AP Explore Task

Most of February was spent on the AP Explore Task.

The survival guide from code.org was incredibly helpful.

I broke the guide into chunks. We invested a full class period into rapid researching topic ideas. It was tricky to figure out how to be helpful with out giving direct support.

We built a calendar as a class with a goal for each of the class periods towards completing the Explore Task.

Occasionally, I printed a sample response and rubric, assigned students to work in pairs and score the response. Then we would review the corresponding scoring notes, then students would go back to working on their explore task. It was helpful for students to see sample work from others, particularly the artifacts.

After about 3 weeks, students uploaded their tasks and artifacts to the college board’s digital portfolio.

Based on my own scoring of my student’s responses work, here is what I found:

  • Row 1: Artifact – 86% turned in an acceptable artifact.
  • Row 2: Response 2A – 71% earned the point for stating a fact about the innovation’s purpose or function.
  • Row 3: Response 2C  – 100% of the students correctly identified one effect of the innovation. I think this may because we started here when selecting an innovation.
  • Row 4: Response 2C  – 86% identified a harmful and beneficial effect of their innovation.
  • Row 5: Response 2C  – Only 29% of students explained how one of the effects relates to society economy or culture.
  • Row 6: Response 2D – Only 43% identified and explained data the selected innovation uses and how it is consumed.
  • Row 7: Response 2D – 71% of the submissions identified a storage, data or privacy concern.
  • Row 8: Response 2E – Only 29% of students cited 3 different sourced through in text citations, with 2 being in the past school year.

Some of these results are incredibly frustrating, since we have explicitly worked on each of these components in different lessons last semester, and they are so clear in the rubric. I wanted to document student’s work here so that I have easy access to this information as I plan how to improve my instruction next school year. Maybe it could help someone else too.

Unit 5: Building Apps

While working through unit 4, I assigned unit 5 as homework – one lesson per week. The class completed unit lessons 1 and 2, then I made time in class for students to discuss and peer evaluate lesson 3 where they make a multi-screen app.

This week students are working on unit 5 lesson 4 as homework while they being to work on their AP Explore task during class time.

Here are a few of the apps students created:




Unit 4: lessons 1 through 5

I am doing the best I can to achieve the goals of units 4 and 5 while still having enough time to allow students to begin the AP Explore task in a few weeks.

On Friday, January 5th, we completed unit 4 lessons 1 and 3 combined into one 80 minute class period last week: This went well and I would do it again. We began by watching a big data TED talk and then discussing Moore’s Law. After this I assigned pairs to investigate a website that uses big data and then each group briefly presented their site to the class, critiquing the site and its use of big data. Next, all of the students went to  World’s Biggest Data Breaches Visualization and we discussed their findings regarding data breaches. Students then researched themselves online and we discussed their publicly available information. Many students did not have much of an online presence, so they also investigated me online and enjoyed trying to see what they could find out about their teacher. Class ended with a quick discussion about big data and privacy.

Monday, January 8th we reviewed the College Board – Assessment Overview and Performance Task Directions for Students, discussing the explore task and its requirements. I followed this discussion with the rapid research one pager on a innovation that uses big data from unit 4 lesson 2. We had a great discussion comparing and contrasting the requirements of this task with the requirements of the Explore PT which I think fit well in this lesson.

Wednesday, January 10th Students completed lesson 4 and had time to work on their homework for the week which was unit 5 lesson 1.

Friday, January 12th was a 40 minute period, but we had a great time with unit 4 lesson 5: Simple Encryption. I opened the class with a short message written on the whiteboard using a simple Caesar cipher and challenged the students to decode the message before they could get out their laptops. It led to productive discussion around encryption and Caesar ciphers and eventually everyone was able to figure it out. I then has students play with the classic and substitution cipher widgets, and then create their own message and post their encrypted message in google classroom. Next students had try try to decode each others messages. They had fun and were able to understand Caesar cipher and random substitution ciphers. We ended with a discussion on why encryption is an important need for everyday life on the internet and the weaknesses and security flaws of substitution ciphers.


So much for 180 daily posts!

