Archive for July, 2018

Garth does not have enough to do so PD here he comes

July 10, 2018

“It would seem about time a PD designed around problem solving, program troubleshooting, pedagogy, project based programming, what languages are good for teaching what, tech issues and so on was offered.”  I am diving in.  Montana does two week long PDs for entry level teachers, one using Mobile CSP (App Inventor) and another using The Joy and Beauty of Computing (Python).  These are funded by an NSF grant.  I need to figure this out.  I also do not want to reinvent the wheel.  If something like this has been done I will not be shy, I will plagiarize the ever-loving heck out of it.  If anyone knows of something that is presently offered please let me know.

Several years ago I started to build a CS Methods course with the intent of proposing it to my local university.  From what I hear from friends I know that work at my local university in the CS and Education departments the university’s senior people’s philosophy towards teacher CS education is closely related to “magic occurs” and denial.  So I have this initial brainstorm of ideas I started to build.  I think with a little hand waving and organization I can start to make a five-day PD with this material.

Originally I was thinking of a semester long course so I may have to rethink the depth of my original approach.  Just a bit.

Course goal – introduce prospective and experienced CS/programming teachers to the fundamentals of teaching CS/programming.  Share ideas among attendees.  Start a cohort of teachers to spread the gospel of how to teach CS.  Get things moving so Montana students can do more than play Fortnite on a computer.

Concepts to cover in course:

Why teach programming or CS?

Capturing kids interest – Robots, Games, Turtle graphics, iPod/Droid apps, micro:bit

Programming language review – pros/cons/good/bad/ugly – just what is out there – Python, Java, Alice, VB. Mindstorms Lego Robotics – NXT, RobotC, EV3, GameMaker, Scratch, Small Basic, MakeCode, ???

Free resources

Textbooks and tutorials

Language types

Line code – Small Basic

Drag and drop line code – Alice, App Inventor, MakeCode

Icon – Kudo

Fundamentals of programming




Types of errors

Installing software

Commenting and documentation

Top down/bottom up design

Naming conventions

Algebra vs programming syntax – x=x+1

Grading rubrics

Assignment goals

Parson’s projects

Sub goal labeling

What I need now are suggestions.  I also need to start looking for sources/references that will give credence to these ideas so people know they are not just ideas I pull out of thin air.


A week of PD again: not what I want but the only show to be had

July 4, 2018

I spent last week in Butte MT at a Mobile CSP teacher training/PD.  MCSP uses App Inventor as the language.  I like and dislike App Inventor.  I really like the fact kids can easily get an Android app on their phone that actually works.  Super cool.  I am not so crazy about the drag-and-drop format of the language.  It is great initially for small programs but it hits a wall pretty quickly.  I really wish there was a line code mode like MakeCode.  I cannot squawk to much, the price is in my budget range.

My biggest gripe about the week long PD was that it was a how to program and how to use the MCSP curriculum, not a how to teach problem solving, nothing on program troubleshooting, no pedogical ideas, none of the real classroom teacher needs.  There were two groups in attendance, beginning CS teachers, mostly business teachers which are the largest group in the state of Montana that are certified to teach CS courses, and one out of the twenty who were experience CS teachers (me).  (For further reading on this gripe see and  I knew what I was attending, this is the same group I was with last summer for a week long Python PD.  I attended knowing ahead of time what the theme was going to be.  But I always hope.  The best thing I get out of these is the networking with other teachers.  Admittedly I am by far the most experienced in the classroom but that does not mean there are not some excellent teachers in the group and some excellent ideas in the room.

It would seem about time a PD designed around problem solving, program troubleshooting, pedagogy, project based programming, what languages are good for teaching what, tech issues and so on was offered.  Admittedly I do not know where the instructors or the money for this would come from but it is time to start working this out.  The course for the last two summers were funded by an NSF grant.  A pretty big grant because it paid the attendees $1000 for the week and paid for rooms and per diem.  I need to figure out this NSF grant thing.  I also need to research and write up a course (maybe just plagiarize the heck out of Doug Bergman’s “Computer Science K-12”.  It is way up in Montana, who would know?).  Since next school year I am teaching 6 preps and doing the IT thing this may take a while.

It was very interesting talking to the teachers and their relationship with their IT departments.  Two of us were from private schools.  No problems there, I am my school’s IT department and the other was a school even smaller than mine so the IT was very informal.  The public school CS teachers all seemed to be in a state of war with their IT departments.  Any requests are automatic “No”.  One teacher was not allowed to use Raspberry Pi (What is the plural of Pi?  Pis?  Pies?  Something new to ponder.) because the IT director did not know what they were.  Using YouTube is a major hassle.  I know of at least three ways to make select YouTube videos available to teachers.  It seems their IT departments could not be bothered to find a solution.  I do not understand this.  Public schools seem to be terrorized by the possibility little Johnny might use a school computer to do something bad that they have reached the point where little Johnny has trouble doing anything on a school computer.  I mentioned to one teacher how I get laptops donated from businesses and just give them to the kids to keep.  The idea seemed totally out there to them.  Public school is just getting weird.