Creative Computation for CS1 and K9-12

Project No.
PI Name
Dianna Xu
Bryn Mawr College
Target Discipline


Abstract 1

Creative Computation for CS1 and K9-12

Presentation Type
Dianna Xu, Bryn Mawr College Ira Greenberg, Southern Methodist University


To strengthen formative/introductory CS education by catalyzing excitement, creativity, and innovation. The digital representation of data, access to authentic sources of big data, and creative visualization techniques are revolutionizing intellectual inquiry in many disciplines, including the arts, social sciences, and humanities. We assert that CS1 should be updated with contemporary, diverse examples of computing in a modern context.

Our results to date [Greenberg et al 2012, Xu et al 2016] suggest our approach is well suited for attracting women and non-majors to CS.


The design and development of a new approach to teaching the college-level introductory computing course (CS1) using the context of digital art and creative computation. In addition, pushing down the material to the K9-12 level and adapting into appropriate AP or pre-AP courses.


Design course materials to teach the core CS1 topics as we would in an average traditional Java-based CS1. The only difference is that we show the application of these principles with creative computation. In other words, we teach the same materials, but instead of solving for roots of polynomials or simulating gas station/cash registers, we create graphics, interactive media and visualizations.

Aggressive faculty training and partnering to allow multiple offerings of said CS1 course involving multiple institutional partners with diverse student demographics, all with assessment and data collection to enable comparative analysis. Similar work is done at the high school level, with 6 high school partners.


Successful adoptions of course material and course offerings at 12 partner institutions with full data collection and assessment
Two SIGCSE papers (2012 and 2016), one textbook (2013)
Five SIGCSE workshops(2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016)
Numerous additional faculty training workshops
CS1 course material repository (web-portal)
High school course material repository (to appear)

Broader Impacts

Recruitment, retention and interest in computing will improve as a result of a broader adoption of this new context, particularly those of women and non-STEM or undecided majors, and especially in creating a viable model for the ongoing redesign of the AP CS course. The positive impact of computational art on participation of women was confirmed by assessment of our phase 1 project through fifteen course offerings. We expand our dissemination efforts with more formal assessment of adoption among the trained faculty and their institutions. We estimate our course will be adopted and taught and formally assessed at a dozen institutions (including high schools) nation-wide. Aggressive faculty training will lead to sustainable curriculum development at adopting peer institutions and efforts on building an active community of CS faculty, students and artists that use Processing will create a critical mass for computing educators to rely on for long-term growth.

Unexpected Challenges



D.Xu, A. Cadle, D. Thompson and U. Wolz (2016): Creative Computation in High School. 47th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE2016), March 2 - 5, 2016, Memphis, Tennessee.

I. Greenberg, D. Xu and D. Kumar (2013). Processing: Creative Coding and Generative Art in Processing 2. friends of ED (Apress), a subsidiary of Springer Science+Business Media, 2013.

I. Greenberg, D. Kumar and D. Xu (2012). Creative Coding and Visual Portfolios for CS1. 43rd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE2012), February 29 - March 3, 2012, Raleigh, NC.

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