Monday, July 13, 2020

CSTA 2020 Conference Online–Day One

Day one of the online CSTA 2020 conference has been today. I’m blogging this as the day goes on and posting it at the end of the day. We started with welcome remarks and some tutorial about using the Hopin conference platform. As a presenter, I’d had some time to try this out previously but I think this was probably very valuable for first time users. I hope not many missed it.

After welcomed remarks we had some networking time. This is actually fun as you are randomly placed in a window with someone for 5 minutes of casual chatting. I found this a nice way to warm up to the day. And to chat with CS teachers from other parts of the country.

During the first break out I attended a session called - Integrating Cybersecurity into the AP CSP Course.I really think we need to teach more of cybersecurity so I jumped into this one. The people have Whatcon Communiyt College have some very interesting and useful looking resources for teaching Cybersecurity. They have 13 units at their website which I link to below along with their sites description.

C5 Cybersecurity Concept Lessons

NCYTE Center supports the work of a related grant project also based at Whatcom Community College, Catalyzing Computing and Cybersecurity in Community Colleges (C5). One of the goals of the C5 project is to develop and disseminate instructional materials to enhance computer science and cybersecurity courses.

The following Cybersecurity Concept Lessons (CCL) illustrate how Cybersecurity can be integrated into the AP CSP course. Each lesson contains activities, a presentation and an overview document that can be downloaded and used in the classroom.

The first keynote started after a sort of ad from Apple. A lot of side chatter was about the usability of Swift without having a Mac to compile on. I may have to look into that. I will start here I guess

The keynote was by Linda Liukas who writes children’s books about computing. I really need to look into her “Hello Ruby” books. Lots of us use the exercise of having students write instructions for making a peanut butter sandwich or a paper airplane (my favorite) but Linda suggested brushing ones teeth. That sounds fun. The talk had a lot of computer free examples and exercises. Most of these would work for a wide range of ages.

The keynote was high energy and inspiring for me. Videos will be available later for CSTA+ members I believe. I plan to watch it again.

Lunch break and time to visit the booths and poster sessions. I visited a couple of booths. It’s interesting as the booths I visited had 50-60 people listening to the person “working the booth.” I spend some time in the Microsoft booth while they were talking about the Hacking STEM program and projects. I keep telling myself I need to get into this stuff but year after year I find myself pulled into other things. Maybe I’ll get to it now that I am retired. Then maybe I can do quest visits to my old school. We’ll see. I really do want to get involved in hands one matter hacking.

After lunch, Mini-Session 3: Tools to Teach 9th-12th Grade There are over 150 people attending this session! Can you picture having rooms that large for as many sessions (12 by my count)  as are going on now?

This session started with Truffle Hunt: Teaching an AI Agent to Play a Minesweeper-Based Game (that link is to the PowerPoint which itself has resource/reference links) I like the idea of teaching rules based AI. Jeffrey L. Popyack from Drexel University presented that one.

Next up was Teaching AI to High Schoolers Inclusively with  Sarah Judd, AI4ALL. Her slides are at Sarah talked about an Open Learning curriculum for teaching Artificial Intelligence. You can Access the curriculum at

The last mini session was by Leon LaSpina on MATLAB.  His slides on MATLAB are here. Leon is a great guy and I can see some reasons for people to teach MATLAB. But I left early and just dropped in on a couple of other sessions for a few minutes at a time. It is less disruptive to enter and leave sessions online.

Next up, Formative Assessment and Feedback for CS Learning with over 270 attendees! I guess a lot of us are interested in doing better assessment and giving feedback. Slides are available at  Formative Assessment This is another session I want to watch a second time.

I attended Incorporating Culturally Authentic Practices in a Problem Based Computer Science Classroom. I’ve always been a proponent of project based learning but I haven’t thought a whole lot about cultural reliance before. It seemed more about PBL in general than specifically how to make them culturally relevant. It may be just me though.

So I jumped into Teaching Girls to Code and Change the World which was about Girls Who Code. Girls Who Code is an outstanding program.  I love the concepts of their program. It’s so much more than coding as it includes community building, long term connections and networking, and showing of role models.

The afternoon keynote was by Hadi Partovi of and titled K-12 CS: How Far We've Come and Where We're Headed Hadi started with a review of where we were 7 years ago and how far we have come. Hadi listed a bunch of individuals and organizations who have helped make the progress we have seen in that time. It was awesome to hear him call out so many. It’s been a global village.

Hadi ta;led about how important it is to teach students ethical thinking and taking into account the impact of computing and technology. This is so important. I’ve heard Hadi speak several times and this was far and away his best talk.

The last session I attended was AP CSP 2020: Updated Course and Exam because there is a chance I may teach AP CS P online in the fall. Maybe. In any case, this was VERY useful if you are teaching AP CS Principles. I have to say that I like the changes. They have really made the create task more clear and added some specific requirements that I think make the task more rigorous. . I’m happy about dropping the explore task as a digital portfolio part of the exam. The link on the session name at the start of the paragraph is to their presentation deck. I saved a copy for potential mixing and definitely for my own review.

That’s the session wrap up from me. I’ll have more thoughts specifically about how the online conference experience was for me in a day or so. And of course I will be blogging about tomorrow’s sessions tomorrow.

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