Data Science in Schools

I’ve no doubt that good CS education involves finding some motivating contexts for getting the ideas across, and for pupils to get to grips with programming. Lots of teachers have found their pupils highly engaged through creating games and animations, or through interacting with the real world through physical computing and robotics, or, perhaps more unusually, through algorithmic art or composing music. I think we could make a good case for adding some data science into this mix, getting pupils to do a little visualisation and exploratory data analysis, and through this starting to answer some genuinely interesting questions. 

When we wrote the English computing curriculum, we included some explicit references to working with data: 7-11 year olds are taught “collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data”, and 11-14 year olds “undertake creative projects that involve selecting, using, and combining multiple applications, preferably across a range of devices, to achieve challenging goals, including collecting and analysing data.” Or at least they’re supposed to. CSTA’s standards go quite a bit further, with a whole strand given over to data and analysis, with a clear sense of progression and ambitious targets for high schoolers like “Create interactive data visualizations” and “use data analysis tools and techniques to identify patterns in data representing complex systems”.  I worry that we’ve put so much emphasis on coding that these crucial skills, and the consequent understanding gets overlooked in too many schools. It needn’t be this way. Indeed there’s plenty of scope for doing this data visualisation and analysis with code. 

I’ve been thinking recently about how we can take the foundations / application / implications (that’s roughly computer science, IT and critical digital literacy) model that underpins the English computing curriculum and apply it to related (and some unrelated) subjects, to help promote a broader and more balanced approach to curriculum design. We can use this model for thinking about data science in schools. 

If we’re serious about pupils’ learning data science, then I think we need to lay the foundations with some old school probability and statistics: typically these are already part of the math curriculum, but there’s so much more we can do here when we let our pupils use computers for this, from simulating dice rolls, through plotting graphs to calculating summary statistics for some big datasets. All these things can be done by hand (‘unplugged’?), but once pupils have an idea of the techniques, they can concentrate on selecting and using the right tools, and making sense of the results if they use technology to automate the automatable parts of the process – it’s far more interesting and useful to be able to make sense of a scatterplot (for example) than to be able to draw one by hand.

I’d also want pupils to apply this knowledge to some interesting problems. In elementary school, I’d look at opinion polls or other surveys as a way in to this, perhaps getting pupils to work collaboratively at coming up with good questions – agree / disagree Likert scales are a good starting point, and then exploring what they can learn by slicing the data they collect: is there any difference between boys’ and girls’ enjoyment of school subjects in elementary school (and is there any difference in high school…)? Later on, I’d start looking at time series: weather data is great for this. In the UK we’ve open access month on month meteorological data going back over 100 years, and a comparison of temperatures for the last 30 with the previous 70+ makes a persuasive case. Later still, I’d get pupils looking for patterns and relationships in big (or biggish) datasets: sports fans might like to play with accelerometer or GPS data from micro:bits, wearables or phones: can they work out what sport someone was playing from the datafiles (or a visualisation of them)? Could a machine do this? Big, public, anonymised datasets could be linked very powerfully to some social studies topics: what are the links between gender, ethnicity, education and income? Or pupils could learn about text mining techniques and apply these to their study of English: are there quantifiable differences between the vocabulary and grammar of Hemingway and Morrison? Or between Obama and Trump?

Even more importantly, I’d like pupils to think through some of the implications of collecting and using data as freely as we do. Coming back to my elementary school survey idea: what questions shouldn’t we ask one another? What questions shouldn’t we answer? Does it matter if your name is attached to the answers? In one day at school, how much data does a pupil generate (attendance, grades, cafeteria, accessing the internet, CCTV, online learning, behaviour management, etc…)? What happens to all this data? What could you discover about a pupil if this was all linked together? Does anyone mind? How much do internet service providers, search engines and email services know about a user? What do they use this for? Again, does anyone mind? If big tech firms provide the wonderful services they do for free, how have they got to be some of the most valuable companies in the world? The English computing curriculum includes teaching pupils ‘new ways to protect their online identity and privacy’ – what should we include here?

