those below when I talk about teaching programming in Kindergarten through 2nd grade.

“Kindergarten students can’t program. They aren’t reading.”

“How can they program when they can’t type yet?”

“Is it even age-appropriate to ask primary aged students to program?”

You would think these comments would be from people who do not work with students in these grades, but that is not always the case. Computer science and programming can be scary to teachers who have not been trained in what CS is and what it looks like for 5-8 year old students. 

One of the most common misconceptions I run into about programming in K-2 is that programming looks like this:

class HelloWorld 	
{ 
    public static void main(String args[]) 
    { 
        System.out.println("Hello, World"); 
    } 
}

Yes, that is programming but that kind of programming would not be age-appropriate for primary grades. Fortunately, programming does not look like that for 5-8 year olds.

Programming in K-2 is ….

Visual and block-based

Image result for scratchjr

Hands-on and not necessarily on a screen

All About Sequencing …
Sequencing is an important skill for students in all curricular areas. In reading, sequencing is the ability to recognize the beginning, middle, and end of a story along with being able to retell the events in the proper order. In math, sequencing is important for counting, pattern recognition, and the order in which computation should occur. In science, sequencing is important when conducting experiments and in social studies, sequencing helps students to understand the order of events. Learning to program reinforces the idea of sequencing since programs run in sequence and the order in which code is organized determines what happens in a program.

Cross-Curricular …
Programming in primary grades is often cross-curricular. There are so many ways students can use programming to show what they know across the curriculum. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Use robots to:
    • Identify and spell words (sight words, word families, vocabulary)
    • Retell stories
    • Show math knowledge: for example, roll dice and have students add or subtract values and then program a robot to the correct answer
    • Navigate a map
    • Illustrate a lifecycle
  • Write programs in ScratchJr (or in Scratch, if students are reading) to:
    • Tell an original story
    • Animate a lifecycle
    • Tell about an animal or an important person
    • Animate a word problem in math

Programming in K-2 is also collaborative and creative and teaches students to problem solve and persevere. So, yes, learning how to program is age-appropriate and beneficial for K-2 students and yes, they can do it!

Vicky Sedgwick K-8 Teacher Representative

This is the Way

“Don’t tell me what things look like. Tell me what things are.”

Yes, I know I just mixed quotes, but let’s get to the point, and it is not to discuss The Child (AKA Baby Yoda). This blog was supposed to come out around the first of December, but I requested that I be able to delay it until after Computer Science Education Week, because I knew that I would want to highlight our announcements during that week and also speak to the state’s 5-year report on the #ARKidsCanCode / #CSforAR Initiative that was just released in early January.

CS Education Week 2019 (CSedWeek) was again a great success in Arkansas. In the past years, we had made it a point to make one announcement each day of the week. This year we started early, with a Gubernatorial kickoff on Friday, December 6th, and had multiple announcements each day of the following week. While I will not discuss them all in this blog, I invite you to go view the full listing and details at http://bit.ly/ARCSedWeek. However, I do want to highlight a few of the announcements. 

One of the reasons for Gov. Asa Hutchinson wanting to personally acknowledge CSedWeek by means of a press conference, was that he, by executive order, reestablished our advisory CS taskforce. The newly titled Computer Science and Cybersecurity Task Force, is the natural progression of the Arkansas Computer Science and Public Technology Task Force, that was established in 2015 by legislation and sunset in 2016. The original task force provided our state and my office with the guidance and suggestions that have shaped our computer science (CS) initiative over the past five years. The reestablished CS task force will be chaired by Gov. Hutchinson’s Deputy Chief of Staff Mr. Bill Gossage, who also carried and championed the 2015 computer science legislation that established the mandate that all Arkansas high schools offer CS, is held up as a model by Code.org, and put Arkansas on the right pathway to lead this crucial educational initiative. This new task force, which had its first meeting on January 8, 2020, will “provide guidance on improving and establishing updated large-scale goals and strategies; industry pathways and relevant certifications for major areas of computer science and computing; post-secondary alignment strategies and goals; work-based learning opportunities for students; teacher credentialing; correct placement and focus on data sciences and cybersecurity in curricula; potential funding usage and future needs; and outreach and development of educational materials.”

