2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) invites you to submit a proposal to present at the 2018 CSTA Annual Conference. This event will be held July 7-10, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska.

The CSTA 2018 Program Committee seeks proposal submissions related to the practice of teaching and learning computer science and information technology in K-12. This year the conference is seeking 3 hour workshops; 1 hour sessions; 20 minute mini-sessions; and 1 hour Birds of a Feather sessions.

Proposal submission requires presenter and presentation information including a brief overview/abstract used to inform attendees about the session; as well as a PDF providing more detailed information about the session.

All proposals will be submitted through our online system; however,

 you may preview the application before starting your submission here.

Proposals may be started and updated between the opening and closing of the system. The deadline for proposals is midnight (Hawaiian time) on November 26, 2017. Review of proposals will occur shortly thereafter and notification of the program committee’s decisions will be made in December/January 2017.

All submissions will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • appropriateness and relevancy for professional development for K-12 computing;

  • feasibility of the proposal;

  • timeliness of the topic;

  • writing and presentation;

  • completeness of the submitted information; and

  • consideration for the breadth and balance of topics at the conference.

Successful proposers should expect to submit a draft copy of their presentation by June 1, 2018. Draft presentations will be posted on the website for attendee reference and note-taking. Some sessions may be selected for videotaping, which will be shared online post-conference. All workshops and sessions will be photographed. Workshop presenters will be given a list of registered attendees prior to the conference so that they may email them with any pre-workshop materials or downloads. All presenters are expected to register for the conference.

 I learned so much and am more motivated than ever to bring essential CS skills
to my students and to my colleagues.
Amazing conference with so many takeaways and ponderings.
I am leaving with specific strategies for our district,
and numerous contacts for help, as we move forward.
 It is a real live computer science conference. Loved it!
The resources…  Best Exhibit hall, great sessions…. it was just… timely

Additional conference details can be found here.

The deadline for proposals is midnight (Hawaiian time) on November 26, 2017.

Submit your proposal here.

We look forward to receiving your proposals and to your attendance at the conference.

The 2018 Annual Conference Planning Committee



Kids today have it so easy.

Back in my day, when we wanted a computer to solve a problem, we had to write a piece of code to make it happen.

Now, there’s an app for everything, it seems!

I had a great deja vu moment the other day.  I found this resource.

Prime Factorization Calculator

It’s based upon a simple premise.  Ask the user to enter a number, any number, and it will return all of the factors of the number that are prime numbers.

So, 11 should return just 11 since 11 is a prime itself.

And, 12 should return 2, 2, and 3.

Simple enough, right?

How about a number that’s not quite that solved mentally, like say 777.  That’s when it gets interesting and beyond the problem solving ability of mere mortals.

Screenshot 2017-10-04 at 07.05.27

Of course, you (as I did) will do a little mental mathematics to check this.  Or, perhaps you took the easy way out to check it with a calculator.

What particularly intrigued me was that this was a problem that I did in high school and later reused it in my own computer science classes.  It’s not a trivial problem for solution but there’s huge satisfaction when you get it to work.  I do recall a modification making it less open by indicating that the number input has to be equal to or less than 1000.

It also opens one of those teachable moments since 1 is not included.  Hey, isn’t 1 a prime number?  Great discussion ensued.

I still think that it’s a wonderful problem for students to design an algorithm and generate a computer solution.

For those students and others, there are all kinds of functionality at this resource.

Like they say, today there’s an app for darn near everything.

That’s nifty

I have to give a shout out to Alfred Thompson and his blog post from earlier this month.  He was sharing his thoughts about how to create problems for solution in the Computer Science classroom.

If you follow some of the simple stuff online, you might think that the goal is to get a robot to draw a square or something.  It’s an OK place to start but the study of Computer Science goes much deeper.

If you use a textbook in Computer Science (if you can find one that meshes nicely with your program, that is…), you’ll find that the problems offered don’t go that deeply into the discipline.  Consequently, Computer Science teachers are constantly looking for interesting and challenging problems to assign for student solution.  In many ways, it can be the ultimate in personalization as you search for things to match not only the curriculum you’re covering but that are engaging for students.  You know when you’ve hit a good one when students spend so much time coming up with elegant solutions and then are willing to discuss with you how they did it.

Alfred’s post was “Designing Projects for Programming Students“.  Embedded in the post was a link to the SIGCSE collection of “Nifty Assignments“.


Now, this won’t be your first selection for students starting to cut their teeth in Computer Science.  These are problems that are pretty meaty.  Even if they don’t lend themselves to creating a program, they’re a good start for some interesting work with Computational Thinking.

Here’s an nifty problem to start with – rated middle school and up.

For the Ontario ICS courses, you just might inspiration for using the problems “off the rack” or with modification for your needs.  The collection goes back to 1999 so there’s a great deal of inspiration there.  Have at it.