Some of this certainly should be part of what our pupils learn in their school computing lessons, but lots of it provides ample opportunity for cross curricular links, with math, social studies, civics and even sports! I think we as CS teachers gain so much through showing how relevant coding can be to the other things our pupils study.

Miles Berry
International Representative

Building a Pre-K to 12 Computer Science Program.

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

It is that time of the year when we re-open our doors to our students for another school year.  With that in mind, this is a great time of the year to start thinking about what new computer science resources students will be introduced to this year.  As a district computer science curriculum specialist for Plano Independent School District in Plano, Texas, it is my role to work with teachers from Prekindergarten (Pre-K) through 12 grade to build a vertical computer science program. 

Building an equitable computer science program takes a great deal of planning and collaboration with others.  Input from teachers, campus and district administrators, parents, the District Board of Trustees, and community partners is an important part of this process.  The process requires taking a look at what resources are out there and digging into the state standards and CSTA Computer Science standards. 

For the past three years, we have been working in my district to develop a computer science program that will allow every student to have an opportunity to learn to code and prepare themselves for a career in computer science or that uses skills from the field of computer science. 

As we roll out new resources, we are constantly looking ahead to see what is our next step.  So far, this is what we have developed and what we have learned through this process.

Pre-K students have unique needs as many are not yet able to read or write.  We have decided to put Lego Coding Express in our early childhood campuses and elementary schools with Pre-K students.  Coding Express provides students with structured play while introducing some coding terms such as sequencing, looping, conditional coding, and cause and effect using some color-coded action bricks.

Our elementary schools are engaging students in coding during and after school.  Through our partnerships with the University of Texas at Dallas and other community partners, we are able to bring graduate students and professionals to our campuses after school at no cost.  During the school day, we are engaging students through interdisciplinary learning by combining computer science and math, science, social studies, and English language arts.  Resources like Code.org are great since they allow us to engage our bilingual students through the various translations available.  Last year, we created an Elementary Computer Science Cadre to help build this grade band of the program.  This group serves as voices on their campuses to help promote this program while helping us evaluate and develop curriculum over time.

Our Pre-K through second-grade students have been engaging with Blue-Bots.  Blue-Bots allow students to learn to code through the application of sequencing and looping.  We have placed Blue-Bot kits on all 47 elementary and early childhood campuses.  Our third through fifth-grade students are provided with more rigor by learning to code with Sphero SPRK+s.  These can be programmed using block-based and text-based JavaScript. 

We have purchased more Sphero SPRK+s for our 13 middle schools.  Initially, this is to provide our students with after school opportunities to learn to code or to engage students with coding through an existing class.  Having physical resources for students who are learning to code helps most students connect better with the concepts and see what the code does each time it is run.  Our goal is to introduce computer science courses to our middle schools in 2020-2021.  We are excited about adding a fifth year to our vertical high school program.

Our high school program is the most developed part of our program.  We offer on level, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate at our various high school campuses.  Our computer science teachers are a very collaborative and supportive group of teachers.  Over the summer, our teachers work together to write the curriculum for these courses.  We schedule three full-day pullout days to continue the momentum throughout the school year.  Students have an opportunity to engage with our computing clubs that are very active in our region.  These clubs compete in Java programming competitions with peers from our neighboring districts.  Our three senior high campuses are known for bringing back trophies from these competitions.

