College of St. Scholastica faculty and staff host Counselors for Computing Training

Attendees and facilitators for C4C CS@CSS event
Attendees and facilitators for C4C CS@CSS event

Duluth, MN. July 28 – August 1, 2018– Counselors from across the United States participated in the CS@CSS event at the College of St. Scholastica, a professional development opportunity provided by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Counselors for Computing (C4C) program. Faculty (Jennifer Rosato and Tom Gibbon) and staff (Cassandra Broneak) at the College of St. Scholastica helped to organize this learning opportunity and supported those who were in attendance. This C4C training provided school counselors with information and resources they can use to support all students as they explore computer science (CS) education and careers.

Focus was placed on training the high school counselors to learn the importance of increasing CS access and opportunities for underrepresented students. Technology increasingly permeates every aspect of society and provides the foundation for most modern innovation, yet too few students are pursuing computing education or careers. If they are to get the exposure and encouragement they need, it is essential that counselors get up to speed on the knowledge and resources necessary to guide effectively. (www.ncwit.org/thefactsgirls.)

About NCWIT

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a non-profit community of more than 1,100 universities, companies, non-profits, and government organizations nationwide working to increase girls’ and women’s meaningful participation in computing. NCWIT equips change leaders with resources for taking action in recruiting, retaining, and advancing women from K–12 and higher education through industry and entrepreneurial careers. Find out more at www.ncwit.org/.

About the College of St. Scholastica

The College of St. Scholastica is an independent private college with locations across Minnesota, including the original campus in Duluth. Enrollment in the undergraduate and graduate programs has grown from 2,200 to 4,000 in the last decade, due, in part, to their commitment to making high-quality education available online and through convenient evening and weekend formats. The College of St. Scholastica hosts important CS education grants such as Mobile Computer Science Principles (CSP), a College Board AP CSP endorsed curriculum and professional development provider, and the TeachCS@CSS program. Approved in spring of 2018, the College of St. Scholastica will also be home to a new Center for Computing which will focus on expanding CS opportunities for students from all backgrounds and experience levels.

Check-out these teachers’ work in Mobile CSP

Mobile CSP knows that without the commitment, support, and hard work of teachers, students from all backgrounds and experience levels would not have access to computer science. Currently, 981 users are registered for the Mobile CSP teacher materials site and 13,172 people are registered on our student materials site (includes both teachers and students).  As our program and the mission of CS for All grows, we would like to honor the work of computer science teachers. To acknowledge their dedication in the classroom, the experiences and stories of a few select teachers who are currently implementing the Mobile CSP curriculum are shared below.

Are you or someone you know currently implementing the Mobile CSP curriculum? Are your students making great strides in the Mobile CSP course?

Would you like to share your professional development experience, teaching insights, or the apps your students have created? Complete a Teacher Feature today!


Teaching this course has lit a fire in me again.

Cindy Moshman-Southworth, who completed the online professional development in the summer of 2017,  is currently teaching the Mobile CSP curriculum at Patchogue-Medford High School in New York. She describes the course as fun and interactive, “(Mobile CSP) lit a fire in me again. I’ve been teaching CS for 19 years now. It made me happy to be here again.” Her students have enjoyed creating real mobile apps and sharing their experiences outside of the classroom. Cindy stated she would recommend the professional development to any teacher: “The PD was hard but it really made a big difference in my confidence and helped me to effectively teach the course. The practices and tactics learned in the professional development are really helpful even in the other classes I teach. I use the practices Mobile CSP uses to develop and improve. I’ve learned so much.” She stated that her Master Teacher, Lukas Gill, has been supportive and helpful throughout her experience.

Read Cindy’s full testimonial here.


Teamwork approach encourages students to succeed.

After completing the summer 2017 online professional development, Brad Haugen has brought the Mobile CSP curriculum to students at Fairmont Junior and Senior High School in Minnesota. His students have enjoyed the project-based learning nature of the course and have enjoyed the creative freedom the course offers: “They enjoy the challenge of not just finding the answer but being able to go through the programming steps and learning how to create apps in a different, fun way.” Brad stated that the word of mouth among is students is amazing and students are excited to share their experiences with others. We asked Brad to share his insights and advice with teachers who may be considering implementing Mobile CSP. He stated, “You do not have to be a master at computer programming. Everyone can and will learn how to teach this course effectively. The summer professional development allowed me to make mistakes. It’s important to learn how to make mistakes in front of students. You learn how to work through problems with students and it builds a teamwork approach in the classroom. You may not have all of the answers and it’s ok to let your student know that. It has empowered me as an educator and my students as learners.” Brad has been selected to work with the Mobile CSP curriculum development team for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Read Brad’s full testimonial here.


