Study Confirms Critical Need for Computer Science Evaluation Tools

A recent study released by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) highlights the need for valid and reliable source assessment of student learning and calls upon the computer science education community to assist in the development of more and better assessment tools and strategies.

Sowing the Seeds of Assessment Literacy in Secondary Computer Science Education details the results of a landscape study aimed at determining the challenges US high school teachers face when examining student understanding of computing concepts and to identify current models for computer science (CS) assessment. The study, supported by Google, was conducted by the CSTA Assessment Task Force chaired by Aman Yadav, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and Educational Technology at Michigan State University. The study took place over a year and involved in-depth interviews with computer science practitioners with a wide range of teaching experience.

The study concluded that while computer science teachers use a variety of formative and summative assessment techniques and rely on an assortment of sources (test banks, colleagues, even their own undergraduate CS courses), they face a number of challenges finding valid and reliable assessments to use in their classrooms.  Many participants also noted that the potential for variability in how students approach and develop algorithms makes assessment especially challenging and time-consuming.

Among the report’s recommendations, the CSTA Assessment Task Force suggests the following next steps for the CS Ed community:

  • Develop valid and reliable assessments aligned to the CSTA K–12 Computer Science Standards.
  • Develop valid and reliable formative and summative assessments for programming languages beyond Java, such as Python, C#, etc.
  • Develop an online repository of assessment items for K–12 computer science teachers.
  • Develop a community of practice surrounding the use of assessment in computer science classrooms.
  • Design and deliver professional development to increase K–12 computer science teachers’ assessment literacy.

The chair of the CSTA Assessment Task Force, Aman Yadav, highlighted the importance of the study, stating: “During our in-depth interviews with the teachers, we found that teachers are very resourceful in using a hodgepodge of resources (test-banks, rubrics, etc.) and lean on their peers to come up with assessments that examine student understanding in their classrooms. But, there is a dearth of formative and summative assessments, especially for non-AP courses, that are easy accessible and categorized by grade level, concept, difficulty, programming language, etc. The Task Force is now working with the CSTA Board to launch a new project to create a repository of assessment resources that teachers can access to meet their needs.”

CSTA hopes that this study will focus the computer science education community’s attention on the importance of valid assessment of student learning and the pressing need for better and more computer science assessment tools and strategies.

Download the official press release here. 

Download the PDF of the study here. 

Computer Science in Other Disciplines

Many people argue against the teaching of Computer Science by saying that we shouldn’t create a bunch of programmers/computer scientists. I find this argument frustrating because we still teach Math, English, and even Biology even though we know that not all students will pursue these fields. Why do we teach different disciplines? Sometimes, it’s to expose students to career possibilities and sometimes it’s to provide them with skills for any career. CS is about both. It’s important to expose students to the field of CS itself, and let them see the many different forms it can take, but perhaps more importantly, the skills that one learns in CS apply everywhere.

We argue that CS teaches problem solving, logic, and more, and it’s true, and those skills are useful in many contexts. There are always problems to solve, no matter what career you choose, and increasingly, there are programming or technical needs in any career you choose. But don’t take it from me. Take it from one of my former students, Rebecca, now studying Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve:

Even though I am not planning on going in a strictly Computer Science direction (I am currently studying Biomedical Engineering with a Biomaterials concentration), my experience with programming has taught me how to approach problems, and has given me enough background experience to apply to Biomedical Imaging labs- where computers are taught to distinguish cancerous tissue from healthy tissue in MRI images by searching for specific attributes and patterns in the image. Even in the medical field in widespread projects like cancer research, people with programming backgrounds are needed. Some are needed to actually write code, but many more are needed to understand how the data is being created and used so that they know how to implement it in future experiments.

Most of my CS students are not going to be computer scientists, but most of them will pursue careers where their CS experience will help them.  We need to keep reminding people that CS is not just for computer scientists and programmers, but for everyone!