Lots of work goes into building a district-wide computer science program.  We encourage you to check out the work our district is doing by visiting our website at https://www.pisd.edu/computerscience

Dan Blier
District Representative

Prayers, Meditations, and Reassurances

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” – Jacques Barzun

This past Tuesday, the daily rituals my home had fallen into over the previous two or so months were interrupted. My wife’s alarm, sounding thirty minutes earlier than usual, was the marker that for the next ten months our lives would be changing into a different, but exciting routine. It was “back to school day” for Michele, a teacher and my wife, William, a 10th grader and our eldest, and Harper, a newly christened middle schooler and our youngest. Every day most of my deliberations and actions are for and with them. Maintaining their well-being always in mind, helps keep me grounded on those individuals that should be most important in my and other educational leaders’ work, students and teachers across our communities, states, nation, and globe. I once had a supervisor who would often say, “teaching is not a fallback position, it is first choice profession;” she was, and is still to this day, 100% correct. I wanted to use my blog posting this time to remind all of our wonderful teachers that they are in a profession that deserves high-regards, support, more often than not, increased compensation, and a regular “pat on the back.”

During a training that I participated in recently, part of the introduction/icebreaker activity included each of us drawing a card with a question that we were supposed to individually meditate on and then answer out loud for the group. The question I received was, “who was the best supervisor, professor, or teacher you ever had?” After thinking about it for a while, and remembering so many people who have been extremely influential during my life, my mind drifted back and focused on 10th grade and Mr. Jack Knight. Mr. Knight was my social studies teacher, but he was so much more. He was a great teacher, a true professional educator. As I consider his class now, from an educational leader perspective, I can confidently say he was a master of maintaining classroom discipline while engaging his students in their learning. However, beyond that, Mr. Knight, who had a family of his own, also took the time to get to know and appropriately befriend and mentor a young man who greatly needed it during that time of his life; if you need a hint, that young man was me. I will not go into my personal life, but just know that his extra time, deep caring, and daily demonstration of what being a good teacher and mentor should be, has had a profound effect on me to this day and probably been more influential in my life than he will ever realize.

As teachers, you all have an immense responsibility within your position of power. You have the responsibility to teach, but more importantly you have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of a child which will follow them into adulthood. I hope you will never forget these facts, and it is my desire that some who are not in the classroom will soon be reminded of it.

Tuesday morning as wife and boys left our driveway to embark on this year’s adventure, I said a short prayer. That prayer, which was for safety, a “good day,” meeting new friends, and connecting with a person who really needs it, was not only for the members of my family. It was for all students and teachers; it was for you! As you progress through these first few weeks of this new year, take heart in the words of Galatians 6:9.

Go make that positive difference that I know each of you can; I wish each and every one of you a phenomenal school year!

Anthony A Owen
State Department of Education Representative

Chapter Leadership Summit – 2019 CSTA Annual Conference

On July 7-8, chapter leaders from more than 60 CSTA Chapters came together for the Chapter Leadership Summit at the 2019 CSTA Annual Conference. This two-day event provided chapter leaders with educational sessions and specialized training on various topics. It also provided an opportunity for chapter leaders to meet and connect with CSTA Executive Director Jake Baskin, as well as the CSTA Staff and the Board of Directors. The Summit ultimately gave chapter leaders the opportunity to foster an exchange of ideas and information while also developing leadership skills.

Some highlights from the sessions at the Chapter Leadership Summit:

Opening Session and Q&A

In these sessions, CSTA Executive Director Jake Baskin and members of the Board of Directors reviewed the mission and goals of CSTA and summarized the future direction of the organization, all the while answering questions from chapter leaders.

Chapter Rubric and Chapter Self Assessment 

CSTA Director of Education Bryan “BT” Twarek introduced chapter leaders to the Chapter Rubric. The rubric will be used to help chapter leaders assess the areas of strength and growth for their chapter. Chapter leaders were given time to review the rubric and then an opportunity to discuss strategies and plans of action with other chapter leaders.

Chapter Finances and Chapter Grant Program

Michelle Page, CSTA’s COO, presented valuable information on Chapter Finances and the Chapter Grant Program. She provided details on how to manage chapter finances and discussed potential future opportunities to benefit from CSTA’s non-profit status. She also reviewed the criteria of the CSTA Chapter Grant Program, the types of programs and events that earn grant funding, and creating a plan for applying for the next round of grants.