In addition, our office made two large scale announcements with three of our post-secondary institutions and other partners. The first was that we would be partnering with the Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative’s Virtual Arkansas division, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and the University of Central Arkansas at Conway to develop a three-year cyber security curriculum and course pathway that will be available to Arkansas public school students at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. The second was that the Arkansas Department of Education, Arkansas State University, and the Arkansas Public School Resource Center would partner to provide a statewide online coding curriculum starting with the fall 2020 semester. The first offering of its type to the high school students of Arkansas, the UpSkill program is designed to support the Governor’s initiative on computer science skills.  The course structure leads students through a nine-month curriculum that prepares them to receive a certificate in Swift coding.

Our state and my office again demonstrates our commitment to CSTA. Not only are we continuing to fund CSTA+ membership for Arkansas educators that are CS Certified, but we again increased our commitment to the CSTA Annual Conference. This year we are increasing the number of available sponsorships to 35 and doubling the reimbursement amount to $2000. Arkansas, and I personally, place a high value on the benefits CSTA and its annual conference provides to its members; this announcement renews and puts funding behind our commitment and support.

The last announcement I want to highlight before I get to the recently released report is the creation of the Arkansas Students of Distinction in Computer Science Recognition Program. Through this program, up to 50 public, private, and homeschool, students currently in grades 11 or 12 will be recognized for their efforts in computer science education.

“Cracking the Code: How Arkansas Became a National Leader in Computer Science & Computing” (http://bit.ly/2020CSforARReport) is Arkansas’s 5-year report on the history, efforts, successes, and future of our state initiative. When we started internally discussing the need for such a report, I wondered and asked aloud, why wouldn’t we just wait on the new task force report? I am now happy that my leadership pushed back on my question and helped me see that the audience for these two reports is not the same. Once I was onboard, as many of you know about me, I couldn’t just do it in a straightforward fashion… we all have enough “governmental looking” reports to drown in. So, when I started working with Eric Rob & Issac (https://ericrobisaac.com/) of Little Rock to help us create the report, I told Rob in an early meeting, I want something “different,” and let me tell you they produced something that met that request. 

I was sitting in my office one day about a week after that first meeting, and Rob asked if he could stop by and show me something. I knew we were going to talk layout, but what he brought me, I couldn’t have imagined. He first showed me a more straightforward layout proposal, which was wonderful, but looked like any of 100 other governmental reports. Then he said, “I have something else to show you, but I want to know first how crazy you want to go on this.” I responded, “let’s see it.” What he pulled out of his bag looked like a paper computer complete with logo stickers, scuff marks, and other telltale signs that this “computer” belongs to our community. I immediately fell in love with it. As we talked about how the sections could be designed, I got more excited. Toward the end of the meeting, Rob looked at me and said, “So which one are we going with? Or do you need to get back with me?” Rob knows I have leadership that I have to answer to; however, this is one of those times I took a gamble and decided instantly to go with the “out there” option. I am happy to report, I still have a job, and my leadership also loves the design. While our office provided all of the information, Rob’s team did a great job in turning that extremely long text dense document into something that is informative but also fun to digest. 

So, what does all this mean and why am I sharing it? Well first, as I said in one of my previous blogs, I do enjoy bragging on my state and our initiative, but it is more than that. It is meant as an example and challenge to the greater CS education community leaders and decision makers. We can not stop! We can not be content! We must continue to engage our community partners, look to expanding our efforts beyond K-12, and press on with the “new”, the “out there”, the “crazy”, and the “different.” Otherwise, this will just become another fad that fades into the ever increasing list of educational initiatives that like a sparkler in the night, flares up, burns brightly for a time, but then as quickly dies and, to the viewer, leaves the scene darker than it was before. “I have spoken.”