Learning about hurricanes

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for hurricanes.  It’s been the lead story for so many news programs and the pictures have been non-stop showing us the worst of what can happen.

These things can be the lead to some terrific learning opportunities in the classroom.  You won’t find the real details about what makes for a bad hurricane on the news through.  You have to dig a little deeper.  Here are a couple of sources.


From the National Hurricane centre, a tool that lets you investigate the conditions that are necessary to create such a storm.  Inside the simulator, click on the various controls to customize your hurricane.  Can you make an 80?


Atlantic Hurricane Simulator

This, I really like – for a number of reasons.

First of all, it is very graphic in nature as you would expect in any project of this type.

Secondly, like any simulator, you can adjust the controls to see where your hurricane will go.

Thirdly, it’s written in Scratch.  That demonstrates that you can do serious stuff with Scratch.  And, of course, since it’s open, you can “Look inside” to see what makes it tick.  There’s so much to learn from reading code.  And, of course(2), you can remix the original to make your own simulator.



In the big computer technology deal, here’s a chance to “do different things”, enabled by your helpful technology.

And, even if you or your students don’t have a Florida connection, don’t forget that it can happen here.  Hurricane Hazel

Think Omaha

Here’s your invitation to join hundreds of computer science educators at the annual CSTA Conference.  The conference moves all over the place and the summer of 2018 sees it in Omaha, Nebraska.

The conference offers something for every educator, elementary school, secondary school, and post secondary school.

Look for the call for proposals to be posted soon.  I’ll post the information here.

Information for the conference will be available here.

CSTA will be bringing its world class professional development and educator community together again in July of 2018. We are excited to offer teachers of Computer Science the opportunity to build skills, meet other teachers, and get inspired!

We are happy to announce that the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC) will again be joining us for the conference and offering their Education Discovery Forum immediately following the CSTA conference on July 10 – 12. To find out more about EDF: Omaha click here.

Want to learn more about what Omaha has to offer? Click here.

This family-friendly location is easy to navigate and offers our attendees world-class attractions, dining, and of course, professional development for teachers of computer science. Want to know more? Click here for a fact sheet on Omaha.

Want to know more about the Silicon Prairie? Click here.


In conversation with …

… your computer?  And then some more?

As long as there have been computers, there have been people talking about artificial intelligence and getting your computer to think and talk to you.

And, of course, it’s been great fodder for movies.

Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop Dave? Stop, Dave.

If you don’t recognize the above, you’re probably not going to appreciate the rest of this post.

Recently, we were in the market for a new car.  There once was a time when we would spend days going from dealership to dealership in search of the perfect replacement.  Now, it’s easily done from our keyboard.

And, with some dealerships, with a conversational twist!

I was on a Ford website when up popped a conversation window.  Uh oh.  I’m not alone.

I decided to play along.  If it’s a human, I can always plead insanity.  With a computer generated discussion, I can see where it goes.


I knew that they didn’t have a used Camaro in stock.  I thought that they might immediately steer me towards buying a Mustang.

Instead, I started to think of a conversations I’ve had with computers in the past.  Of course, Clippy in Microsoft Word came to mind.

But, I went back further in time to my old TRS-80.  Running on it, I had one of the originals – Eliza.  Was it intelligence?  By today’s definition, probably not.  But, I do remember my students having a whale of a time playing and interacting with it.

It was wonderfully developed code.

It’s not uncommon to find the “classics” resurrected on the web just to honour the great things from the past and to give us an appreciation for what we have today.  Sure enough, I have found a few web implementations.  Here’s one.


And, you can have the sort of discussion today that my students used to enjoy.

But, it gets even better when you think about how you might use this in the classroom.  There’s the immediate conversation piece and a discussion about computers thinking and interacting.

But, in the Computer Science classroom where it’s always a good activity to read someone else’s code, use your browser to “View the source” of the page.  Inside, you’ll find just a goldmine of Javascript that makes it all happen.

You know what comes next … highlight, copy, paste, and then remix.

Have fun!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to another edition of This Week in Ontario Edublogs.  It’s a chance for me to take a tour of the province and see what’s happening with Ontario Edubloggers.

Here’s some good reading for you.

All Moved In

There have been a number of people blogging about getting in to their classrooms and getting things set up for September.  This can be a challenge over the summer as it’s the only time that the caretakers within the school have uninterrupted access for maintenance and cleaning.

Jennifer Aston’s move may be a little different than most.  Most people are back in the same classroom; some move down the hall; and some move schools.  In her case, she was an instructional coach for a few years so all of her “stuff” was stored in a basement and then moved to her classroom.  For teachers who supplement what the board/school provides with purchases of their own (most teachers do this), this can be a big task.