Whelp. It looks like my last post was just before Thanksgiving break, so here is how we used the time between Thanksgiving break and the semester break, which was only a few weeks since our holiday break began 12/15 this year:

I assigned unit 3, lessons 1 through 8 as homework assignments while we worked through unit 2 in class. After Thanksgiving break, we spent a few days finishing up unit 3 lessons 8 and 9. Then I assigned groups on two or three students, and students completed lesson 10: a practice performance task as their final projects.

Here is an example of a program one team created. The task was just to create an image where they collaborate to make a plan and each team member contributes something. This team decided to use random number generators and a nested for-loop to locate the stars, so each time the program loads, the stars are in different locations.

I am now planning the pacing for next semester. I am in awe of how much time is required for students to spend on the AP Create and Explore tasks. When I calculated the minutes required as dictated by the College Board, the Explore task requires about 3 weeks and the create task requires about 4 weeks. I doubt my students will use all of this time in class to complete these tasks. I was considering assigning unit 5 as homework during the period that students are working on these tasks in class so that they continue to learn.

Unit 2 chapter 2: Data visualizations

Today I completely used all of Daniel Schneider’s Data science Part 1 lesson. We had a lot of fun and critiqued bad data visualizations, then downloaded a data set and manipulated spreadsheets in excel. As per Daniel’s recommendation, I decided to try using padlet with this class for them to share their data visualizations.

Students completed the task of creating a data visualization from a spreadsheet of data and they had to interpret the data. I told them they could also add (appropriate) fun content. CaptureCapture

quick catch up post

My last post consisted of a pacing plan that I did not follow. Here is what we did:

In the past two weeks, We finished unit 2, chapter 1 and the students had about a week to complete their first mock AP task (while I had a substitute).

I have not finished digging into scoring their work, but from a first glance, I need to help them understand in-text citations, possible keywords to include, and have a discussion on computational artifacts. Capture

Hexter 3 pacing: Wrapping up units 2 & 3

We have been bouncing between code.org’s AP CSP curriculum units 2 and 3. I feel a little unorganized and need to think about how to wrap up the semester.

I have a lot of days with subs coming up due to presenting at conferences and other commitments.

It’s early on a Sunday morning and I just made awesome pumpkin spice latte’s with real pumpkins (grown in my yard) and spices. As my mind was running, I sketched out this plan. I don’t want to loose it, so I am putting it here:

2017-10-29 08.45.33

Unit 3 Lesson 8: Creating functions with Parameters

This was the last day of hexter 2, and we only had a 40 minute period. I considered working on Unit 2, lesson 4 (Encoding color images) but the lesson looked like it would be better during a longer class period. Instead I decided to check in with their progress in unit 3, which has been assigned as homework. We worked as a class on lesson 8, watching the video and working to ensure everyone understands how functions and parameters work. There was not enough time to complete all of the programs in the lesson.

Unit 2 lesson 3: Compressing B&W

This was fun! I had them work on this lesson individually. Many students decided to google binary code to create and edit advanced images, which I allowed as it served the same purpose as creating an image from scratch and they were very engaged in the lesson. This lesson only took about an hour. Since I am assigning unit 3 tasks as homework assignments, I used the remaining time to answer student questions and allow them to continue to progress on the unit 3 lessons.

Unit 3: Programming!

It is Friday, the 13th! We have a wacky schedule for the next few weeks, with conferences on Thursday and Friday next week and the end of the hexter (no regular classes) Thursday and Friday the following week.

Since we have 40 min periods on Fridays, I decided to have the students begin programming, but my plan is that they will do most of the programming as homework assignments and we will go back to working on unit 2 in class. I may make our Friday shorter periods homework (unit 3) help time if they struggle with their programs. My goal is to be through unit 4 by the end of the semester, allowing plenty of time to work on the AP exam preparation next semester.

2017-10-13 15.13.32

Unit 3 Lesson 1

I am not progressing in order anymore. I plan to start unit 3 and then assign some of this unit as homework while we continue to work through unit 2.

I followed the lego activity using unifix cubes.

Students worked in pairs and wrote descriptions of their cube arrangement, then we rotated descriptions and each pair tried to construct their peers cube arrangement. Every single group was unsuccessful, so we decided to return the descriptions to the original groups for them to improve their written descriptions. This time a few groups had success.

We followed with a discussion and then they answered the bubble questions.

It only took about 60 minutes. Next year, I should plan to teach lessons 1 and 2 in one block period.

