Lesson 1: Personal Innovations


Welcome to Computer Science Principles! The first lesson is about getting students excited about the course and connecting their own personal interests to computer science. Students are asked to share something they know a lot about and teach it to a small group. Groups make a “rapid” prototype of an innovative idea and share it. Students watch a brief video about computing innovations. The lesson ends with students logging into the Code.org CSP course web site, and answering a brief prompt about what “computer science” means to them.


This activity plants the initial seed for students to think about the ways in which they might be able to solve some problems relevant to their lives with technological innovations. The AP CS Principles framework describes 6 Computational Thinking Practices that need to be evident in the course. This first lesson is more about beginning to engage with those practices - beginning to think, act, and behave like computer scientists. In particular, the practices in which students should be engaged in this lesson are:

  • P1: Connecting Computing: Describe connections between people and computing.
  • P5: Communicating: Describe computation and the impact of technology and computation.
  • P6: Collaborating: Foster a constructive, collaborative climate by facilitating the contributions of a team member; exchange knowledge and feedback with a partner or team member.


Tech Setup

CSP Pre-Course Survey

Getting Started (15 mins)

Activity (25 mins)

Wrap-up (5 - 10 min)

Assessment Questions

Extended Learning

View on Code Studio


Students will be able to:

  • Communicate with classmates about computing innovations in their lives.
  • Describe positive and negative effects of computing innovations.


  • Procure post-its or paper and tape
  • Procure poster paper for sharing innovations
  • Queue up CS is Changing Everything video
  • Setup section in Code Studio for this course
  • Have student sign-up link ready to share


Heads Up! Please make a copy of any documents you plan to share with students.

For the Teachers

For the Students


  • Innovation - A new or improved idea, device, product, etc, or the development thereof

Teaching Guide

Tech Setup

Throughout the year, in order for you to be able to see student work, and for students to be able to connect to each other on tools like the Internet Simulator, all students need to be in the same section on Code Studio. To see assessments and answer keys that Code.org provides, you also need to be a "verified teacher".

Before your first class

Ensure you are registered on Code Studio as a "verified" teacher account

Anyone can create a teacher account on Code Studio, which means that we need an extra layer of authorization to allow CS Principles teachers to see assessments, answer keys, and any other collateral that students should not be able to trivially get access to. If you attended a Code.org TeacherCon during the summer, you should already have this access.

To check if you have access:

  1. Navigate to the Unit 1 overview page
  2. Do you see the CS Principles Pre-course Survey at the top of the unit overview page?
  3. If not, you need to verify your teacher account. Please fill out this form. Note that it can take 5-7 business days to become a verified teacher, so please do this step early!

If you are not a verified teacher account, you can still create a section for your class, but you will not be able to administer the pre-course survey on the first day.

Create a class section on Code Studio.

You can either...

Go to the Code.org How-to Video Playlist for a video walkthrough of these steps and more on navigating your Code.org account.


Follow these steps to create a section:

  1. Navigate to the My Dashboard
  2. Click 'New section' under 'Classroom Sections'
  3. Choose 'Email Logins'
    • If logged on through Google you can choose to sync to your Google Classroom.
  4. Give your section a name, and choose the most appropriate grade level of students in your class
  5. Set the course to be "CS Principles"
  6. Set the unit to be "Unit 1: The Internet"
  7. If you're NOT using Google Classroom: Once the section is created, click the name of the section to show the unique "join link" for your section.

At the beginning of class

Have students join your section

NOTE: the following steps are only needed if you are not using Google Classroom

  1. Have students create a Code Studio account at https://studio.code.org if they don't already have one

  2. Share the section Join URL with students and tell them to navigate to it to join your section. It will look something like what's shown at right.

    • You can confirm that a student successfully joined your section by having the section progress page on the Teacher Home Page open and hitting refresh as students join.
    • Students should also see a small green bar at the top of their page that says 'You've successfully joined ...'

Have students navigate to the course on the home page

  1. From the student's homepage at studio.code.org they should see a "tile" for Computer Science Principles. Click 'View course', then go to Unit 1.

  2. Once students are looking at the Unit 1 overview page, they will be ready to take the CSP Pre-Course survey

CSP Pre-Course Survey

Why do the pre-course survey?

  • A major goal of CS Principles is to broaden participation in computer science.
  • It is crucial therefore to have insight into students' attitidues and beliefs about computer science before the course so that we can measure the amount of change that occured after the course is over.
  • Please note that this survey is anonymous for students
  • Completing it also helps us understand important improvements we can make to the curriculum to improve the teacher and student experience.

Please help by having your students contribute to this vital dataset. Their voices make the difference!

Important! Have your students take the CSP Pre-Course Survey!