Anthony Owen
Board Representative

Benefits of Establishing a CS Honor Society

At last summer’s CSTA Annual Conference, Executive Director Jake Baskin announced the launch of a nationwide Computer Science Honor Society, building off of the success of CodeVA’s work in Virginia. The response from schools has been strong: to date, 128 schools across the United States have already set up a CS honor society.

This national program supported by CSTA helps high schools offering CS courses to grow and gain visibility for their CS programs, while fostering enthusiasm for computing and recognizing academic achievement among CS students. Honor societies promote the core values of equity, service, and excellence — recognizing that any student has the potential to grow and excel in computing, empowering members to become ambassadors of CS through community service, and promoting scholarship in CS coursework. If your school has not yet established an honor society, there are many reasons why you should consider doing so. 

My last CSTA Advocate post “7 things for CS teachers to know” shared the themes cited by Google employees about how their school teachers created positive CS learning environments. These included encouraging and recognizing students, making CS concepts relevant, and promoting collaboration among peers. Through a CS honor society, you can act on all of these themes and provide an outlet for what students learn in class, making the learnings real and applicable. Honor societies can also help instill a sense of belonging and community among students excited about CS. 

Specifically, the community service component of societies offers unique opportunities for students to serve as role models and peer instructors to others, which helps to retain student interest in computing and broaden access to CS learning opportunities to more students. Recently, in celebration of CSEdWeek, CSTA and Google partnered to sponsor CS honor societies in hosting Hour of Code sessions in their schools and districts. Over 800 society members from more than 30 honor societies participated, using CSTA’s CSEdWeek Outreach Toolkit to share introductory CS experiences with over 11,000 elementary, middle and high school students. You can find photos from some of these events on Twitter. One of my personal favorites was this video from Henrico County Public School showing student-led activities using Code.org’s Hour of Code, Microbits, and offline lessons to teach binary.
If you’re thinking about establishing a Computer Science Honor Society at your school, know that CSTA provides support through sharing best practices, resources, sample service projects, student recruitment materials, and more. Learn more about how to get started here.

Hai Hong
Board Representative

Reflections on Teaching Computing, Ethics and Social Responsibility

This fall, I taught an undergraduate class (at the University of Colorado Boulder) on Computing, Ethics and Social Responsibility.   It was a wonderful experience.    I think there are some lessons from this experience that are relevant to high school teachers who are thinking of introducing some discussion of issues in ethics and computing into their courses, even if just a few classes or portions of classes are devoted to this topic.   There also is an increasing awareness that these sorts of issues shouldbe introduced to students studying computer science in high school.   So, a few reflections:

  • There are lots of interesting topics.   My course included discussion of: internet privacy, including targeted advertising and the Right to be Forgotten; internet security and hacking; facial recognition; misinformation; impacts of internet and social media on our lives, particularly those of young people; algorithmic bias; gender and race in algorithms, and in the computing industry; use of robotics in eldercare and in warfare; autonomous vehicles;  medical and healthcare applications of computing; and the impact of computing technologies on the future of work.   Certainly there are some topics in that list that would interest you and your students!
  • The best resources are recent media articles.  And there is no shortage!   You can easily populate a few classes from what pops up in your newsfeeds in recent months.   There also are ways that you can find references that other people have used.   One approach is to go to this crowdsourced listof courses in tech ethics and look at the references used in some of those courses.   There is work in progress in ACM aimed at organizing a repository of links to such articles.
  • Students are interested.   My experience was that there was plenty of interest and enthusiasm from students for these topics, particularly ones that related to the students’ experiences and interests.    One example is how sites such as YouTube, or any site with ads, decide what to recommend to us next – everyone has experienced that and wondered about it a little.  Robotic applications are another – everyone wonders what’s coming in their lifetimes.
  • The students’ perspectives may be different than yours.   An example in my course was discussions of privacy and surveillance; the famous 1999 remark of Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, “You have zero privacy anyway.  Get over it.”, seems to have become much closer to the reality of the current younger generations.
  • Small group discussions are particularly effective.    The students got energized about discussing a particular topic or an article they had read and then summarizing their small group discussions with the full class. Groups of 3-5 students and 10-15 minute discussions seemed to work well.
  • Short written assignments are effective.  This is a nice opportunity for students to be resourceful by finding a recent article related to ethics and computing on their own, and submitting a short summary and reflection on it.
  • There is a field called philosophy.   Most undergraduate courses in this area introduce several philosophical theories, most commonly deontology, act utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and sometimes social contract theory.   This may not be feasible in a briefer coverage in high school, but it may be good to make people aware that theories like this underlie a careful treatment of these topics.
  • Your mileage may vary.    As always.
Bobby Schnabel
Board Representative