Unit 1 Chapter 2 test

Today I randomly assigned small groups of 2’s and 3’s. Students worked in their groups to complete the Unit 1 Chapter 2 assessment. They all earned a passing score, but nobody got 100%.

After this, I uploaded the Unit 2 Lesson 1 Activity Guide to google classroom and students each completed the sheet, helping each other though the process. Some of these questions and student discoveries lead to productive conversations as they discovered information about data.

Starting next class, I plan to jump over to chapter 3 and work through lessons 1-3 during class time, then assign chapter 3 lessons 4+ as homework assignments while we work on chapter 2 during class time.   I may end up reserving Friday’s as homework help time. It should be interesting.

Lesson 13: HTTP

Today was a 40 minute class. We started by discussing the included resource, which I made into a foldable that students taped in their notes, then we watched the video connecting all of the things we have learned recently (DNS, IP, TCP,…). Next students logged in to their laptops and explored the traffic on a variety of types of sites.

I forgot to take a pic!

Day 12: Lesson 10 Routers & Redundancy

Half the class was absent on a field trip, and it was tough to complete the lesson on redundancy and routers with only 5 individuals. We made it work by having students meet on different routers and have conversations, and then eventually look at the log browser to notice redundancies and dropped messages. We had a productive conversation about internet security. This lesson only took about 45 minutes with such a small group.

2017-09-11 14.46.45



Day 11: Unit 2, Wrapping up lessons 8 & 9

It is Friday, and we only had 40 minutes today. I wanted to wrap up internet addressing, because I felt like I left a few gaps.

We started with a think pair share where students wrote in their notes how they thought the internet works, then as a class we tried to build a more complete list.

2017-09-08 15.51.38 Then we watched the video on The Internet: IP addresses and DNS  and completed the questions from the activity guide.


Day 8: Unit 1, Chapter 1 Assessment

I ran out of plan time before this class, but it went ok anyway. Next time I should remember to administer this assessment during one of our shorter periods, not on a block day.

I began by allowing learners access to the assessment and they completed the assessment individually. After about 20 minutes, everyone was finished. Then I randomly assigned partners and allowed each pair to debate the correct solution to each question and change their answers as appropriate.

The discussions that followed were incredibly productive. I was giddy listening to them construct viable arguments and respectfully critiques each other’s reasoning.

Day 7: Encoding and Sending Formatted Text


I pretty much followed the lesson described in the curriculum.

It took a few attempts at an explanation to help learners to understand the objective of the activity. I need to be sure to explain this better next year.

The warm up: Develop your own system to convert from text to binary


The activity: Send a formatted message

After this, I discussed the upcoming unit test, grading for the class and allowed time for learners to complete the bubble questions.

Grading AP Computer Science Principles

It occurred to me that I am going to have to get a grade book set up for this class, now that it is 2 weeks into the school year. I have to use a district mandated grade book (Infinite Campus), but I have freedom in how I structure the grading for the class. I decided to start by finding out what other teachers do:


Matt Owen shared his criteria:


and Kyle Dencker shared his syllabus:


This is one of the reasons I love twitter!

I also hunted down Daniel Schneider’s syllabus that he posted on his 180 Tumblr page to see how he plans on grading AP CSP:


I like Kyle’s idea of changing the grading structure as the school year progresses towards the AP exam. I think I will will focus on the first semester only right now, with the idea that it could be different next semester.

I typically use standards based grading, but since I have so little experience with AP CSP, I think it makes more sense to consider this as an option for the future, and keep it very simple this year.

Here is what I think I will do for this semester only:

  • 40% Assessments
  • 40% Projects, programs and Practice performance tasks
  • 20% Assignments & bubble questions.
    • I really like this part of Bradley Ostrander’s syllabus, and plan to do the same:

*Bubbles are a series of formative free response and multiple choice questions embedded into the online curriculum. Students may go back and improve their responses at any time. They may then request an updated grade check for those specific questions.

I really don’t like grading. It seems unfair no matter how I structure it, but I also recognize that it is important in the development of a class culture. I have to start somewhere.

Day 6: Sending Numbers

It is Friday, so this was a 40 minute class period.

We began by converting a few numbers to and from binary. Then I asked what the biggest number is that we could make with 3 bits. There was awesome arguments and debate around how to figure this out.