Then, there’s the technology, including equipment purchased via a TLLP grant.

It sounds like she’s going to put into practice some of what she learned as a coach with flexible classroom design.  Go ahead and read her thoughts and don’t overlook the wisdom of those who commented and lent their advice to her planning.


So, Ramona Meharg is on the same train, speeding towards September 5.  While it doesn’t apply to me any more, her description of the difference between July and August in terms of teacher attitude and the climate is spot on.  Nothing says the end of summer more than the continuous drone of crickets!

Her post reaches out to us at a sensory level.  Only a teacher can recognize and find glory in the smell of a new book or the feel of a brand new pen.  This hit a note with me.  I always used a very nice Waterman pen for my work and had a tradition of replacing the lead and the ink cartridges before every new school year.

In all of this, is one of the real niceties of teaching.  You get a chance to start over with a clean slate or nearly clean slate every year.  With that, you get new resources, more professional with another year of learning and professional development, …  And, if you’re on the lower end of the salary grid, a raise!

That’s all part of the back to school deal.  Add to that the sleepless night before classes, the feeling that you’re not prepared, and the well-prepared classroom.  There’s not an educator in the province that’s not going through all this.  Ramona has written all about it.  You’ll enjoy reading this post.


I’m fascinated with the concepts of Artificial Intelligence and I know that Jane Mitchinson is generally on top of things.  I always enjoy watching what she’s showing and sharing.

In this post, she was inspired by a TED talk and the connections and insights into health care.

I was intrigued by her discussion about memory.  We all lose things that we promised ourselves that we’d never forget.  If you’ve got a family member or other connection suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, you know how this can really run to an extreme.

So, at first blush, helping people with this horrible disease sounds like a terrific thing.

But, is it?  Perhaps selective forgetting is a good thing.  I never really thought about this before reading Jane’s post and read her thoughts.

What We Learned From So Far… BYOD Pilot

I really appreciate the openness and sharing that the folks at Fleming College are following as they learn.  They’re also quick to see and report on all sides of an issue.

I’ve seen so many people talk about BYOD on such a cursory level that it’s almost like an infomercial.

“Oh, we’re a BYOD school.  Kids bring their devices and magic happens.”

Actually, if it’s true and you’re experiencing the magic and it’s all that you planned, more power to you.  I suspect thought that you might be overstating things just a bit.

Alana Callan shares her thoughts and insights about this happening at Fleming with staff.

I really think that, of the goals that she includes, this one is key.

Showcase what BYOD could look like in the classroom by getting them to be the students and participating in the activities

What, indeed, does it look like?  I like the fact that she uses the term “could look like”.  As we know, you’re mileage may vary.  In the BYOD world, it definitely will.

Make sure that you read the entire post.  There’s a spot where they brainstorm web resources that you’ll find very valuable.

Accountable Assessment

I really enjoyed reading about this concept but was challenged to find out who the actual author is that claims to be the “Dean of Math”.  Using every trick I know, I came to the conclusion that she’s a teacher in Markham named Melissa D.

Back to the post.

There’s been a lot mentioned over the years about gradeless classrooms.  Personally, I think it makes so much sense.  In Computer Science, for example, what’s the difference between a program worth 87% and one worth 88%.  If I can’t tell you, then they’re both worth 88%, right?

The challenge becomes more of a technical one for Melissa.  How do you record an assessment in a class without grades?

If you’ve been pondering this, you’ll enjoy her post.  If you have any ideas or suggestions, then add them to the post as comments.

Learner, Know Yourself, Know Your Strengths, Know Your Weaknesses

Matthew Oldridge really nails the concept of reflection in this post.  He brings in the work from Starr Stackstein.

The big takeaway here is to treat reflection as an integral part of the assessment and NOT just an add-on.

I like the collection of tips that Matthew closes the post with.  In particular, he offers a short list of tools.

like Google forms, Exit Slips, conferencing

Just as we would provide a variety of teaching strategies, why wouldn’t you have an inventory of these tools and mix them up, depending upon the task and time, so that it’s not just “reflection time” with the same old tool.

Perhaps we could encourage Matthew to write a post or series of posts and create a visible inventory of these tools.  Having a wide variety would increase the value of the concept and the interest buy-in by students.


It never rains but it pours!  That’s the mantra here.  I was fortunate enough to have two interviews come to fruition on this blog this week.

An Interview with Lisa Floyd

  • Enjoy Lisa’s thoughts about Computational Thinking, parenting, and a trip to Baltimore

An Interview with Paul McGuire

  • Get inside the head of this recently retired principal who definitely isn’t letting grass grow under his feet in his retirement

Please take the time to click through and enjoy these wonderful blog posts.  You’ll be glad that you.  Hopefully, they’ll get you thinking.

Until next week…