On Our Way with CS Education Today

For various reasons I shall not discuss, this Advocate Blog post has been a very long time coming. And, of course, I have changed the topic of the post since my first thoughts of it. It is all good, however.

It would be pretty much impossible for one to miss all the press (mostly good and positive) surrounding computer science, specifically computer science education. Perhaps the interest in that press was sparked during CS Education week, the Hour of Code, the CS Day at the White House, or President Obama urging students, “Don’t just play games on your phone; program it!” Or perhaps it was the relentless diligence and hard work of many of our CSTA members advocating to “Make CS Count” in their own states. In any case, the press is bringing a great deal of attention to CS education and then naturally to CSTA. And this is a good thing.

In my role as CSTA Board Chair, I have been contacted by several reporters recently for a phone interview for an article they are writing about CS education. It is pure delight to talk with the reporters and help enlighten them about CS education. One of my favorite reporter questions was about the one thing that would really help to promote K-12 CS education in the United States. Really? Just ONE thing? Would that it were so simple! With the help of CSTA and our wonderful sponsors, supporters, and partners, we would have the K-12 CS education dilemma all resolved immediately! We need teachers, who need CS licensure/certification, oh and CS pedagogy courses to help them learn how to teach CS. We need standards-based rigorous curriculum for our K-12 students. We need for CS to Count—preferably as a math or science credit towards high school graduation. We need administrators, school boards, legislators, and parents who understand the critical need to teach computer science in the K-12 space. We need time in the school day/schedule for another course offering (that rigorous CS course). We need computer equipment and other technology resources for the classrooms. And I have probably omitted some critical need, but you get the gist of the needs we have for K-12 computer science education.

The very good news is that we are making progress. We are not there yet, but we know where we are going, and we are on our way. We know that the CS community has to work together to solve this seemingly insurmountable task. And we are doing just that. Our good friends and supporters (far too many to mention—but you know who they are) are working to provide standards-based curriculum for teachers. Several states are working with CSTA members and other CS advocates to create a path to licensure/certification if one does not already exist. Some of those same CSTA members and CS advocates are working state by state to make CS count in each state. CSTA members advocate on an almost daily basis to enlighten administrators, school boards, legislators, and parents about the crucial need for computer science education in the K-12 classroom. And administrators are collaborating with teachers to find room in the school day/schedule to offer CS courses or integrate CS into existing courses. We are not there yet, but we are on our way.

I am so heartened to read news stories about how students are using computer science in the K-12 classroom—and what awesome projects they have developed, or what pressing problems they have solved. I am thrilled to read about all the support that business and industry friends are affording our K-12 CS educators. And, I was particularly encouraged by the caliber of applicants we had for the three open CSTA board positions. We had an incredibly talented and highly qualified pool of applicants—so many that selecting the top two candidates was a definite challenge for the CSTA Elections Committee. What a good challenge to have!

We are not there yet, but we are well on our way, and we are keeping up our momentum! It is all good.

Deborah Seehorn, CSTA Board of Directors Chair

L’Oréal For Women in Science Program

I don’t hear often enough about the accomplishments of young women in professional or near-professional accomplishments in CS, so I was excited to learn about the annual L’Oréal For Women in Science program that recognizes and rewards the contributions women make in STEM fields and identifies exceptional women researchers committed to serving as role models for younger generations.  More than 2,000 women scientists in over 100 countries have been recognized since the program began in 1998.

The L’Oréal USA For Women In Science fellowship program will award five postdoctoral women scientists in the United States this year with grants of up to $60,000 each. Applicants are welcome from a variety of fields, including the life and physical/material sciences, technology (including computer science), engineering, and mathematics.

Do you know someone who qualifies? Do you have acquaintances in universities who might know candidates? Please send them the information.

Applications opened on February 2, 2015 and are due on March 20, 2015.