Students can find a link to the survey in Code Studio as the first item on the Unit 1 overview page. To ensure that students only take the survey at the appropriate time, it is "locked" and unviewable by them until you "unlock" the survey. The How to Administer a Locked Assessment document provides details on how to do that when you are ready. Note that the instructions for administering an assessment and a survey are the same.

How much time does it take?

The survey is roughly 40 quick response items. We expect it to take 5-10 minutes to complete. You might consider administering it on an admin day at school, or as an early homework.

Because it is a pre-course survey it is important that students take it as early in the course as possible, before they have had much (or any) exposure to the class so that we may accurately gauge changes in attitudes and beliefs caused by the course.

Thank you!

-- The Code.org Team

Getting Started (15 mins)

Teacher Message


  • Welcome to Computer Science Principles! This year we’re going to learn a lot about computer science, but before we begin, we have to learn about everyone in this room.
  • One thing that makes this class unique is that you have to invent solutions to problems and create things all the time, both alone and with others. Everyone has a unique and creative perspective they bring to the table.
  • We’ll talk about the syllabus and rest of the year at the end of class.
  • But let’s start by seeing what everyone brings with them, and how creative we can be right now!

Take out a journal or a piece of paper.

What could you teach somebody?


"What’s something that you know a lot about? Something that you could teach somebody?"

  • This doesn’t have to be a subject in school - it very well might not be.
  • As a person, as an individual who is living and breathing in this world, there is something that you probably know a lot about - maybe you feel like you know more about than most people. What is that thing?

Teaching Tip

What you’re trying to do here is get students to state something that they are interested in, but also know a lot about - something they might have insights into.

A big part of students’ enthusiasm for sharing will come from your enthusiasm and genuine interest in getting to know them.

Students might need prodding: there is something that makes them interesting and unique. Something they like to do, have interest in, read about, have some expertise in, a hidden talent.

Give students 1 minute to write that thing down on a post-it and stick it on the wall

  • Note: putting name on the post-it is optional -- if you don’t have post-its, use note cards and tape, or scraps of paper. Anything that allows for these topics/areas of interest to be seen in one place.

Survey the post-its on the wall to see the diversity of responses, maybe invite students to do this as well.

Group introduction and share out

  • Take post-its and make groups of 4 that represent a diverse set of interests.

    • For example, grab: “video games”, “basketball”, “cooking”, “growing vegetables”
  • Once in groups, give each student 2 minutes to:

    • introduce themselves
    • explain the thing they know a lot about
    • teach the group something about it, or tell the group something interesting about it
  • You may want to set a timer and tell them when to switch.

Activity (25 mins)

Students should remain in groups established during the getting started activity.

Identify impacts and prototype an innovation


People seem to say that technology is all around us, that it affects everything we do. Is that true? Technological innovation is about recognizing a problem that needs to be solved, or recognizing something needs improving and then building a tool to solve it.

As a class we’re going to see how innovative we can be. We’re going to do something called “rapid prototyping.”

"Prototype" is a fancy word that means a preliminary sketch of an idea or model for something new. It’s the original drawing from which something real might be built or created.

Brainstorm Technological Innovation

Go around the group, and for each individual's area of interest:

  1. Identify some way that technology is used with, or affects that thing

  2. Make a suggestion for either:

    • a way that technology might be improved to make it better, faster, easier to use
    • a creative or innovative new technology might help solve some problem within that area, or at least make better?

Everyone in the group should make suggestions for any of the areas of interest at your table.

Teaching Tip

Keep things quick. If a group is worried about not being innovative enough, remind them that very small ideas can have big consequences. People once thought it was ridiculous that you would want to send a short text message to another person over a phone.

Alternatively, a group may have a great idea that they want to spend more time on. They can do that later. For now, just remind them it’s a rapid prototype.

Rapid Prototype one idea

As a group you have just brainstormed about the technology ideas at the table.

Now, come together and get excited about one of them.

As a group, nominate the idea you’ve discussed that you think would be the most interesting to everyone else in the class.

Start to sketch out that idea on a poster. Make a visual representation of your ideas.

  • Remember this is a rapid prototype. Just something to quickly convey the idea.
  • Give students a decent amount of time to work and sketch together.

Share Prototypes

Do a "Gallery Walk" or a whip around so that each student can see all of the other students' work.

  • Put prototype posters on the wall
  • Give students time to survey the various posters

  • Time permitting, ask an individual from each group to explain what the the thing is or what their innovation is.

  • If time is short, ask for one or two volunteers, or hand pick a poster or two for a student to explain. You can leave the posters up for people to look at tomorrow.

Welcome students to the course

Take this opportunity to explain the importance of bringing individual interests and perspectives to this course.

Students are not only encouraged to find areas of personal interest in this course, it is actually mandated as part of the Performance Tasks. From day one, students should be thinking about how to apply the principles they learn to their own lives, and hopefully they will be excited to do so.