Inspiring students to pursue careers and futures in working with computer science.

Abigail Cooksey currently teaches at Shiprock High School in New Mexico. Abigail completed the summer 2017 online professional development and was chosen as a recipient for the NCWIT Educator Award. Her students received 4 Regional Runner Ups, 2 Regional Winners, and 1 National Runner up for NCWIT. She learned about Mobile CSP from the Teach For America Exploring Computer Science fellowship. She stated that she appreciates that “Mobile CSP can be customized to students.” Abigail teaches in a rural school district and has acknowledged the challenges that her students face in and out of the classroom. “It’s important to me that all of my students are included and have opportunities to learn. This course includes all students even those who may not have internet at home.” Abigail spoke to how the unplugged lessons and the opportunities for pair programming are teaching students valuable programming lessons while also accommodating their situations. She also acknowledged how having students work on their cell phones has created higher levels of engagement and accessibility in her classroom. “If you’re a teacher working a a rural area you need to have a back up plan to teach computer science. With Mobile CSP, what you need is already there. It’s easy to create programs where you sit students in front of a computer but Mobile CSP gives you the option to customize the course to your school and classroom.” Abigail is making wonderful strides in including all students regardless of background or previous experience. “When it comes to working with women I think of my own experience and how I left a math degree because I didn’t feel included. My goal, and the goal of all computer science, should focus on showing women that we can and have been doing this for a long time. We need to prepare them to be aware of what they’ll face and empower them to have the skills the create their own space even if one doesn’t exist yet.” Continue reading “Check-out these teachers’ work in Mobile CSP”

App Inventor is a Good Programming Language for Learners

In a recent blog post in the Communications of the ACM Mark Guzdial identified Five Principles for Programming Languages for Learners.    In a nutshell, the five principles suggest that a good programming language for learners should be low threshold, high ceiling,  a phrase coined by Seymour Papert, the creator of the Logo programming language, a language that Mark recognizes as a good model of the five principles.

How well does App Inventor, Mobile CSP ‘s programming language,  do in satisfying Mark’s principles?

1. Connect to what learner’s know.   Today’s high school and college students practically live on their smart phones.  The Mobile CSP course tries to meet them where they live and help them transition from users of mobile technology to creators of real mobile apps.  This is part of the low threshold. 
2. Keep cognitive load low.  As Mark acknowledges, blocks-based languages do “a terrific job of lowering cognitive load.”  App Inventor is an excellent example of this.  App Inventor’s components and blocks (its programming tools) are powerful abstractions that meet students at a level where they can immediately begin creating their own apps. Students are able to create a mobile app from scratch and run it on their mobile device on their first day of programming.   So here too App Inventor presents a low threshold for entry into a learning experience.
3. Be honest.  In App Inventor and in the Mobile CSP course, students are building real appsStudents are encouraged (well, required really) to create apps that benefit their friends, families and communities.  Currently App Inventor apps run only on Android devices, but we expect that to change soon.  The 2018 edition of the Mobile CSP course expects to support both Android and iPhone programming in App Inventor.  This is part of the high ceiling.
4. Be generative and productive.  A good language for learning to program must enable the learner to generate new ideas and be productive in exploring new domains.  In the Mobile CSP course we are trying to promote computer science for all.  We don’t expect all students to become professional software developers.  They should be able to apply their new knowledge and skills to explore their interests.  And this is what we see in the Mobile CSP course:  students’ final creative projects span a broad range of interests in art, psychology, science, math, education or other domains.  This too is part of the high ceiling  — there is no limit on what students can achieve.
5. Test don’t trust.   The idea here is to see what works.   Our experience has shown that students  and teachers respond positively to App Inventor.  For example, in an analysis of our pre- and post-surveys from the 2016 course, 85% of students reported that they enjoyed programming and getting their apps to work.
I think it’s pretty clear that App Inventor satisfies Mark’s criteria as a good programming language for learners.  But this is not surprising given its genesis.   App Inventor was created by Hal Abelson who worked with Seymour Papert in implementing and using Logo in education.  So, as described in this video, you can sort of see App Inventor as a Logo for the mobile age!