The application and more information on the L’Oréal USA For Women in Science program can be found at

Should you have any questions or require additional information, please e‐mail

10 Lessons Learned from Developing a PK-12 Computer Science Program in SFUSD

by Bryan Twarek
Division of Curriculum & Instruction, San Francisco Unified School District

Computer science (CS) is becoming increasingly critical to a student’s success in preparing for college and career. In today’s digital age, all students must develop a foundational knowledge to understand how computers works and the skills required to creatively solve real-world problems. However, the vast majority of schools do not yet offer computer science instruction. In fact, in San Francisco public high schools, only 5% of students are enrolled in a computer science class, and only half of the schools offer a single course. Even at the schools that do offer computer science, the students in these classes are generally unrepresentative of the schools’ population as a whole, with far fewer females and students of color.

It is critical that we address this need with an equity mindset and ensure that all students have access to computer science, beginning in the earliest grades. With this in mind, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has committed to expanding its computer science programming to ensure that all students at all schools have experience with high-quality computer science instruction throughout their PK-12 educational career.

Currently, we are developing a policy and implementation plan for integrating computer science into our core curriculum. As part of this work, we are crafting a PK-12 scope and sequence of essential knowledge and skills to be taught at each grade level. We will pilot at select schools next school year, with fuller implementation in 2016-2017.

I would love to share 10 lessons that I have learned through my experience with this initiative:

  1. There is a lot of excitement around computer science.
    Many schools had a taste during the Hour of Code and are now asking for more. Through surveys and interviews, we have determined that the vast majority of teachers, administrators, students, and families support expanding computer science instruction. In fact, 100% of surveyed teachers responded that it is important for their students to learn computer science.
  2. Most adults don’t have prior experience with computer science.
    It is challenging to begin teaching a subject that most never learned themselves in school. While most of our current high school computer science teachers have a degree in CS or relevant industry experience, this is not a scalable practice. We will have to develop teachers from within the district, and they will need to learn the content before learning how to teach it to their students. For this reason, we plan to utilize dedicated computer science teachers at all grade levels, rather than have all multiple subjects teachers to integrate a new discipline into their classes.
  3. Defining computer science is tricky.
    Many people mistake computer science as educational technology (i.e., integrating computing into teaching and learning). Others believe that computer science is just programming. Developing a thorough, yet concise definition of computer science is challenging even for experts. It’s been helpful to present the five strands in CSTA’s K-12 Standards as a way to simple way to articulate the various aspects of computer science. 
  4. We must begin teaching computer science at younger ages.
    Unfortunately, we have noted that females and students of color are underrepresented in computer science classes, even as young as sixth grade. Therefore, we must reach children before they develop constructs of who pursues and excels in STEM fields. We plan to normalize computer science education by guaranteeing access to all students when they first enter our schools in kindergarten or pre-kindergarten. 
  5. Little academic research and few curricula exist.
    There has been little academic research on K-12 computer science education since the days of Seymour Papert, which makes it difficult to know exactly what to teach and how to teach it. Additionally, there are very few cohesive computer science curricula targeted for elementary and middle school students. Only within the last one to two years have organizations like and Project Lead the Way created K-5 CS curricula, and it will likely be several more years before we have a clear picture of what works well.
  6. Great things are happening outside of the classroom.
    While few of our students currently take computer science classes, some excellent nonprofits, community-based organizations, and individual teachers have worked to fill in these gaps. Clubs, after school activities, one-time events, and summer programs offer additional opportunities to engage with CS. Some try to reach all students, including: Mission Bit, FIRST Robotics League, CS First, and Coder Dojo. Others target underrepresented populations, including: Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, Chick Tech, and Hack the Hood.
  7. We must attack this issue from multiple angles.
    Developing a plan to go from 5% of students to 100% takes time, but we recognize that if we wait for our plan to be fully implemented, we will miss many students. We can start providing computer science education even before we create new classes by advocating for and supporting clubs, after school activities, and informal opportunities outside of the classroom. We can also quickly start trying ideas out with interested schools and teachers who already have the technology and time for instruction or space for integration. Additionally, we are also working to bring CS classes to more schools by leveraging industry professionals to volunteer and develop our teachers through the TEALS program.
  8. It is important to leverage successes.
    It is easier to gain traction when there are successes to point to. We already have strong three-course computer science sequences at two high schools, so we are using these as models for expanding to other high schools. Plus, pilot programs will allow us to learn from their trials, successes, and struggles as we develop our plans for scaling to all schools in the district.
  9. Competing priorities make it hard to fit in.
    Even when various stakeholders agree to the value of providing computer science education to all students, it still leaves the contentious questions of where and how this fits into the schedule. That is, how many hours do we devote to CS, and do we integrate into existing classes or create new ones? if we have dedicated CS teachers at all levels, we have to hire more staff, but we gain better quality control and more effective teacher development. On the other hand, if our science, math, and multiple subjects teachers teach CS, they can leverage their strong relationships with students and more seamlessly integrate with other content areas, but the majority don’t have background experience and are already working to transition to the Common Core, alongside many other important school and district initiatives. Since few K-12 models exist, it’s even more difficult to come to a consensus.
  10. Our plan will have to be continuously updated.
    The field of computer science is still relatively new, and technologies quickly become outdated. We must acknowledge that the field will continue to rapidly evolve in sometimes unpredictable ways, and as such, our plan for teaching computer science will also need the flexibility to continuously adapt.

