About Kristeen Shabram

Kristeen Shabram is a middle Business & Technology teacher at Westside Middle School in Omaha, NE. She is currently serving as one of the K-8 Representatives on the CSTA Board.

Using Drones in the Classroom

Many students look at drones as cool toys to play with, not an emerging technology with several career possibilities. Drones are being utilized in several industries and are making huge impacts on society. Below are a few examples:

From an educational perspective, exposing students to drone technology in the classroom provides an innovative learning experience. In addition to having students explore the many career possibilities in this fast-growing, multibillion-dollar industry, drones can also serve as an educational tool to teach computer programming. Drones also present many opportunities for students to practice 21st Century Skills, such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving. Last year I implemented Apple Swift Playgrounds and the Parrot Education Subscription to teach my students how to program and pilot a Parrot Mambo drone. Students learned how to program a drone to takeoff, land, move in all directions, make aerobatic figures, and even control accessories. It was a successful hands-on learning experience for my students and they had the opportunity to see first-hand the cause and effect of their programming. Although there were many successes, there were also failures, providing authentic opportunities for learning. For example, one of the challenges I gave my students was to program the drone to fly through an obstacle course. This challenge posed a lot of struggles for my students; but every time they failed, they worked to troubleshoot their programs and figure out why the drone was not doing what they wanted it to do. They then fixed their code and tested it again. The perseverance that I witnessed by my students during this experience was truly amazing. 

Drone resources that I use in my classroom can be found at https://bit.ly/2XlLkBI. I encourage you to consider incorporating drones into your classes. They are engaging and a great opportunity for learning computer science.

Kristeen Shabram
K – 8 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

Introducing Cybersecurity Concepts in the K-12 Classroom

As a Career and Technical Educator, equipping students with career-readiness skills, like communication, problem-solving, and collaboration, is my first-order priority in the classroom. While these skills focus on preparing students to be successful in the workforce, we as educators have an increasing responsibility to prepare our students to be safe, respectful, and responsible digital citizens. Digital citizenship can be broadly understood as membership and participation in an online community, such as the internet or its various sub area. In this way, being a “good” digital citizen means, as the Digital Citizenship Institute defines it, having “norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use” [1].

One key behavior in the set of good digital citizen norms involves taking sufficient precautions to foster strong personal and community digital security. This goes far beyond telling your students to not talk to strangers online or to not share their personal information on social media sites. Students need to understand the kind of information that is being passively collected from them when they visit or create accounts on websites and what value it has to them, those that want to collect it, and potentially others if it gets leaked or released. Understanding the potential threats that they might face when sharing personal information on any website, including social media sites, is also important. As an example, I’ve taught many students that didn’t know that their photos contained geotags (longitude and latitude numbers) that could be used by attackers to figure out where they live or places where they frequent. Finally, equipping students with the skills they need to be able to identify potential attacks and avoid being a victim of scams, such as phishing and identity theft, is also paramount.

Even if you see the value of digital citizenship preparation in your classroom, you may feel like you don’t know where to start or how to tie topics like security and online safety into your existing curricula. Don’t worry! There are many online resources that can help. First decide what cybersecurity concepts you want to teach in your classroom. You can find lists of topics online ranging from social media safety to types of malware to password complexity. The bottom line is there are plenty of lessons and curriculum to choose from. You can even choose to integrate a single lesson, a module made up of several lessons, or even a whole semester or year-long curriculum. To help you move forward, I have listed some of the resources that have helped me along the way as I have integrated more cybersecurity concepts into my classroom.

