Teaching introductory Computer Science through programming physical hardware, such as the Arduino, can be a powerful way to engage students by making intangible and abstract code something you can touch and feel. For many students, maybe even most, a simple blinking light is a far more real first success than the traditional “Hello, world.” Despite the demonstrated power of physical computing, it’s traditionally been too percieved as too difficult for many CS teachers to bring into their classroom, especially those new to the discipline.
When Code.org set out to design a new CS course for Middle School, it was important for me to find a way to bring the power of physical to the teachers and students within our reach. Writing a CS curriculum that operates at a national scale, particularly one with a focus on new-to-CS teachers, brings with it many design challenges and constraints. Adding hardware to the course only compounded those challenges. In this talk I’ll give an overview of how we approached designing a tool to remove barriers to entry, both for teachers and students. We’re still observing how these design choices are landing in classrooms, but the early reports and overwhelmingly validating the choices we’ve made, while illuminating lots of potential improvements to be made down the road
Josh Caldwell is the K-12 Curriculum Lead at Code.org, where he designs Computer Science curriculum and helps to develop new CS teachers across the country. In addition to writing currciulum across the K-12 pathway, Josh works to indentify the unique needs of CS students at different grade levels in order to better guide both the curriculum instructional tools at Code.org so that they provide a more unified and seamless experience for teachers and students at all grade levels. Prior to Code.org, Josh taught Junior High English, Computer Science, and Robotics in the Seattle suburbs. His also the author of the upcoming book Creative Coding: Lessons and Strategies to Integrate Computer Science Across the 6-8 Curriculum.