Going beyond coding puzzles

Moving a robot through a maze or drawing a pre-defined shape are examples of well known coding puzzles available in every tool or curriculum. As a K-8 computer science teacher, I know we love handing out these structured exercises to our students. They are a perfect way to introduce programming concepts, and because they only have one solution, they provide a clear and definitive end to the lesson. It makes assessment easy, it takes away the stress of “what should I make” and it makes both teacher and student feel successful. It simplifies PD for new CS teachers and ensures that all students will learn the basics.

But K-8 computer science teachers need to go beyond these coding puzzles. We must show students that programming offers much more than a ‘one solution’ answer to a pre-defined problem. This can be messy, uncomfortable and it is not easy.  However, we also know it can be fun and deliver the “fall in love with coding” moment we hope to provide in these early CS classes.

When do we show our students that they can make anything with code?  Should we use K-8 as a time to focus on creative computing and make the first few projects completely exploratory?

I believe CS teachers must strike a delicate balance here.  While showing the students that there is so much more than mazes and shapes, we also want to give them constraints to ensure that they are still successful. In my own classroom, I see both excitement and fear when I tell  students they can make anything they want. Some students rush in – “I know exactly the kind of game I want to create.” However there are others who are frozen – they want suggestions, they want to look around for inspiration, they prefer to remix an existing project. To these students, the open ended project is a source of stress and can scare them away from coding. As teachers, our challenge is to find ways to be helpful but not limiting to these students, allowing them to explore their creative potential without fear.

During my days as an art student, I remember being given a blank white canvas and found myself in my own “make anything you want” moment. I felt that same fear many of my students have until my instructor gave me a wonderful tip – just paint a Burnt Sienna (brown) wash on it. Simply turning the canvas into something non-white made a difference. It gave me the courage to start, to experiment, and to make mistakes.

Writing code for a new project is a lot like starting a new painting. As a CS teacher, we have to be ready to give our students the help they need: a gentle suggestion, the first few lines of code, an exercise that could be extended. We must find the Sienna brown wash that will get them going.

Thinking Beyond College to Help Tech-Savvy Students Achieve Career Success

Author: Janice M. Tkaczyk, M.Ed., CAGS, National Director Counselor and Academic Relationships at Universal Technical Institute

It’s only January, but the end of the school year will be here before you know it. And with the end of the school year comes a crossroads for many students. While a majority of graduating seniors are ready to pack up and head to college, many others are still figuring out what they want to do with their lives post high school. It can be a trying time for students who are unsure what type of career they want to pursue or success they want to achieve. It’s likely that several of these students are sitting in your computer science (CS) lab right now, and it’s time to start talking to them about their options.

