Tim Hilborn uses CS First to assess student learning in computer science

Photo of a technology classroom

Tim Hilborn teaches technology to over 300 students at Abbott and Borel Middle Schools in San Mateo, CA. He uses Google’s free computer science (CS) curriculum, CS First, with rubrics he created to make sure all his middle-schoolers can access technology in purposeful and engaging ways.

Why did you decide to use CS First in your classroom?

I was looking for a good way to introduce my students to CS, but was limited since my computer lab only had online access and I couldn’t download local software. The video tutorial platform that CS First offers is perfect for my classroom.

"My assessment tools connect CS with concepts they learn in other subjects, so students know the expectations for the activities while they express themselves creatively."

Tim Hilborn

You’ve chosen to assess students’ CS First projects. What strategies do you use?

Since I began using CS First, I have created my own assessment strategy so students can "own their learning" with easy-to-follow self-assessments. They check their Scratch projects against rubrics that I created by identifying vocabulary and tasks from CS First. My assessment tools connect CS with Common Core concepts they learn in other subjects, so students know the expectations for the activities while they express themselves creatively.

How does CS First help you accomplish your instructional goals?

For a lot of students, CS First is their first foray into CS and coding. We have a large proportion of socio-economically disadvantaged students who would otherwise never have this type of access to CS. By involving students in creative lessons that allow them to express their ideas, coding becomes much less intimidating.

What advice would you give to a teacher who's using CS First for the first time?

My advice would be to take your time when implementing CS First in the classroom. Try the course yourself and have some fun with it!

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