CSTA’s New Web Platform & Chapter Marketing Success

Stacy Jeziorowski, CSTA’s Marketing and Communications Manager led two very informational sessions during the Summit. One of her sessions was dedicated to CSTA’s new web platform, Member Nova. Chapter leaders were presented with the features and advantages of using CSTA’s new web platform and had the opportunity to start their website onsite. In addition,  current chapters that have already made the transition to the new web platform spoke about their successes and ideas. Stacy’s second session was dedicated to Chapter Marketing. During this session, chapter leaders were introduced to the CSTA’s chapter branding guidelines, as well as had the opportunity to develop a simple marketing plan for their chapter that would increase their chapter’s digital presence. 

Chapter Fundraising

Daniel Rosenstein, CSTA’s Manager of Philanthropies and Community Partnerships, offered a session on leveraging the unique and creative ways that chapters can raise money while increasing brand awareness. Chapter leaders also had the opportunity to set an annual fundraising goal and create a plan to meet this goal.

Chapter Workshop-in-a-Box

Chapter leaders were introduced to the Workshops-in-a-Box by a team from NCWIT. The Workshop-in-a-Box session was designed to assist chapter leaders in offering timely and relevant professional development to their members, as well as offer strategies that could be implemented in their classrooms immediately.

Introduction to Grassroots Advocacy

In this session, chapter leaders received a crash course in grassroots advocacy, including how to talk to elected officials, build coalitions, and develop policy recommendations. Chapter leaders also learned about the Code.org Advocacy Coalition’s nine recommended state policies that expand access to computer science and why equity-based policies create better outcomes for all students.

Chapter Leader Networking

There were also several opportunities at the Summit for chapter leaders to network with other chapter leaders and hear about the incredible work that is being done in chapters across the US. During the Chapter Spotlight sessions, chapter leaders discussed relevant ideas and strategies on increasing membership, keeping members active/engaged, and hosting events that other chapters could try in their own chapters. The Leadership (Un)Conference sessions provided an opportunity for chapter leaders to suggest topic ideas that they wanted to discuss and connect with other chapter leaders with similar interests, challenges, or contexts. The Meetup Chapter Role session allowed chapter leaders to connect with other leaders who have similar roles/responsibilities and receive answers and support for problems/issues they’re experiencing.

Closing Session

Finally, in the closing session, chapter leaders had the opportunity to put the tools and resources they have gained throughout the Chapter Leadership Summit to use. Chapter leaders used this time to map out what their chapter hopes to accomplish over the next year.


This event could not have taken place without all the hard work of Chapter Relations Manager Leslie Scantlebury and her Chapter Leader Task Force.

Kristeen Shabram
K-8 Representative

The AP Reading

For the last week, I have been at the Advanced Placement (AP) reading for the CS Principles course in Kansas City, part of a few hundred readers that evaluate the performance tasks submitted by students. It’s an incredible experience in many ways!

For those new to the CS Principles course, it is a breadth-first introduction to computer science emphasizing creativity and collaboration across topics like data, the internet, and the impact of technology in addition to programming. With a goal of increasing access to and success in computer science for underrepresented students, the course is an engaging introduction to computing that reached almost 75,000 students in the 2017-18 academic year.

But 75,000 students means 150,000 performance tasks to grade! Each student submits a programming project and write-up, the Create performance task, and a computational artifact and write-up on a computing innovation, the Explore performance task. Along with 100+ readers in Kansas City and hundreds more grading tasks at home, we’ve been able to see the incredible impact this course has had on students.

The AP reading process includes training on student samples so that readers can grade the tasks using a rubric as consistently as possible. After that, the readers grade…and grade…and grade some more. We’re here in Kansas City grading performance tasks 8 hours a day – which can be grueling! – and then there are speakers and professional development options in the evening. But the readers are all very positive, excited about the work they see from students, and they play a key role in what makes this course a success.