Not every student wants to attend college, and more specifically, not every CS student wants to be a computer engineer. A four-year degree is not the only way to an in-demand career in a high-tech industry, yet many students are simply unware of the good-paying technical jobs that exist today. Students who chose to enroll in CS courses, which are typically not required to graduate, do so because they have a passion for technology and problem solving. We need to embrace this passion by providing students with the tools and resources they need to make smart decisions about their futures to pursue a career that will lead to long-term success, and we must start including options that do not require a four-year degree.

Post-secondary technical education is a smart option for many students. It provides them with the skills they need for in-demand careers, including those in the manufacturing, health care and transportation industries. Technical schools offer practical, high-tech and industry-specific training that is simply not available in many traditional academic settings. For example, Universal Technical Institute (UTI) prepares students for long-term and rewarding careers in the transportation industry. These jobs are in-demand, pay well, can’t be outsourced and offer plenty of opportunities to move up. UTI has a single goal: to give students an education that sets them up for a successful career.

And now you might be thinking, “What does this have to do with computer science?”

There’s long been a stigma that a career in the transportation industry is a “dirty” job. While this was true decades ago, the modern day repair shop is more like a high-tech computer lab than you may think.

The high-end cars of today have more than 40 sensors and 50 computers all interacting as we drive. The sophisticated network in our car doesn’t just give us a warning when we’re encountering a crash, it fully applies the brakes, rolls up the windows, tightens the seatbelts, closes the sunroof and adjusts the seats to a safer position – all because one system can talk to the entire car. But that’s just one element of the sophisticated computer systems in today’s vehicles. Advanced technologies also help clean up car emissions. With fuel injection, a closed loop feedback system and our newest catalytic converters todays cars turn CO, HC, and NOx into CO2 and H2O. This gives us better performance, lower emissions and good fuel economy. Pretty impressive, and it takes a highly skilled technician to know how to maintain and fix these sophisticated systems. Yesterday’s mechanic is today’s service technician.

At UTI, students learn on the latest high-tech vehicles, and our curriculum is rooted in STEM and presented in practical ways that work for hands-on learners. We have partnerships with more than 30 manufacturers to deliver an education that’s built around employers’ needs and gives our students the technical and professional skills it takes to be successful in today’s transportation industry. While many college graduates are competing for a handful of jobs in their field or moving back home, transportation service technicians are in demand.

It’s time to empower students who are fluent in technology, geniuses at fixing things and action-oriented to make decisions about their future that will lead to success and happiness. For too long, we’ve pressured students to take the “right” path – attend college, earn a degree and land a good job. But as educators, we know that there is not a one size fits all approach for every student. We need to help students who have a passion for technology and mechanics, but perhaps don’t excel at book learning, pursue a career that makes them happy and leads to a lifetime of success.

Janice M. Tkaczyk, M.Ed., CAGS, is the National Director for Counselor and Academic Relations at Universal Technical Institute. She spent 35 years in public education, 30 as the Guidance Director at a regional, technical high school. She has been professionally active at the local, state and national levels and is an Adjunct Professor at UMass Boston in the Master’s Program for professional school counselors.

Developers’ Club Resource Platform & Clean Computing After-School Programs

Submitted by Emily Peed

Emily is an undergraduate college student and an entrepreneur. She has a strong interest in creating open source technologies, educational technologies, and pushing a movement of a cleaner form of computing. She is currently looking to build her resource platform at to help provide higher quality and more accessible technology resources. She is seeking dedicated, self-motivated volunteers to help. She currently attends online school through the University of Southern New Hampshire for Game Development and Design.