Teaching Tip

If this is your first time teaching this course, you may not know exactly how to present an entire year of activities and exploration on the first day.

The "Remarks" given at left are some possible ways to contextualize today’s activity and build excitement about the rest of the year.

Feel free to do what best matches your own style, and use the ideas to craft your own presentation of the course.


  • We are just starting this class, but you all bring passions and knowledge about things you care about. And whatever those things are it is likely (if not inevitable) that they involve computing technology in some way.
  • This class is about the principles of computer science. The principles that underlie much of the technology around us.
  • The reason this class exists is because not enough people in our school/town/city/country/world know or understand things about computer science. Not enough people know the basics that you need to know to be able to see where you can make a difference. Not enough diverse views, interests, opinions exist among the people who do more than use technology - they create new technology
  • This class is about taking a step in that direction.
  • Your job as a student in the class is to be on the lookout, to be alert, for where and how computer science affects or impacts the things you care about, the things you know about. Whatever it is you want to do in your life, it’s pretty likely that technology affects it in some way, or that some technological innovation is called for.
  • In fact, for the AP assessment you must create an app that reflects a personal interest or problem you’re trying to solve. You must also explore a technological innovation and write about it.
  • Don’t worry, we’ll practice these things, and through the course you’ll learn about the principles that underlie all this stuff.
  • The way the class works, we often ask you to invent your own solution to problems. Even if it’s a problem that’s been solved before, thinking like a computer scientist is a different mindset to be in.
  • We study a lot of things in this class not only because it’s foundational knowledge, but because of the way it makes you think, they way it asks you to solve problems, on your own or in collaboration with others.
  • Inventing things, and having insights about how things work, and how they might work better is what this class is about. Everyone has the ability to contribute. Everyone has unique insights into something. Whatever it is you care about, whatever it is that makes you different, is the value you bring to the class.
  • Everyone is unique, but we’re all in this together.

Wrap-up (5 - 10 min)

Research Corner

The post-video reflection (free response prompt in code studio) is an important element of the first lesson.

"… brief exercises that target students’ thoughts, feelings, and beliefs (rather than purely academic content) can lead to large gains in student achievement even months and years later."

Social-Psychological Interventions in Education, Review of Educational Research 81(2)


The best practice is to introduce this activity simply as an opportunity for students to reflect without further explaining its purpose or suggesting that it might help them. This way students don’t feel pressure and approach the activity with an open mind.

Show Video - “Computer Science is Changing Everything”

Reflection: Starting out in computer science

  • Ask students to complete the reflection activity in the level that immediately follows the video.

  • It asks students to read some quotes from other students starting out in computer science and reflect on it.

  • Note: the exercise states that students will not be graded on their responses. Please adhere to that, it's an important aspect of the student's experience. You may require students to complete it, but please say that they are free to write anything they want, and any amount short or long.

Assessment Questions

  • Select an innovation. Describe the positive and negative impacts it has had on the world. (A satisfactory answer reflects awareness and analysis of the effects on populations beyond the students’ immediately locale.)
  • Speculate on how students 25 years from now will answer, "What computing innovation has had a significant impact on your life?" (A satisfactory answer includes a non-trivial consideration of how technology will likely change from, and perhaps build upon, what is currently available)

Extended Learning

  • Ask students to think about how the adults in their lives might answer the question, "What computing innovation has had the most significant personal impact on your life?“
  • To reinforce visual learning, suggest that students create time-lines showing the years when the various innovations they hear about from other adults were invented or became available to consumers.
  • Blown to Bits http://www.bitsbook.com/ - read Chapter 4, Needles in the Haystack, pages 141-142 (Placements, Clicks, and Auctions), then answer the following question about innovation:
    • Discuss the positive and negative results of Overture's three search engine innovations. How did those innovations turn out today?.
  • Reflection: starting out in computer science
  • 3
  • (click tabs to see student view)
View on Code Studio

Student Instructions

Starting out in Computer Science

Computer science has changed the way we communicate with each other, make art and movies, grow food, and even treat illnesses. Everyone can learn computer science and make a difference.

Quotes from students

Still, we understand that taking a computer science course can be difficult at first. Here are a few student quotes describing their strategies and tips for taking this course. Please read the quotes carefully and respond to the prompt below.

In the first week of this class I was falling behind quickly. There was a lot of new information to learn. To keep up, I had to find a better way to study. I tried to find connections between the material and what I already know. That really helped me remember things. I also tried to not overdo it. I started taking small breaks in-between lessons and when I came back I checked if I still remembered what I was studying before. It helped a lot

Sofia P. (age 16)

Some days I felt tired and would drift away in my thoughts. It was a real problem because I would miss so much of what we were learning. So I started going to bed a bit earlier and I tried my best to pay attention. At the end of every class our teacher summarized what we learned that day and that was really helpful. I started taking more notes because that also kept my mind from wandering. These little tricks got me through the class and I learned more.