I played the sending  numbers internet simulator description video while we waited for the computers to get started and for learners to log in.  They completed the activity successfully. Some learners had time to send and receive a 2nd image.

We closed the lesson by completing the reflection questions at the end of the lesson.


Day 5: Binary Numbers

We began with the “getting started” activity in Unit 1 lesson 5 . Then we related these symbols to 1’s and 0’s and discussed that given just 2 symbols and a system, we could make any number.

Next, we played with exploding dots in pairs using counting chips and big dry erase boards. I challenged the class to find a shortcut as converting numbers using a 2<–1 machine became increasingly tedious. With time and discussion, Learners were able to explain that each place doubles in value. After they could verbalize how binary works, I gave the the binary practice sheet from the activity so they could test and refine their assumptions.

While the class was still working on the practice sheet, I distributed the Flippy Do from the lesson and made this available as a resource. Most of the learners decided not to use it because they felt like they did not need it.

As a close they logged in to their code.org accounts and completed the reflection questions from lesson 5.

Day 4: Number Systems

Whelp, this was an interesting lesson. I followed the code.org lesson plan for unit 1 lesson 4, where learners did the warm up where they listed many ways to represent the number 7. Next, I presented the class with the challenge of listing all of the possible combinations of circles, triangles, and squares in groups of 2 and 3. Students worked at listing all of the possible permutations of the three symbols. We followed this with a brief discussion and each group explained how they determined the possible combinations.

The second challenge of this activity was to assign values to the symbols by creating a set of rules and then listing the symbols from smallest to largest. A few of the groups developed creative, logical systems.

One group developed a system that sparked a very heated discussion:2017-08-21 15.39.19This number system includes a “purity system” and a “classism system” where permutations containing symbols that are the same have a higher value. This system, developed a few weeks after Charlottesville, led to very heated debates about the assumptions underlying this system and whether or not it is acceptable. I did my best to facilitate a productive discussion both relating to individuals thoughts on the value of diversity and in the inherent hierarchy of a numerical system. The class thought we were off task and that I would become frustrated, but it was an important discussion and I found it completely worthwhile. I wish could have recorded it! It was awesome.

To close the lesson, learners responded to the prompt below on index cards:2017-08-21 16.06.28-12017-08-21 16.09.14

Day 3: Sending Binary Messages with the Internet Simulator

This was my favorite lesson yet! On Fridays, we have 45 minute class periods, so I skipped the binary signal test part of the lesson plan. It was such a great way to end my first week of the school year. I assigned pairs and allowed learners 3 minutes to try to figure out how it worked, then we had a short discussion and they were off working, on task for the rest of the period. I circulated giddily listening to their conversations. This time I used the Activity Guide, giving a copy to each learner to fill out turn in.  I think it helped them to direct their thinking.


Day 2: Sending Binary Messages


We began by finishing the rapid prototyping from last class. I distributed notebooks and we defined a few terms. Then learners worked in pairs to send messages of increasing complexity. For the last few minutes of class we all logged into studio.code.org and joined the class account. They answered the questions in the lesson as both a closure and a way for me to see what their work looks like from the teacher’s account.

We are up to 8 students in the class now!

Day 1: Rapid Prototyping

It is the first day of school and we only had 15 minute class periods. My class began with 6 students enrolled, but today I worked with the counselor and hopefully we will have more students added to the class soon.

Here is how I used our first 15 minutes of AP Computer Science Principles.

  1. I assigned two groups of 3 using Flippity’s random name picker and handed each lerner a few post its as they entered the room.
  2. The board had a question posted:  “What is something you know a lot about?” and teach learner wrote 1 idea per post it.
  3. I collected their interests after a few minutes, read them aloud as I stuck them to the dry erase boards.
  4. I gave each individual a copy of the Personal Innovations Activity Guide from the code.org curriculum and asked them to pick 4 that seemed interesting to them, then complete the other two columns for each of their selected interests.Capture


And that is all we had time for!

I encouraged them to be creative and not to get stuck too long on developing a perfect idea. Tomorrow they will pick one in small groups and make a fast prototype as a warm up activity. It was a good way to get to know the students interests and to get them thinking creatively on the first day of the year. Hopefully by the time class starts tomorrow I have many more learners enrolled in the class.