Developers’ Club is working to become an Open Source resource platform. I started this program as an after-school program during High School. During my time in High School I became involved with NCWIT, or the National Center for Women and Information Technology. Through them I was able to obtain the AspireIT Grant in college, which was a grant that focused on increasing female participation rates in technology at the middle school level. Through the grant I ran my first set of afterschool programs. It was a 3 site program that ran for most of the 2013 – 2014 school year, ending with a catered banqueted awards ceremony. During its duration it exposed 60 girls, and 64 students total, to hundreds of hours worth of technology education.

Developers’ Club is working to become the one stop shop for technology education by offering free modular tutorial series, structured learning content, source code downloads, 3D Printed/Raspberry Pi based hardware kits, and tools for student, teacher, and parent use. It is gearing up to encompass all K-12 education. Alongside our resources, we are also creating deployable after-school programs. Our platform is going to take a few years to build, but as we hopefully gain community support we will see our resources grow faster. We are gearing up to release our programs again in February of 2015 for a 16 week testing period, before resuming our normal year long duration for the 2015-2016 school year. Students are not required to participate for the entire year, we just want to offer a space year round for students who may have to juggle responsibilities to other after-school
obligations and programs.

Aspects of this program are under development, but if you go to, you will be able to see our dates for release of content, our campaign to create our imaginative and educational kits, and other important information about contributions, donations, and even possible sponsorships of the Developers’ Club platform and the associated programs. It also contains information on what is required to start an after-school program, the responsibilities of those who choose to execute the after-school programs, and other general program information. The program is set up to be an umbrella program, meaning we offer a wide variety of programs.

We will have programs that focus on increasing female participation and general participation rates in technology. Our after-school programs will be kicking off in February 2015. One of our more innovative programs, however, will be released over the Summer of 2015 and this will take a focus on clean computing.

The program is set to run for four months. Over the four months, participants will learn how to program, work with and assemble their Raspberry Pi based weather station or simple solar panel, gain insight into the computing industry when it comes to production, use, and disposal methods. They will also learn about the environment, renewable energies, and what the future could look like with a cleaner form of computing. The after-school programs are built to run for four months; however, due to the modular style of our resources the program can be expanded and contracted to meet different school and after-school facility needs. Students would primarily spend their time learning about technology, programming, and if they have purchased a hardware kit they would work on building that.

For our after-school programs we end with a celebration! There is an end of the program awards ceremony where students receive certificates, recognition, and celebrate their accomplishments and participation in the program.

To elaborate on the term “clean computing,” there is a need for computing to become more biodegradable, renewable, and environmentally friendly. We have issues with the handling of E-Wastes, production, and energy consumption issues within computing that are only going to compound as technology becomes more integral to our lives. In the United States, which we are believed to be the largest producer of e-waste in the world, has been estimated that well over one hundred million computers, monitors, and televisions become obsolete each year. This trend is just growing year by year. E-Wastes consist of small and large appliances, batteries, technology, etc. Technology accounts
for more than half of this E-Waste, however, as much as 57%. The United Nations estimates that the world total generates twenty to fifty million tons of E-Waste each year.
We are improperly disposing of them when we do take the time to do so, which is only roughly 13% of the time. Improper recycling methods in China of E-Wastes, let me draw attention to the word improper, has left the ground spiked with toxicity due to higher levels of heavy metals and other chemicals caused by the uncontrolled acid discharge.

China is just one of the many countries who are experiencing damage from our E-Wastes.
When it comes to the production of computing we have other countries in Asia such as the Philippines, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Vietnam becoming targets for dumping E-wastes. There has also been targeting in Africa as well, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, and Ghana are becoming the latest targets for dumping of these wastes generated by more advanced economies with stricter environmental regulations.