It’s a New Year!

Happy first CSTA blog post for 2020! Each year I try to reflect on the past year to help gain perspective for the next. When I think about CSTA and 2019, I have a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. It’s been a wonderfully success year for CSTA – from the conference in Phoenix to the amazing volunteers to the fabulous new additions in our staff to the increase of CSTA chapters across the country! WOW! Great job, everyone!

What people often don’t realize is the amount of hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Our volunteers are an essential part of what makes CSTA a growing, vibrant organization. A couple of the people who have greatly contributed to the fabulous 2019 are Fred Martin and Jen Rosato – they are the past and current chairs of the CSTA Board. They started as volunteers and have demonstrated their passion for K-12 computing education and our community. I have been lucky to be on the Board while Fred and Jen have been in leadership roles. I admire their inclusiveness and willingness to listen. I enjoy the way they organize and run meetings. And I greatly appreciate their many hours of work to help CSTA become an organization that benefits K-12 computing teachers. 

As we start a new year, we will be deciding on how to spend our “free” time. There are many worthy organizations and activities we can join. They all need great volunteers. If you haven’t been a CSTA volunteer before, I highly recommend you consider trying us out! If you’re already a volunteer, be sure to keep up with all of the new activities that you may want to participate in! You don’t need to give up sleeping to volunteer – join your local chapter and participate in local activities, share something you’ve learned with another teacher. Be a part of CSTA family! (We’re really fun!!)

Here’s to an even more exciting CSTA in 2020!

Jane Prey ACM Representative

The Importance of Industry Partnerships in CS Education

By Dan Blier, CSTA Board of Directors (District Representative)

One main purpose of computer science education is to prepare students for industry.  Without industry partnerships, our CS programs may not be preparing students for the workplace.  As part of my responsibilities of building and support a Pre-K through 12 grade CS program, I work with several industry partners. 

As we prepare students for future jobs, we also need to better understand what companies, who will be hiring our students, need.  We must push past teaching only programming syntax.  Students must be able to collaborate with others and come up with creative solutions to various problems.  In one conversation with an industry partner, we asked what issues they see from newly hired computer science majors.  Some issues were simple things like not showering to go to work.  However, other issues were more concerning.  New hires are attending planning meetings and not engaging by asking questions.  They return to their desk lacking clarity of their assignment because of this issue.  We must provide students opportunities to engage with each other and to feel comfortable asking questions in a group or classroom environment. 

Our district has worked with several locally-based industry partners such as USAA, Finastra, Capital One, Texas Instruments, Boeing, Toyota, Amazon, and JPMorgan Chase.  These companies reach out with a variety of opportunities for their employees to engage with our students.  When students have an opportunity to meet people who work in the field, students gain a better understanding of CS-related jobs.  Some students would never know about these types of jobs without these experiences.  Getting an opportunity to see what the workplace looks and feels like is an important part of CS education.  Through these partnerships, students have been brought to these organizations to engage in coding activities while collaborating with employees.  Hackathons are another great way for students to engage with industry partners while learning more about careers in CS.  In other cases, industry partner employees have visited our classrooms to lead Hour of Code activities or other coding experiences.  These employees are always asked to share something about their job with our students. 

