ISTE 2015 – Sunday

Sunday PM

Introducing Computer Science while Building Socially Useful Apps.

Pauline Lake, Ralph Morelli, Jennifer Rosato, Chery Takkunen, Chinma Uche, James Veseskis, David Wolber

Handouts: Mobile CSP ISTE 2015 Workshop SiteMobile CSP Website

Mobile CSP Student Course Site

Computer and Android Device Setup

The purpose is to introduce teachers to Computer Science through mobile app development. Additionally, the workshop will introduce participants to Mobile Computer Science Principles (CSP) which is an NSF-funded effort to train teachers to teach computer science. The Mobile CSP course is a course that engages students in building mobile apps with App Inventor. The workshop will provide participants with an overview of Mobile CSP training including a hands-on introduction to App Inventor and a representative sample of CSP-based lesson plans, assessment materials, and other resources. Mobile CSP training will be available for free to all high school teachers in summer 2015 through an online course. Attendees will be provided information about getting involved in the summer 2015 training.

Participants will be provided with an Android mobile device to use during the workshop. Those who have their own Android phones or tablets can use them if they choose. All of the pedagogical materials presented in the workshop, as well as all of the materials used by the workshop presenters in their individual courses, will be made available to participants under a Creative Commons license. Materials will include sample syllabi, online video lessons, homework and programming assignments, sample quizzes and exams, and grading rubrics.

Other critical information: While originally developed and hosted at Google, App Inventor is now based at the Center for Mobile Learning at MIT ( It is currently supporting almost 1 million individuals who have created more than 2 million projects. The MIT server currently hosts more than 5000 active users per day. A growing number of teachers at all levels, from grade school to university, are using App Inventor in their computing courses.


I. Introduction and equipment setup (15 minutes)

II. Hands on app development using App Inventor (105 minutes)

III. A Sampling of some unplugged activities (30 minutes)

IV. Pedagogy: how differentiation, peer programming, assessment is implemented in the classroom. (20 minutes).

V. Other opportunities and wrap up (10 minutes)

Supporting research

-Jan Cuny. 2012. Transforming high school computing: a call to action. ACM Inroads 3, 2 (June 2012), 32-36. DOI=10.1145/2189835.2189848

-Jan Cuny, Diane A. Baxter, Daniel D. Garcia, Jeff Gray, and Ralph Morelli. 2014. CS principles professional development: only 9,500 to go!. In Proceedings of the 45th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education (SIGCSE ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 543-544. DOI=10.1145/2538862.2538876

-David Wolber. 2011. App inventor and real-world motivation. In Proceedings of the 42nd ACM technical symposium on Computer science education (SIGCSE ’11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 601-606. DOI=10.1145/1953163.1953329


Background –

National Science Project funding to Trinity College – Ralph Morelli, Pauline Blake, Jim Veseskis

Part 1 to Trinity College

Part 2 to St Scholastica to scale this up

Group in this session is a mix of novices, people who have taught CS, university staff, elementary and middle school teachers

Built app in the session to let people text teacher, then the app selects a random phone number based on numbers received, sends text to winner.

Cloud based service – generates bar code that can be used to download app to device if the device has a code reader installed.

Texting can work with Google Voice number for emulato

Useful app – can be extended to require user to respond

CS Principles – new NSF funded AP course for 2016/17, AP CS Principles largely a failure based on Java programming, way lower enrolment compared to other AP projects. College Board keen to change this.

Aiming to increase girls and under-represented minorities. has course, see for complete curriculum resources is online android emulator

See also Course in A Box/ appinventor in a box

Course includes portfolio, responses to Blown to Bits,

CS Principles has been accepted by some colleges. Treat CS Principles as CS0, then other coursss as CS1 and CS2. CS Principles is seen as a non-major course has materials use

Examples of students developing socially useful apps

  • Emerrgency messenger- issues lockdown alert, fire alert, app allows principal to alert all in building with a predefined or custom message.
  • App that spews all daily announcements to students or parents

App Inventor is Open Source and course promotes open licensing via a gallery. Entrepreneurial aspect is additional – on their own time.

Some students got a cease and desist form law firm from Yellowstone Pocket Ranger  for misuse of commercial content. Good experience showing them that IP is a real and valued commodity

Android marketplace is open. Some kids have had over 1.000,000 downloads.

Kids get into this on their own. Jim Vereskis has apps written by students for his own daughters.

Kids love developing stuff for other kids. eg Spanish, assistive tools

Compared to Swift (Apple iOS language) this is simple. See for complete curriculum resources

Socially useful apps – Hartford mayor spent some salary budget to develop apps for city 0 navigate public buildings, golf course,  “HMTCA mobile CSP” for examplss of students work.

Blown to Bits – Abelson, et al

Info on image representation

Activity on parity and data integrity.

Mobile CSP has been funded so teachers can participate via MOOC – need 10,000 more CS teachers in schools. for US teachers

Evidence is that this works well with underachieving students.

Specific considerations for DoE Tasmania


DoE is primarily a Microsoft-based environment. However the apps environment at this point is not well-accepted in comparison to the two dominant apps environments (Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android/Play environment). The Apple environment is very popular but its focus on quality control and high-value product might not fit well with the model of students developing, failing and modifying product. The Google platform, especially when combined with the MIT Apps Inventor 2 development tool, is aimed at students and can be used by primary students upwards. There is also a lower entry threshold and the ability to develop “play” apps and readily share them. An Android device is not needed, there is an emulator and the actual creator program runs on Mac, PC and Linux computers.

The materials available in the CS Principles course could be used from upper primary to year 10, and possibly beyond. They include a useful and supported suite of tools at no cost, and are well worth considering.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *