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Teaching CS Principles with App Inventor


Teaching CS Principles with App Inventor ACMSE 2012 Tuscaloosa, AL - March 29, 2012 Jeff Gray, Ph.D. - Associate Professor University of Alabama Department of ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Teaching CS Principles with App Inventor

Teaching CS Principles with App Inventor
ACMSE 2012 Tuscaloosa, AL - March 29, 2012
  • Jeff Gray, Ph.D. - Associate Professor
  • University of Alabama
  • Department of Computer Science
  • gray_at_cs.ua.edu
  • http//www.cs.ua.edu/gray

  • General Introduction
  • CS Principles Discussion -240-330
  • App Inventor Introduction - 330pm-420pm
  • Break - 420pm-440pm
  • App Inventor and CS Education Panel
  • 440pm-530pm

Quick Poll
  • How many
  • faculty in higher ed?
  • students (ugrads, grads)?
  • K-12 educators?
  • have heard of CS Principles in detail?
  • have used App Inventor?
  • have plans to introduce a CS Principles course
    at your school (either K-12 or higher ed)?
  • are members of CSTA?
  • are submitting a CE21 grant this April?

CS Principles Overview
Demand for Computer Science Grads
Demand for Computer Science Grads
  • National Job Outlook
  • According to the National Association of Colleges
    and Employers (NACE)
  • 64,210 is the average starting salary for
    computer science degrees in the class of 2011
    (among highest starting salaries) 3.7 increase
    over 2010 offers
  • Computer Science tops list of best major for jobs
    with the highest number of job offers per major
    (2.8 job offers per major!)
  • A Why Study Computer Science set of outreach
    slides with additional information like this is
    available at
  • http//www.cs.ua.edu/gray/outreach/why-cs-talk/wh

Local Success vs National Disaster
  • From Chris Stephenson, CSTA President
  • In the last few years the commitment to improving
    computer science education has resulted in
    pockets of excellence
  • New tools (Alice, Scratch, Kodu, App Inventor, )
  • New Curricula (Exploring Computer Science, Media
  • New ways of thinking about equity and engagement
  • But in reality, AP is the only program that has
    national reach, support, and consequence (and
    sometimes state funding)
  • If we are going to achieve a true renaissance in
    CS education in K-12 we need to make both
    curriculum and policy changes at the state and
    national level

The Harsh RealitiesChris Stephenson, CSTA
  • Unless we increase the number of students taking
    high school CS, our enrollments will continue to
    languish at the post-secondary level (dont let
    the recent bump fill you with false hope)
  • States are increasing the number of math and
    science credits students must have in order to
    graduate, reducing the chances that students
    can/will take elective courses such as computer
  • In states where CS is part of Career and
    Technical Education, there are pressing
    certification questions.

Challenges with Current CS AP
  • One of College Boards lowest participating exam
  • Very much a Programming-centered course, with
    much content covering syntax and semantics of a
    specific language (Java)
  • Deep and less broad
  • Full range of impact of computing could be
    missed, as well as exciting contexts to motivate
  • Many in-service teachers lack content knowledge
    to teach current AP exam

Current State of AP Coverage
  • Number of schools passing AP CS Audit

State Number of Schools
Alabama Less than 8 (out of gt 460)
Tennessee 16
South Carolina 18
North Carolina 28
Florida 69
Georgia 78
New Jersey 133
California 165
Texas 271
Current State of AP Two-state comparison
  • Alabama population, ages 15-18 220k
  • Over 3700 students took AP US History
  • Nearly 120 took the AP Latin exam
  • Alabama has over 4 times the national average
    of African American students participating

The Importance of the Principles Effort
  • From Chris Stephenson, CSTA President
  • There is no better time than now, and to fail in
    this commitment is to fail permanently as a
    discipline in the K-12 system
  • As a community, we too often begin at what is
    wrong and tear down, rather than figure out what
    is right and build up
  • The recent bump in enrollments at some
    colleges/universities is more than balanced by
    the closing of programs at others and this is no
    time to cut back on our efforts

What you can do.
  • Consider attestation form
  • http//www.collegeboard.com/html/computerscience/i
  • Chris Stephenson, CSTA President
  • We need a concerted and genuine commitment from
    all educators (K-16), all organizations, and all
    corporations to support the new CS Principles
    course and to work together to help get teachers
    ready with workshops, resources, standards,