As a college professor, I used to think grading was the worst part of teaching. However, this is different. There is a lot of value for someone who teaches the course in seeing the fine details of how the rubric is applied, common student misconceptions, and then using that knowledge to improve their instruction. And of course there’s the community. Where else besides the CSTA Annual Conference do you have the chance to connect with computer science teachers from across the country who are so passionate about bringing CS to all students?!

I leave Kansas City tomorrow in awe of the incredible work ethic as well as the care and consideration that teachers bring to the AP reading. The CS Principles course would not be the success it is without them.

Jennifer Rosato
Teacher Education Representative

Yes, It Really Is About K-12

Now that I’m retired (and busier than ever!), I often reflect on how I learned to love science and computing. Back then, then computing didn’t really exist – it was math. I remember a middle school math class where I had to figure out how to turn on and off red, yellow and green lights. That was probably my first programming experience but they called it logic. I remember other similar activities in middle school and high school such as when we acted out directions EXACTLY as someone had written. The thinking concisely and with order was great fun and challenging! I loved it before I went to college and through a variety of twists and turns in my academic life, I ended back at (now known as) computer science.

The recent exciting news of being able to visualize a black hole because of an algorithm developed by a team lead by computer scientist Katie Bouman has certainly captured my imagination. If you’ve had the chance to read more about Katie, she credits her love of computing from her high school experiences. In graduate school, she didn’t even know what a black hole was but once she got involved, she was hooked on figuring out how computing could capture all of the data and integrate this information from the many different telescopes to produce an image. “If you study things like computer science and electrical engineering, it’s not just building circuits in your lab,” she says. “You can go out to a telescope at 15,000 feet above sea level, and you can use those skills to do something that no one’s ever done before.” (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/12/katie-bouman-helped-generate-the-first-ever-photo-of-a-black- hole.html)

Encouraging more students to try computing is one of the reasons I volunteer my time working with CSTA. I believe it’s K-12 that guides us to identifying what we find challenging and rewarding. Another organization that I have worked with extensively is National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). While their primary focus is on girls and women in computing, many of their resources are applicable and valuable to all. For the K-12 audience, they have whitepapers with research references, podcast that are appropriate for high school students, tool kits which can help you organize events, great information in language that
everyone can understand, etc.


Some favorites include:


Communicating Research-based Interventions to Change Agents– to support the use of evidence-based interventions by change leaders;

Top 10 Ways to Engage School Counselors as Allies in the Effort to Increase Student Access to Computer Science Education and Careers – School counselors are eager to direct students to viable education and career opportunities. Consider these key points for collaboration as you
plan to meet with counselors to discuss ways their professional responsibilities align with your goals to increase student access to computing;

Computer Science Professional Development Guide – this computer science (CS) Guide not only empowers teachers, but also inspires students;

Computer Science-in-a-Box: Unplug Your Curriculum (2018 Update) – Computer Science-in-a- Box: Unplug Your Curriculum introduces fundamental building blocks of computer science — without using computers. Use it with students ages 9 to 14 to teach lessons about how
computers work, while addressing critical mathematics and science concepts such as number systems, algorithms, and manipulating variables and logic.

There are many many more resources of all forms that target the many facets of the K-12 world. The NCWIT website (NCWIT.org) has an easily searchable K-12 resource section. Take some time and take a look. I’ll bet you’ll find some interesting things.

We are lucky to be living in a time where computing plays such an important role in our daily lives. We’re even luckier to be able to help student learn just how cool computing can be!

A Celebration of Arkansas Giants in Computer Science

In the past, I have typically used my blog space as a Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Board Member as a place to advance policy or focus on initiative ideas. With this blog I will focus on the main purpose of CSTA, supporting computer science educators. On December 6, 2018 as part of the 2018 CS Education Week Announcements, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the creation of the Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year (CS-EOY) Award. During the planning and development of this award, we wanted this award to be on-par with the state’s Teacher of the Year award in terms of prestige and recognition.