In some cases, teachers can participate in externships during their summer break.  Teachers in the CS program have come back and shared their experiences with the rest of the CS team and brought back industry knowledge to their classrooms. 

Students will eventually have to interview for computer science positions in companies.  One thing that has come up through our discussions with industry partners is that candidates go through what is called a whiteboard interview.  The candidate may be interviewed with other candidates in a group situation.  They may interview with a team of employees.  Through the whiteboard interview process, candidates must show their ability to think on their feet, take their content knowledge and come up with a creative solution within the parameters set by the company, and engage with others.  Some organizations are no longer requiring a bachelor’s degree for an entry-level employee.  If we are to prepare our students for these entry-level jobs, we must prepare them for the interview process.  Industry partners can be helpful in providing volunteers to come run students through such a process. 

Whether you are in a metropolitan area like Dallas-Fort Worth or in a rural area, there are different ways to engage with industry partners.  Organizations like TEALS (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/teals) can help you connect with industry partners wherever you may live and work.  Here are some other computer science career-related resources to check out.


Dan Blier
District Representative

From 70 MPH to 55 MPH

There is a feeling when you are driving on the open road and just enjoying the flow of the traffic and you are just cruising and advancing at a constant pace, that is satisfying. Then, there is the feeling when you enter the big city, at peak traffic time, when you feel you are never arriving at your destination and then you are stuck behind a nice sweet grandma driving. Well, these are feelings I have gotten to know well in my teaching life. Throughout my 19 years of teaching Computer Science, I have had the opportunity to teach all divisions from K-12 and all of them have their rewarding and challenging moments. This year I was asked to teach 6-8. I have to say that I am in my first semester and I have gotten a huge sense of respect for Middle School teachers.

When you teach Pre-school or Elementary you feel like you are getting bright new brains that are waiting to be filled in with new information. When you teach High School, you get kids that are going through the maturity process of finally getting that what they do in this stage will determine what they decide to do for their higher education. And then there is Middle School, that limbo stage of it all. That peak hormonal stage where kids are confused about everything. Their priorities change not only every day but several times throughout the same day. This has made me change and adapt to the way CS should be taught.

I had never had to modify so many plans on the go as I have this year. You plan and plan and then somedays it is the best lesson ever and somedays it just not. So how do middle school teachers do it? I am relearning how to teach CS and I have a lot of help from my colleagues in the same hallway. They have been the best induction to teaching Middle School as no book or article can tell you how to best get these kids inspired or show their creativity like another teacher doing the same, does.

My kids have achieved amazing projects, but in the process, I have learned who has a crush on whom, who is now friends with whom and just a plethora of gossip that I did not know had to be now part of my information bank. It is amazing that they can be programming a Micro: Bit, creating a videogame using Scratch, designing 3D models, all while socializing and sharing their lives both in-person and digitally. I now have a new definition of multitasking. I have also learned that even if they are doing this, as long as they are working, everyone is happy! Thank goodness for headphones. One of the most wonderful things is that this is the age where they don’t hide their passions for something and if I am smart, I use these snippets to my advantage and plan lessons accordingly. Keeps me on my toes. This is a crucial moment when I can open their minds to all CS has to offer, I just have to move all the other clutter in their heads to a side.

So I might not be driving at 70 MPH as I was when I was teaching High School but while driving at 55 MPH I can see what’s going on in this big city called Middle School and how these kids are shaping their lives and finding themselves one CS project at a time. Once again, my biggest applause and respect to all those Middle School CS teachers out there.

