Don't Let an (App)ortunity Pass You By

Chad Behnke has served as a middle and high school computer science teacher, director of information technology, director of instructional technology. He is now a hybrid technology integration specialist / Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSE) teacher.

Appleton North High School juniors and seniors in the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSE) class teamed up with second-grade students at Huntley Elementary to incorporate newly developed knowledge and skills related to mobile app development.

The CSE class worked with the Huntley second-grade teacher Catherine Zold to determine how they could assist with the learning goals the students would be achieving this fall. They decided as a class to undertake a mobile app project to help the Huntley students achieve specific math and English language arts learning goals.

The second-graders “loved knowing they were the first to test new apps that were created for them by kids they look up to,” Zold said. “It was tricky for the second graders to be politely honest yet helpful with their feedback. I think this was a great learning opportunity for both groups of students.”

As the high school students’ CSE instructor, I decided on pairing these upperclassmen with second-grade students because of the short timeframe of the project, the brief exposure all students would have to the MIT App Inventor platform, and the relative abundance of potential “real-world clients” (elementary students and teachers) to work with.

Working with an elementary classroom just made sense. Second-graders are honest; they let you know right away what could be better.

Huntley Elementary is also in the general enrollment area for North High School. Some of the NHS students attended Huntley themselves or still have siblings attending Huntley Elementary, which provides a meaningful connection.

The biggest benefit of adopting many of the activities and content developed by PLTW is that the program helps ensure students across the district have a common learning experience. The activities and content developed by PLTW follow an Activity-, Project-, Problem-based (APB) format and help engage students with relevant and immediately applicable learning activities.

The project incorporated the Agile Scrum Software Development Process and exposed the CSE students to the opportunities, demands, and constraints professional software engineers encounter in the workplace.

The CSE course is also directly aligned with the AP Computer Science Principles course, so this course has both a college and career focus.