My office launched the application request system on February 4, 2019 and over the next month we received 30 completed applications. The state’s #CSforAR / #ARKidsCanCode Computer Science Specialists, Jim Furniss, Tammy Glass, Kelly Griffin, Lori Kagebein, Eli McRae, Jigish Patel, Leslie Savell, and Zack Spink, under my facilitation completed the first level review. This review process, which focused on the overall quality of applications, each of which included a resume, letters of recommendation, and an applicant selected artifact; the applicant’s vision for and understanding of the value of computer science education for the current and future generations of Arkansas students; the applicant’s understanding of how their implementation of computer science education exemplifies quality teaching; and the applicant’s current and long-term impact on computer science education locally, statewide, and nationally, resulted in the selection of the five CS-EOY State Finalists:

  • Carl Frank; Computer Science Teacher – Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts; Hot Springs, AR
  • Josefina Perez; Business/Computer Science Teacher – Springdale High School; Springdale, AR
  • Brenda Qualls; Computer Science Teacher – Bryant High School; Bryant, AR
  • Kimberly Raup; Computer Science Teacher – Conway High School; Conway, AR
  • Karma Turner; Computer Science Teacher – Lake Hamilton High School; Pearcy, AR

Many of you probably recognize these names, as they have been significant members of the CSTA and greater computer science education community for some time both in Arkansas and nationally.

The second round review focused on the same criteria and was conducted by Anthony Owen, Arkansas State Director of Computer Science Education; Don Benton, ADE Assistant Commissioner of Technology;  G.B. Cazes, Metova Executive Vice President; Jake Baskin, Executive Director of Computer Science Teachers Association; Dr. Sarah Moore, Arkansas State Board of Education; and Sheila Boyington, Thinking Media/Learning Blade President/CEO.

On Thursday, May 2, 2019, Gov. Hutchinson held a press conference to recognize the work and selection of these five finalists. In addition, Gov. Hutchinson recognized Ms. Karma Turner as the 2018-2019 Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year. During the press conference, each of the finalists received $2,500 and recognition plaque. Ms. Turner received an additional $12,500 and a 2019 Computer Science Educator of the year trophy from Gov. Hutchinson. These awards were provided through funding from the ADE Office of Computer Science, which is a Special Project Unit formed to implement Gov. Hutchinson’s visionary Computer Science Education initiative. Arkansas is recognized nationally and internationally as leading the computer science for all education movement through Gov. Hutchinson’s #CSforAR / #ARKidsCanCode initiative.

For additional information:

Karma Turner’s NCWIT Aspirations in Computing biography may be read at https://www.aspirations.org/users/karma-118731

The Computer Science Educator of the Year award was announced by Gov. Hutchinson on December 6, 2018 as part of the 2018 CS Education Week Announcements: https://governor.arkansas.gov/news-media/press-releases/governor-hutchinson-ade-announce-creation-of-computer-science

The application process was announced by ADE Commissioner’s Memo on February 4, 2019, at http://adecm.arkansas.gov/ViewApprovedMemo.aspx?Id=3898

Anthony A. Owen
State Department Representative


Teacher, Facilitator or Guide?

These past weeks I have been thinking about how Computer Science education and the way to teach it has evolved. I have been a teacher for about 19 years now, and most of the time my students make the most interesting questions that get me thinking and researching about certain topics. That is how this blog was conceived. I am currently teaching my 9th graders how to work with BBC Microbits. (By the way, Microbits are awesome!) To introduce them I start giving them instructions that are very detailed about how the Microbits work and to get acquainted with the Make Code interface. When I say detailed, it is very detailed. I give them a step by step guide including screenshots of where to find the necessary blocks, how to save, download the program and upload it to the Microbit. How to use the Microbit simulator included in the Make code interface. Once we do several projects in which we learn how to make the Microbit sing, how to work with the LED screen and how to connect alligator clips, I assign a project in which they have to come up with a character and incorporate the Microbit as part of it adding at least 2 actions with it. That’s when it all goes south!!!!

