UCSC-SOE-12-14: Why Computer Science Matters: Introducing Computer Science Using Scratch and TouchDevelop

Suresh K Lodha and Sonali Somyalipi
09/06/2012 04:40 PM
Computer Science
Motivated to emphasize the importance of computer science to society in an introductory computer science class and to bring out the talents of a diverse group of learners, we utilized TouchDevelop to allow experimentation with various sensors on mobile platforms and Scratch for creative interactive story telling. In addition to the traditional emphasis on concepts, algorithms, hardware, and programming language constructs, emphasis was placed on exposing and inviting students to participate in answering the following question: Why Computer Science Matters. This paper presents some sample final projects using Scratch and TouchDevelop as well as a brief summary of students' efforts to expound on the importance of computer science to society. Additional challenges of devising a flexible grading rubric to meet the needs of diverse student population are also discussed. A pre and post course survey was administered to measure the impact. Although the overall rating of the course as a learning experience decreased slightly from a prior rendering of the course by the same instructor using C++, 33% of students indicated that they are more likely to take additional computer science courses as compared to 21 percentage who are less likely. Further experimentation and assessment is needed to evaluate a programming vs. non-programming introduction to computer science. For a programming-based introduction, streamlining of websites and grading rubric coupled with a flexible learning experience to meet the diverse needs and expectations utilizing some combination of Scratch, TouchDevelop, C++, Processing or Python is likely to yield better results although at the cost of requiring additional teaching resources.