Michelle Lagos

Representative at Large

Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of CSEdWeek

This December marks the 10th anniversary of Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) and it’s remarkable how far it has come. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a CS teacher during the first-ever CS Education Week, so I can’t claim to remember the full history, but thanks to the magic of unlimited email storage I can share the first email I ever got about CS Ed Week:

It’s no surprise that my local CSTA chapter was also my connection to the early days of this national movement. I know I proudly took the 2010 CSEdWeek pledge (not that I can remember exactly what the pledge was anymore).  In 2011, I remember trying, unsuccessfully, to get my local alderman to get the Chicago City Council to officially proclaim CSEdWeek. Given the amazing momentum around CS education, it’s easy to forget that we’re building on a foundation built by passionate teachers, and I am so proud that CSTA has been there supporting teacher voices from the start.

That’s why I’m very excited that CSTA will be co-hosting this year’s CSEdWeek kickoff. We’ve partnered with Code.org and the Computer Science Alliance to launch CS Ed Week 2019 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Dec. 9 with an insightful panel discussion focused on this year’s theme — CS for Good — and the announcement of the 2019 Champions of Computer Science. For those of you who can’t make it to Santa Fe, we’ll be live streaming this event, so I encourage you to watch if you have the opportunity.

Behind the scenes at CSTA, our team has been developing new classroom resources honoring the CS for Good theme, including a set of posters that feature diverse people who use CS for Good in multiple industries. We’ll be releasing these as part of our CSEdWeek celebration, so make sure you’re following our social media channels to learn how to download the posters. 

What happens in each of your schools and classrooms is what makes CS Ed Week most exciting. Please share what you do by tagging @csteachersorg in your Tweets and use #CSforGood #CSEdWeek in your posts.

Jake Baskin, CSTA Executive Director 

Dr. Jan Cuny’s National Impact On Computer Science Education

by Art Lopez, 9 – 12 representative, CSTA Board of Directors

In writing this blog post, I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you, our members, the impact that Dr. Jan Cuny has had on our children, our communities, our country and on computer science education. I do not know if you know or heard about Dr. Jan Cuny; Jan is the Program Director for Computing Education in the in the Division of Computer and Network Systems for the National Science Foundation and, in my opinion, why computer science education has progressed so far forward for the past several years.

I first met Jan in Washington, D.C. in an event sponsored by the NSF and the White House Office and Science Technology in 2014 on recognizing the top 100 CS educators in the country. Jan informed us of the importance of providing computer science education in public education for ALL of our children, the broadening of participation of underserved and underrepresented groups in computer science (women, ethnically diverse, and learning differences), and equity access. Jan was incredibly inspiring, and I found an article she had written in ACM Inroads, {VOL 3, ISS 2, (June 2012)} named Transforming High School Computing: A Call to Action. Jan clearly outlined how important computer science education is for our children and our country’s future.

I was so inspired, yet, at the same time, unsure of what I could do to help contribute to advancing computer science education in my community and region; I did not know how to proceed. A few months later, I got to meet Jan again and was able to have a conversation with her. Jan said she believed in and encouraged me (and so many others!) to think of ideas on connecting with our higher education colleagues and organizations such as CSTA, Code.org, Exploring Computer Science, CS for All, CSforAll Teachers, and the Broadening Participation in Computing Alliance Program  (BPC-A) (just to name a few), to motivate young people and adults of the importance of computer science education in their lives; to broaden participation and provide equity access for computer science education that can change the lives of our children and communities for the better. Through Jan’s connections and the NSF funding of programs, I connected with my higher education colleagues at UC-San Diego to help push forward computer science education in my district, the Sweetwater Union High School District, the region of San Diego and Southern California.

I wish I had the space to share with all of you of the efforts and work Jan has done in having so many people and organizations to be a part of this endeavor and national effort, such as the creation of the AP Computer Science Principles course, Exploring Computer Science, providing training and resources for teachers and students, broadening participation, equity access, and so many other programs. Unfortunately, I can only offer a small view of what Jan has done.

Jan has, through the NSF, not only impacted and offered me opportunities to impact the education of our children, but impacted and created a community and a network of so many people and organizations that can collaborate and share their expertise: experts in computer science and educational practices with teachers who are experts in teaching. It was, and remains today, a great collaborative effort for the advancement of Computer Science Education for our children and country.

A few months ago, I got to see Jan speak at the College Board’s AP CS Principles reading and once again, was so inspiring with her talk to the readers. I had a side conversation with her and really enjoyed our discussion about how far we had come in providing computer science education courses to so many more students, schools and communities in the past few years; but we also talked about how much more we had to go to reach out to ALL students; this would NOT be happening without Jan’s commitment and vision.

Recently, Jan has decided to retire from the NSF; there was a great tribute to her at the CSforAll Summit, and many people whose lives she has touched over the years shared with her how important and central her vision and she has been for the advancement of computer science education, broadening participation and equity access.

I did not get a chance to be there and do the same; but, I can share with you, our members, the importance of Jan Cuny and what she has done (and continues to do!) for the advancement of Computer Science education for our kids, teachers, communities and country. Jan gave teachers, higher education colleagues and institutions, and organizations the opportunities to integrate and embed computer science education in public education, to impact and hopefully make the future of our children’s lives and communities better; and I think that is the best thing I can say about anyone: Jan, you made the world a better place; thank you Jan.

Art Lopez
9-12 Teacher Representative

Thinking about Reflection

I have always loved this quote by Seymour Papert: 

“You can’t think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something.”

It always leads me to wonder what students are thinking about their thinking as they are learning. Are they able to think about and grasp the concepts they are learning as they write a game in Scratch or program a step counter on a micro:bit or build and program a robot? Are they able to understand what they have learned and transfer it to a new programming environment? What can we do as teachers to help our students to think about their thinking so they can understand what they are learning? 

To make reflection a normal part of the process for my students, each student has a portfolio website for sharing and reflecting on the projects and activities they complete during their technology classes. My youngest students use Seesaw for sharing their work. Starting in 3rd grade, my students use Google Sites for their portfolios. This allows the students to not only think about their thinking and reflect on their current work but it lets them look back at their thinking in prior years, as well. 

I decided to use these types of portfolios for a few reasons:

  • Reflecting on and documenting their work may help to meet computer science standards, including:
    • 1A-AP-15: Using correct terminology, describe steps taken and choices made during the iterative process of program development.
    • 1A-IC-17: Work respectfully and responsibly with others online.
    • 1B-AP-17: Describe choices made during program development using code comments, presentations, and demonstrations.
  • Since the students are writing during their computer science classes, it may also help them to improve their writing skills and meet language arts standards as well – CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2: Write informative / explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately …
  • Their portfolio shows their growth over the years.

It can be difficult to get students to think about their work. To help, younger students are given sentence stems to complete or are asked to answer certain specific questions when they post their work. They will also often record their answers rather than typing in their answers like Natalie did when she was in 1st grade talking about Hello, Ruby lessons

Upper elementary and middle school students are still given questions and other guidance to help them focus on their thinking and learning but the amount of guidance decreases dependent on the grade level and ability of the student.

3rd Grade Girl Scratch Project Reflection
4th Grade Boy Scratch Project Reflection

Check out a 7th grade girl’s reflections on working with micro:bits.

While I love using student websites or blogs as a vehicle for students to think about their thinking and reflect on their learning, it’s not always possible to do so. It also does increase the time required to finish an assignment or project. This got me thinking about other less time intensive ways for students to reflect on their learning and serendipitously this popped up on Twitter:

I love the idea of using a simple checklist document to help students reflect on what they are actually learning. This could easily be printed or turned into a Google Form and used as an exit ticket in the last few minutes of class. 

How are your students thinking about their thinking and reflecting on their learning?

Vicky Sedgwick K-8 Teacher Representative