Many kids seem lost. It’s like they have never used a Microbit before. That got me thinking. When I started learning programming, I learned using Pascal with a green and black screen and all programming was text based. It was hard!!! But I also remember a professor telling us that if we learn the hard way then after any programming language should not be as hard to learn as we had the base and logic to programming. At the time I really hated that comment as any student would’ve but today as a teacher I wonder if I am up to something here. Am I, as a teacher, allowing my students to really think on their own? To really grasp the logic of creating a program. Or are they just little robots following my instructions?

I decided to analyze the progression of my students to get to ninth grade Computer Science. Throughout their early years we want to engage them and get them to like and be interested in Computer Science and all the possibilities they have with it. As we introduce them to all the wonderful things that we can achieve with Computer Science, we look for tools that are engaging and fun. Many companies have helped produce such introductory tools, which make it so easy for kids to learn that they start enjoying programming. However, they get so used to it that then the progression to more complex programming seems harder. Emphasis on “seems”. Making the transition from block programming to text programming is set by many of these tools, including the Microbit. The Microbit can be programmed using blocks, JavaScript or Python so that is covered. But there is an element that only teachers can do and it is to facilitate the transition between just giving guidelines that are so specific that it seems students are only copying a program while truncating their creativity and promoting the ability to create and discover on their own or by giving a task for them to solve on their own. I realize that although I am teaching Computational Thinking skills my kids are used to getting very specific instructions for programming. This is not bad it’s just that the transition is not as seamless as it seems. So how should the transition take place? I believe a good starting point is to be cutting on the screenshots on the instructions guide and limit them to the instructional part of the lesson, by going through the steps with them and let them take their own notes. Then when a project is assigned, they can take a look back at their notes as a reference. Another tip is to include videos as additional help but getting away from giving too detailed step by step instructions starting in the Middle School area so that when presented with these kinds of projects in High School, they have a base on how to solve them. Let the instructions be a guide and not a solved problem for them to copy.


Michelle Lagos
Representative at Large



Announcing the 2019 CSTA / Infosys Foundation USA Teaching Excellence Awards

  • “For years I never thought I was good enough”
  • “I wonder…am I doing this right”

These are quotes from our 2018 CSTA / Infosys Foundation USA teaching excellence award winners. A group of teachers that have not only made an outstanding impact within their own classrooms but also started new district wide programs; built engaging, strident led, inter-school partnerships; and lead the team revising the AP CS A exam! The truth is that even the most effective teachers find themselves facing doubt. Teaching is a HARD job, especially as a computer science teacher.

CSTA is here to make sure we take time to recognize the amazing work that’s happening in computer science classrooms across the country. This week we launched the application for the 2019 CSTA / Infosys Foundation USA Teaching Excellence Award with a few updates:

  • The application is split into two parts, making it easier to apply, and only requiring additional steps, like letters of recommendation after an initial review. We hope this will encourage more teachers to apply before that self doubt we all have creeps in.
  • We’ve doubled the number of awards, because there are so many outstanding teachers and we want to acknowledge them all.  Starting this year there will be five winning teachers and five honorable mentions.
  • You can now nominate a great teacher, encouraging them to complete the application and letting them know that you think they are an excellent computer science teacher.

The first round of the application is open through April 14 and shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes to complete. For more information and to apply now visit the award page.


Jake Baskin
Executive Director CSTA


Narrative imagining: A celebration of Computer Science in Arkansas

“Narrative imagining — story — is the fundamental instrument of thought.  Rational capacities depend upon it. It is our chief means of looking into the future, or predicting, of planning, and of explaining.”  – Mark Turner

A few weeks ago, I put out a call over our state’s Computer Science Education Listserv, which anyone is free to join at http://goo.gl/forms/FqGJ2CtXe1, with the subject line of, “Looking for a cool student story to highlight at a state level…” I wanted to share these stories with Governor Asa Hutchinson so he could continue to be aware of some of the real-life outcomes of his vision and focus. The response from the call was outstanding; I received feel-good stories about lives changed and practical implementation stories about the successes that schools are enjoying because they are focused on their students. Today instead of a call to action, as I have used my time on this blog in the past, I am going to share some of these stories just for your consideration, reflection, and as a celebration of Computer Science in Arkansas, its students, and schools!