Initial Attestation CoverageFrom Amy Briggs,
Middlebury College
The Two Rounds of Pilots
  • Pilot I had 5 universities and 5 high schools
  • Pilot II currently has 10 universities and 10
    high schools, shown below

The CS Principles Curriculum Framework
  • CS Principles groups content ideas (Big Ideas)
    with various skillsets (CT practices)
  • The current Pilots participate in deep evaluation
    of content coverage and skillset development from
    weekly assessments
  • Students evaluated several times throughout

Source for CS Principles Figures Amy Briggs
CS Principles Big Ideas
  • Creativity
  • Computer science enables creative expression of
    innovative ideas
  • Abstraction
  • Abstraction is a key problem solving and
    organization concept need to provide scale to
    complex solutions

CS Principles Big Ideas
  • Data
  • Students need to understand the growing trend of
    Big Data and what that means to their daily
    lives great context for introducing data mining
  • Algorithms
  • Algorithms are the foundation for expressing a
    computational solution

CS Principles Big Ideas
  • Programming
  • Programming is the skill that gives a voice to
    expressing a computational problem
  • Internet
  • Students should develop an understanding of
    under the hood concepts that they take for
    granted every day

CS Principles Big Ideas
  • Impact
  • Computer scientists do more than set behind
    cubes our solutions foster the worlds economies
    and bring value to all areas of life
  • University of Washington videos

Opportunities for Impact
  • the software industry is going to make more
    breakthroughs in these next 10 years than it's
    made in the last 30 software is really going to
    transform not just what we think about as the
    computer industry, but the way that everything is

Quantum computing
Transforming all fields of science and engineering
Re-architecting the Internet
Prosthetics / augmentation / access
Harnessing parallelism
Transforming the nations defense
Impact Software is Everywhere
  • 98 of all microprocessors control devices other
    than desktop computers
  • Automobiles, airplanes, televisions, copiers,
  • These devices also need software and often
    require strong technical skills to develop

Coverage of Big Ideas in Pilot 1
  • Pilot 1 coverage (from Amy Briggs)
  • Pilot II data still being collected

Computational Thinking Practices
  • http//www.ctillustrated.com/
  • Connecting computing
  • Developing computational artifacts
  • Abstracting
  • Analyzing problems and artifacts
  • Communicating
  • Working in a team

Future College Board SupportLien Diaz, College
Summary of Alabama Principles Course
  • Split between BYOB (Snap!) and App Inventor
  • Some CS Unplugged Mixed In
  • Readings
  • Books Hals Blown to Bits, Wolber et al. App
    Inventor book
  • Papers Wings Computational Thinking, Kramers
    Is Abstraction the Key to Computing?
  • Grades
  • Six individual assignments (two short essays)
  • Two team projects (presentation, implementation)
  • Three exams and 7 very short quizzes

Sample Projects
  • Homework Examples
  • Hangman App
  • Essays Reflective essay on student major and CS
    research and analyze a computer simulation model
  • Team Projects
  • BYOB
  • Almost all were game variations (Example)
  • App Inventor
  • Rendezvous planner
  • Tornado damage assessment app for Civil Engineers
  • Textbook buying broker

A Look at Our Syllabus.
Collaboration with High School Peer
  • Bill Cowles, Booker T. Washington HS
  • Montgomery, AL
  • Almost exactly a 2 hour drive from Tuscaloosa
  • Shared syllabus, homework ideas, various lectures
  • Restriction on meeting times
  • Visit and talk to Bills class
  • Initial planning during CS4HS summer workshop in
  • Weekend AP training session
  • Bi-weekly email

Things that we felt were a success
  • Creativity Soared
  • Team Projects Highly Collaborative
  • Diversity
  • 17 different majors across 29 students (first
  • Broad interest from Freshman to Seniors
  • 13 of 29 students were women or males from
    underrepresented populations
  • Sustainability
  • Strong interest on campus to offer again in Fall
  • High School teachers in Alabama want help in
    pursuing an early adopter Pilot for 2012-2013