E-Wastes contain brominated flame retardants that are used in to print circuit boards,
connectors, covers, and tablets. These are found in high concentrations above improperly ran E-waste recycling sites in China, and areas like it, and can house exceedingly high concentrations of chemicals like polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl. These can be responsible for increased rates of breast, cervical, and uterine cancer in women; as well as, create serious developmental issues for males and females which include sexual, skeletal, and mental developmental issues when they are found in highly concentrated levels.

Computing manufacturing has a negative impact on the environment, the precious materials used to produce our computers, phones, tablets, and other electronic devices alone are very taxing. It has been said that making a computer is as resource intensive as making a refrigerator or a car. For example, the water that is used in computing has to be incredibly sanitized and it takes a lot of it. Microchips have to be cleaned and sanitized with each layer that is etched into them. With some of these crevices being smaller than a wavelength we have to utilize ultra clean water because even the smallest mineral is cumbersome on that chip. This is done with highly clean water, called Ultra Pure
Water (UPW), that is actually not recommend for human consumption because it can strip minerals from the body. It has to be dirtied before being placed back in the water supply, if it is not recycled and reused by the plant.

We are not getting the most from our resources when it comes to computing. There are so many who are uneducated about the boxes under their desks and the devices that run their life. Often times, when an inexperienced user has a simple hard drive failure or something go wrong there are many who just ditch their old system and purchase a brand new one. This pattern stands to why we need to include more technology educational programs in schools. Why we need to see its integration into the core curriculum, and other alternative institutions, so people can be more informed about their greatly needed devices and how to maintain and care for them properly. The internet alone consumes massive amounts of electricity every year. The internet is primarily fueled on the backbone of coal and oil energy and is thus making our most pervasive accessibly knowledge tool since the Gutenberg press a contender for environmental damage.

To put this in further perspective, Greenpeace is estimating that by 2020 our data centers will demand more electricity than is currently demanded by France, Brazil, Canada, and Germany combined. It seems that our thirst for knowledge has led us to create an energy chugging monster of mammoth proportions.

Data centers and the processing of data, which is exponentially skyrocketing alongside our ability to process data, like a Moore’s Law of data generation alongside processor speed will only see this problem compound as more people hop onto the internet and start to use it in their daily lives as technology becomes globalized.

We are at an interesting time in technology and society. We need more professionals in this field to combat the growing need for the development of technological tools and resources. We are at the crossroads of decisions that we can make to transform technology to become more sustainable for our future while teaching people to properly use it, not just slam code on the board and tell them “this works.”  We can use this powerfully encompassing tool to continue achieving a higher quality of life and making it more effective. We can do this through educating younger and current generations about computing, getting them excited about what the future holds with a form of green and sustainable computing in the meld, make them realize what their impact could be by their participation, and teach them the skills necessary to execute their plans for the betterment of computing technology for the future. We have to inform those around us of the production, disposal, and energy consumption dilemmas in computing in order for it to continue to be our most effective tool yet.

Written By: Emily Peed

Article Links:

Assessing Computer Science Education

With the current national focus on making computer science (CS) count as a high school math or science credit or as core admissions credit for colleges and universities, the first step is to examine CS assessment landscape in K–12 education. In particular, it is imperative to conduct a landscape study on how the key players (teachers and CS education researchers) utilize assessment in their work. As more and more states adopt CS as a requirement, quality assessment will be a necessity that not only measures knowledge, but also assess student conceptual understanding. Currently, the quality and state of computer science assessment is generally unknown and opinions differ on what is available to the K–12 community at a cost effective rate (or free) and is easy to implement and access. Furthermore, the open-ended nature of computer science tasks makes it imperative that assessments are carefully developed and they fit the philosophy of open-ended algorithmic thinking.

Why is assessment so important? Having students demonstrate their understanding of the topic is essential to their learning process. Assessment helps to evaluate the student’s understanding of the subject matter and provides instructors with evidence of whether or not their educational goals are being met – both as a formative and a summative tool. However, the use of different programming languages and tasks in computer science classrooms make it challenging to develop a standardized test. Hence, it is important that we develop an understanding of what assessments are available, the caliber of the assessments including validity and reliability of available CS assessment.

