Hour of Developing New, Free CS Course, the organization behind Hour to Code, will shortly pilot a new middle school/lower high school introductory computer science course that will be free when it's released. For a short time it's also taking applications for free professional development to help teachers prepare.

The new curriculum, "CS Discoveries," is an introductory computer science course that is expected to be piloted in spring 2017 and rolled out fully in the summer. The new course embeds the "maker ethos" into its activities, which means students will get the chance to participate in the "physical act of creation" as they learn about the abstract aspects of computer science.

Intended for students in grades 7-9, the program fits between's CS Fundamentals course, for K-5, and its CS Principles course, which serves as an AP/honors course for high schoolers. The new materials cover two semesters and "spiral" on each other, allowing them to be covered in a single semester, two sequential semesters, over a full year or as additional content in an existing technology class.

As a one-page PDF summary lays out, units cover:

  • Problem solving;
  • Web development;
  • Programming of interactive games and animations;
  • The design process;
  • Data and society; and
  • The internet of things.

The curriculum includes daily instructional lessons, assessments both formative and summative, exemplars and rubrics, videos for students and teachers and "Code Studio," a course platform that organizes the lesson contents. is also taking applications currently for its 2017-2018 professional learning programs. That consists of two components: TeacherCon, a five-day in-person workshop to explore the curriculum and tools and learn about classroom management and teaching strategies; and continuing PD, which has both online and local in-person sessions. The latter commitment is four days in person and 20 hours online. While the training is free, travel-related expenses are not. Teachers interested in getting professional development related to CS Discoveries, the newest course, can apply on the website here.

Educators interested in PD tied to the CS Principles curriculum have until March 17 (tomorrow) to apply for that program as well. This follows the same format as the CS Discovery professional learning. The application is available here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.