Cybersecurity Curriculum

This curriculum was designed by a friend of mine for a high school computer science course with a focus on cybersecurity. I really like how his curriculum design is customizable. The activities that he provides can be single one-day lesson or a complete semester course. You can take a look at https://derekbabb.github.io/CyberSecurity/

Common Sense Media

Commons Sense Media provides a complete K-12 Digital Citizenship Scope and Sequence. Privacy & Security is one of the topics they focus on and there are a variety of lessons on various cybersecurity topics. I really like how topics are introduced in the K-2 grade band and then expanded on in higher grade bands. Find more at: https://www.commonsense.org/education/scope-and-sequence

UNO GenCyber Modules

I had the opportunity last summer to teach at a GenCyber Camp hosted by University of Nebraska at Omaha. This camp provided several modules that span a variety of cybersecurity topics. The modules are available online at www.nebraskagencyber.com and have a creative commons license. (Side note) If you’ve never attended a GenCyber Teacher Camp, you should check to see if one is being offered in your state.

Other Resources:

CodeHS Cybersecurity Course – This entirely web-based curriculum is made up of a series of learning modules that cover the fundamentals of cybersecurity. You can take a look at https://codehs.com/info/curriculum/cybersecurity

Cybersecurity Nova Labs – This Cybersecurity Lab is a game that allows players to discover how they can keep their digital lives safe and develop an understanding of cyber threats and defenses. You can take a look at https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/labs/lab/cyber/

CyberPatriot – ​​​​The National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity. You can look at it https://www.uscyberpatriot.org.

[1] http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/nine-elements.html


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Kristeen Shabram
K-8 representative

New Year, New Ideas, New Strategies: Personalizing Learning in Computer Science Education

It’s that time of year when everyone is reflecting back on the experiences they’ve had the past year and thinking about resolutions for the upcoming year. As teachers, we usually reflect back during the summer months on how the school year went. However, teachers also use the end of a semester as a time to reflection. Often times after winter break, teachers start new classes and have new students. With the start of a new semester, teachers have the opportunity to review and build upon previous experiences from first semester, but also implement new ideas and new teaching strategies. With the second semester quickly approaching, it has me thinking of my own resolutions for second semester and what I would like to do differently. At the beginning of this school year, I attended a workshop where I learned about the five elements of personalized learning set forth by my school district. I remember walking away from this workshop with a handful of ideas and strategies that I could implement in my own classroom. However, here I am at the end of the semester, and I haven’t had the chance to fully implement the five elements. So as my second semester resolution, I am committed to personalizing the learning experience for students in my computer science courses. Below is my plan as it aligns to the five elements of personalized learning.

Element #1 – Know Your Learners:  Knowing my students’ interests is the beginning of personalizing their learning experience. By using interest inventories, I can find out what areas of computer science they’re interested in, what they already know, what they would like to learn, and how I can help them to further their overall interests in computer science.

Element #2 – Voice and Choice: I know that all students learn differently, so why should I force all my students to sit through a lecture or have them all do the same project with the same requirements? By letting go of the uniformity, I provide voice and choice for my students. Students will not only be given a choice in how they access the content, but they will also have a choice in how they demonstrate their proficiency. Ultimately, I want my students to have the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in a meaningful way and give them more ownership of their learning.

Element #3 – Flexibility:  It seems like the term “flexible classroom” is all the rage these days. Providing students an opportunity to move their desks, sit in comfy chairs, and work in all areas of the classroom is said to increase learning and engagement. I was skeptical at first, but after trying it out for one week in my classroom, I was shocked. My fears of students not getting any work done and just socializing were quickly dismissed. My students really enjoyed having the freedom to move around and collaborate with each other, allowing them to make the classroom their own personal learning space. I also feel that a flexible classroom provides my students with a more realistic view of what they will encounter when they enter the workforce, especially in the field of computer science.

Element #4 – Data Informed Decisions: Students often look to teachers to be the experts, but rarely are students given the opportunity to be called the expert. By pre-testing each student, I can get a better understanding of their skill level and use this data to provide them with a more individualized approach to learning. I can also encourage students to step forward and be content experts, allowing them to do some peer-teaching.

Element #5 – Technology Integration:  The SAMR Framework is a commonly used model for technology integration. I find myself all to often integrating technology that only enhances my content, which only reaches the first two levels of the model (Substitution and Augmentation). I would like to stretch myself and explore types of technology integration what will reach the transformation levels of the model (Modification and Redefinition). One type of technology integration that I would like to implement is student-created podcasts and videos. I want to give my students opportunities to become creators of content and share their experiences with others.