Things that did not work so well
  • Rushed to cover all CS Principles topics in a
    3-hour course
  • Recruiting issues (temporary)
  • Big Data idea never finalized(but almost ready)
  • Four students dropped the course before midterm
  • Some team project ideas were unrealistic
  • 1 case of cheating
  • Tendency to revert to programming

Future Principles Challenges
  • Common exam across multiple teaching approaches
    (Scratch, Alice, JavaScript)
  • Reaching the goal of 10k teachers who can cover
    the content of this material
  • Building the pathway from K-12 to higher ed
    course mappings (perhaps not so hard)

Our own Future Effort at UA.
  • Connection from App Inventor -gt Java Bridge -gt
    Standard Android SDK in Java
  • Through collaboration with A College Ready, we
    are proposing an idea that will train 50 new
    teachers to introduce CS Principles over the next
    three years (leading up to the first expected
    offering of the course)
  • Several in the audience have already committed
    interest to this
  • The new CS104 course will be a stable offering
    each Fall at UA
  • Potential to serve in-service education students

For More Info
  • CS Principles Site
  • http//www.csprinciples.org/
  • Links to past Pilots
  • College Board Site
  • http//www.collegeboard.com/html/computerscience/i
  • Upcoming issue of Inroads on CS Principles
  • I am happy to share results from our Alabama
    Pilot (syllabus, exams, projects)

Questions on CS Principles?
  • Please note, I cannot speak for the College Board
    or the CS Principles PIs, but glad to share
    ideas from my own experiences in teaching the
    2011-2012 Pilot

App Inventor Introduction
Observation Teaching CS 1980s style
  • Typical example was text-based, trivial, and

Motivation New and Exciting Contexts
  • Media Computation
  • Programming in a more exciting context by
    manipulating multimedia artifacts
  • Robots
  • Lego NXT
  • 2D/3D Animation Environments
  • Alice, Scratch, AgentSheets

Motivation Newest Context
  • Teen smartphone penetration around 621
  • Novel ways to engage through the creative hook
    and tinkering
  • I wish I had an app for that
  • Social networking and crowd sourcing a daily
    activity among teens
  • Increasing adoption of smartphones in science and
    medical applications

App Inventor Overview
  • Purpose
  • Teaching
  • Prototyping
  • Components of App Inventor
  • Designer
  • GUI builder
  • Block Editor
  • Provide behavior behind the GUI
  • Based on MIT OpenBlocks and Scratch

App Inventor Overview
  • 2007 Open Blocks Java Library developed as
    Masters thesis of Ricarose Roque at MIT
  • Hal Abelson becomes visiting faculty member at
  • 2009 App Inventor Pilot begins in 2009
  • 2011 Google closes Google Labs
  • 2011 MIT announces new Center for Mobile
  • February 2012 New App Inventor server available
    at MIT

App Inventor Overview
  • Provides a WYSIWYG editor for designing the
    visual parts of the app
  • Also provides ability to attach non-visual

Blocks Editor
  • Provides an ability to give behavior to an app
    the programming part
  • Typical and expected basic predefined constructs
    (logic, conditionals, iteration)
  • Ability to refer to the components and their
    properties from the Designer
  • Very similar to Scratch
  • Built on Open Blocks library from MIT

For more info
  • MIT Center for Mobile Learning main site
  • http//appinventor.mit.edu/
  • Educators Site
  • Links to many Google Newsgroups
  • Dave Wolbers App Inventor Site
  • http//www.appinventor.org/
  • The App Inventor Repository
  • http//www.tair.info/
  • Three quality books on the topic

App Inventor Live Demo
  • Traditional Blocks Language
  • Overview of environment
  • Hands-on app building
  • Samples from CS Principles Course
  • Fusion tables, stock ticker lookup, mole mash,
  • Quick Overview of App Inventor Java Bridge
  • Provides a Java .jar file for accessing the App
    Inventor components and writing Java apps in
    Eclipse (much easier than standard Android SDK)
  • UA student Chris Hodapp extending work initiated
    by Josh Swank to provide a translator from Blocks
    to Java

App Inventor and CS Education Panel
  • A virtual panel with leading CS Educators
  • Hal Abelson MIT
  • Dave Wolber University of San Francisco
  • Michelle Friend Stanford University
  • A Google Hangout will begin at 440pm CST
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