John Mark Russell, Ignite Technology Instructor at Bentonville School District, shared the following:


“I have three of my Ignite Technology students working as interns at Walmart labs.  These students work on Walmart’s Next Generation Point-of-Sale system. Our students helped develop a new cloud-based system using Kubernetes.  The business objective was to create a seamless checkout experience for Walmart customers.
Our students worked side-by-side with Walmart IT professionals to build Docker images, and to write code using Java and NodeJS.  As of January, the student’s code is being deployed in over 5,000 Walmart locations. To quote Walmart manager and student mentor, Jeff Parker: Students should be able to point at the Self-Checkout’s and say, “I helped make that happen.”
I am thrilled that our high school students have production code running within the world’s largest retailer.  We call this Real. Relevant. Learning.”

Jason Crader, Middle School Teacher in Little Rock School District, shows how Computer Science is also impacting our middle-school students:

“We have two fifth grade students who have created the Book Bracket Battle to help improve reading at our school. It’s like the NCAA Basketball tournament, but for picture books. During the first semester, they filmed local celebrities reading books and then edited the videos to make them more interesting to watch. After getting everything filmed, they created this website (https://bookbracketbattle.com/)  for classrooms in our school and around the district to use to vote for their favorite books. There is a weekly battle that takes place between two books that will eventually lead to crowning a champion in April.”

Ryan Raup, of Conway School District, shared how Computer Science through Micro:Bits has made a demonstrable difference with a particular 3rd grade student:

“Earlier this year, I introduced some of my 3rd graders to the micro:bit. The students had prior experience with block style coding in Code.Org so the Micro:bit was a nice next step. Two students really stood out for me because the micro:bit, hands on learning and critical thinking of working through the tutorials and then personalizing their specific projects was a great fit for them as individual learners. Student A has Attention issues and was having some difficult days and weeks during this time. He is a bright student and excelled at the micro:bit and was able to focus and be self disciplined to work through different tasks on his own with minimal support from me.  Those same days he could not stay in his seat and work independently with a traditional resource like books, pencil and paper. The micro:bit was a wonderful option for me to have to help this student. Student B was also successful at manipulating the different projects and was glued to the display and the micro:bit. Student B also has some minor focus issues and can be rude and short with other students socially. He is also a bright student and loves a challenge. Not only was he able to work independently and work through the tutorials in micro:bit he excelled in working with other students and showing them how to use the micro:bit. He was calm, direct and considerate of those that he helped. I saw this new strength in him that I had not seen before. As educators we find ourselves looking for resources to help us reach students that can be difficult to teach at times for reasons as stated above and many others. We often talk about the higher level problem solving and the project oriented aspects of programming but forget that programming is great for behavior and learning disabilities as well. If you are a teacher in a building or district that is slow to try new things with technology, I would suggest stressing the classroom benefits side of micro:bit and other programming resources. I am so thankful for tools such as micro:bit which was introduced to me a couple of years ago and finally brought into my classroom last year. Every year, I reflect and base my success on the number of students I can truly reach or find their strengths and passions and Computer Science is a wonderful systematic approach available to me.”

Arkansas will continue to lead by supporting our schools and students through this initiative. In addition, the Arkansas Department of Education Office of Computer Science and its team, under the vision and support of Governor Hutchinson, continues in our commitment to assist other states and our nation as a whole. The State of Arkansas is appreciative of the continued work and efforts of educators, policy leaders, and computer science advocates as we all continue to embark on and expand computer access and positive impacts.

Anthony A. Owen
State Department Representative