I am excited to embark on my resolution of embedding the elements of personalized learning within my computer science courses. I think by embracing the mindset of personalized learning while structuring my classroom around the five elements will lead to an increase of student engagement. I am also excited to see my students take more ownership of their learning and pursue their passions further in the field of computer science.
Resources: http://westsidepersonalized.com

Kristeen Shabram
K-8 representative

Using Genius Time/Passion Projects to Encourage Exploration of Computer Science

Genius Hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school. The Genius Hour movement has been around for years and has been used by some of the world’s leading innovative companies. One of those companies, Google, allowed their engineers to spend 20% of their time to work on any project that they’re passionate about. The philosophy behind this movement is that when people are given the opportunity to work on something of personal interest, productivity goes up. Well, they were right. Since Google’s implementation of Genius Hour, fifty percent of their projects, including Gmail and Google News, have been created during this exploration time. Who would have thought that allowing employees the freedom to explore their own interests during work time would contribute to the company’s success?

Since its inception, Genius Hour has made its way into the world of education and is transforming the way students learn and take ownership of their learning. There have been many educators leading the way with Genius Hour in their classrooms and most of their inspiration has come from Angela Maiers and Amy Sandoval’s book The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching & Learning. Recently, I have become inspired by this Genius Hour movement as well, and I have started to explore how I could apply it in my own classroom. More specifically, I have thought about how could I use Genius Hour to encourage my students to further explore the field of Computer Science. There are so many areas of study in Computer Science and I often find myself just providing a brief summary for my students to spark their interest. But what if I could ignite that spark, and then provide an opportunity for my students to keep the flame going?

Recently, my school district made a commitment to personalized learning for all students and invested in personalized learning coaches that will help with implementation in the classroom. When it comes to personalized learning in the classroom, no single thing is more powerful than Genius Hour. One of the coaches loaned me Andi McNair’s book Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry. After reading this book, I definitely feel prepared to ignite that spark and implement a Computer Science Genius Hour in my classroom. McNair say, “Genius Hour provides students with opportunities to discover what it means to think for themselves, to really pursue something that is meaningful to them.” She also goes on to say that, “It’s time to realize that in our classrooms sit the world changers, inventors, and innovators of tomorrow. Our students are the future.”

This school year, I have decided to embark on a Computer Science Genius Hour Journey with my students. I am so excited to give my students the opportunity to further research Computer Science as a field, explore related topics, and potentially collaborate with outside experts in the field. Ultimately, I want to encourage my students to make a personal connection with Computer Science. Through those personal connections, my hope is that they discover their own passion in computer science and find ways to impact their world through their discoveries.

If you’ve implemented Genius Hour in your Computer Science classroom, I would like to hear from you. If you’re interested in taking this journey, below are some additional resources that I have found to be helpful:

  • AJ Juliani’s “The Research Behind Genius Hour” provided insight on connecting standards to inquiry-based learning. http://ajjuliani.com/research/
  • Chris Kesler’s Science Blog provides “10 Reasons to do Genius Hour with your Students” – https://www.keslerscience.com/what-is-genius-hour/
  • Chris Kesler and AJ Juliani’s website (http://geniushour.com), provides a free webinar called “Getting Started With Genius Hour: The Step-by-Step Guide to Structuring Genius Hour.” They also offer a Genius Hour Master Course, which is a comprehensive course that walks you step-by-step through Genius Hour and how to implement it in the classroom.
  • Westside Community Schools Personalized Learning website (http://westsidepersonalized.com) provides a wealth of resources, as well as podcasts that highlight how teachers in my school district are implementing personalized learning.
  • Westside Community Schools EY (Gifted) Website (http://ey.westside66.org). Follow the “Enrichment” tab to “Passion Projects” to find templates and suggestions for Passion Projects

Kristeen Shabram
K-8 representative