Given the role of assessment, CSTA with funding from Google is undertaking this important task of examining the assessment landscape in high school computer science classroom. To meet the objective, CSTA Assessment Landscape Planning Committee will conduct a study to learn more about how CS teachers are using assessment in their own classrooms both to inform day-to-day instruction as well as end of course learning outcomes.

Aman Yadav
Chair, CSTA Assessment Landscape Planning Committee

CSEdWeek – Looking Back and Looking Ahead

And so we begin a new year. A time to reflect. I have been reflecting on my activities for CSEdWeek. Since the first CSEdWeek in December 2009, I have celebrated the week on my campus trying different activities each year.

For the first CSEdWeek in 2009, I was able to arrange for an after school walking field trip to a nearby business, Hydraflow. It was exciting to see the expressions on my students’ faces as they toured the business and listened to how the company had gone completely paperless!

For the CSEdWeek in 2010, I wanted to do more! I was able to arrange for a walking field trip to Raytheon during the school day. The students were amazed at the “trailer” where equipment was set up to demonstrate a disaster and how Raytheon had built a system where different law enforcement agencies could “talk” to each other even though they were using various type of hardware. A parent from my school also graciously arranged for some employees from his company to speak to my students about how computer science had opened up opportunities for them.

For CSEdWeek 2011 the students once again had the opportunity to tour Raytheon and visit the “trailer” again as well as the outdoor mock-up of a toll system. I also arranged for a student ambassador from University of California, Irvine to visit the class and discuss his experiences as a computer science student in college.

For CSEdWeek 2012, I had asked the school board for my district to recognized CSEdWeek. They agreed to do that and I was asked to select two students to be honored at a board meeting. It was a difficult decision to only select two, but I was happy that I could have these students recognized! Raytheon tour was also a highlight of the week. The students appreciated meeting the wife of one of the school’s science teachers during the Raytheon tour. Additionally, one of my former students dropped by school and spoke to the students about her career working in the CS Field.

Last year we celebrate Hour of Code during CSEdWeek. The local community college assisted with advertising for our community event. There were about 30 community members that attended the event with the computer science students assisting them. Several students commented to me about how much they enjoyed helping others to learn to code. I also held a lunch time birthday party for the students at the high school to celebrate Grace Hopper’s birthday. The school board also recognized CSEdWeek and I selected two students to be recognized.

This year the CS students participated in a community Hour of Code event. I asked the local school principals to advertise the event on their webpages. There was such an overwhelming response that I had to shut down the Eventbrite Site. I continued to receive emails from parents that wanted to attend with their children. They were invited to attend. There were enough reservations to fill two classrooms. I was concerned about supervision until the online teacher contacted me and offered to help. My husband also stopped by and offered his help. We were ready to go! I had set up a poster on with choices for activities that students could use on the computers in the computer lab. You can view my poster at

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In addition to the successful Hour of Code event, the students were able to connect with a Skype employee through Skype in the Classroom program. You can set up a session at The speakers were great and very patient answering the students’ questions.

The district school board also celebrated CSEd Week at the school board meeting. This year I was able to select three students to be honored. The school principal took picture of the event and uploaded them to the school’s Facebook page.

The week ended with a birthday celebration at lunch. All students were invited and the CS students served cake and assisted the students with Hour of Code activities.

I am looking ahead to next year’s CSEd Week. I plan to hold the community Hour of Code event in the library which the principal has already agreed to. I hope to add a Maker Faire with the help of the Engineering Classes. I will contact the principals at the local elementary and junior high schools to advertise the event and I will use Eventbrite again. Through Eventbrite, I have sent out a survey to this year’s attendees to evaluate and improve the Hour of Code event next year.

What did you plan for CS Week that was a success? I am looking for more activities to add to the week!

Myra Deister, CSTA At-large Representative