Jasmin D. (age 17)

I can be pretty forgetful sometimes and it was a problem in this class. I think it's because we did so much on the computer. For my other classes I take notes on paper and read through them again at home. So the trick that I found helpful in this class was to take notes on paper anyway and to test myself about the concepts. I wasn't sure if it would work at first, but I think it ended up being a big help.

Sam J. (age 17)

Now consider the strategies and insights for how to learn best that you just read.

Reflect and Summarize:

What are your own strategies and insights about how to learn best? And, how are they similar or different to the ones that you just heard about from other students?

Please write a short paragraph. Don't worry about spelling, grammar, or how well written it is.

Standards Alignment

View full course alignment

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2011)

CI - Community, Global, and Ethical Impacts
  • CI.L3B:2 - Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing innovations.
  • CI.L3B:4 - Summarize how computation has revolutionized the way people build real and virtual organizations and infrastructures.

Computer Science Principles

7.1 - Computing enhances communication, interaction, and cognition.
7.1.1 - Explain how computing innovations affect communication, interaction, and cognition. [P4]
  • 7.1.1A - Email, short message service (SMS), and chat have fostered new ways to communicate and collaborate.
  • 7.1.1B - Video conferencing and video chat have fostered new ways to communicate and collaborate.
  • 7.1.1C - Social media continues to evolve and foster new ways to communicate.
  • 7.1.1D - Cloud computing fosters new ways to communicate and collaborate.
  • 7.1.1E - Widespread access to information facilitates the identification of problems, development of solutions, and dissemination of results.
  • 7.1.1F - Public data provides widespread access and enables solutions to identified problems.
  • 7.1.1G - Search trends are predictors.
  • 7.1.1H - Social media, such as blogs and Twitter, have enhanced dissemination.
  • 7.1.1I - Global Positioning System (GPS) and related technologies have changed how humans travel, navigate, and find information related to geolocation.
  • 7.1.1J - Sensor networks facilitate new ways of interacting with the environment and with physical systems.
  • 7.1.1K - Smart grids, smart buildings, and smart transportation are changing and facilitating human capabilities.
  • 7.1.1L - Computing contributes to many assistive technologies that enhance human capabilities.
  • 7.1.1M - The Internet and the Web have enhanced methods of and opportunities for communication and collaboration.
  • 7.1.1N - The Internet and the Web have changed many areas, including ecommerce, health care, access to information and entertainment, and online learning.
  • 7.1.1O - The Internet and the Web have impacted productivity, positively and negatively, in many areas.
7.2 - Computing enables innovation in nearly every field.
7.2.1 - Explain how computing has impacted innovations in other fields. [P1]
  • 7.2.1A - Machine learning and data mining have enabled innovation in medicine, business, and science.
  • 7.2.1B - Scientific computing has enabled innovation in science and business.
  • 7.2.1C - Computing enables innovation by providing access to and sharing of information.
  • 7.2.1G - Advances in computing as an enabling technology have generated and increased the creativity in other fields.
7.3 - Computing has a global affect -- both beneficial and harmful -- on people and society.
7.3.1 - Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing. [P4]
  • 7.3.1A - Innovations enabled by computing raise legal and ethical concerns.
  • 7.3.1B - Commercial access to music and movie downloads and streaming raises legal and ethical concerns.
  • 7.3.1C - Access to digital content via peer to peer networks raises legal and ethical concerns.
  • 7.3.1D - Both authenticated and anonymous access to digital information raise legal and ethical concerns.
  • 7.3.1E - Commercial and governmental censorship of digital information raise legal and ethical concerns.
  • 7.3.1G - Privacy and security concerns arise in the development and use of computational systems and artifacts.
  • 7.3.1H - Aggregation of information, such as geolocation, cookies, and browsing history, raises privacy and security concerns.
  • 7.3.1I - Anonymity in online interactions can be enabled through the use of online anonymity software and proxy servers.
  • 7.3.1J - Technology enables the collection, use, and exploitation of information about, by, and for individuals, groups, and institutions.
  • 7.3.1K - People can have instant access to vast amounts of information online; accessing this information can enable the collection of both individual and aggregate data that can be used and collected.
  • 7.3.1L - Commercial and governmental curation of information may be exploited if privacy and other protections are ignored.
  • 7.3.1M - Targeted advertising is used to help individuals, but it can be misused at both individual and aggregate levels.
  • 7.3.1N - Widespread access to digitized information raises questions about intellectual property.
  • 7.3.1O - Creation of digital audio, video, and textual content by combining existing content has been impacted by copyright concerns.
7.4 - Computing innovations influence and are influenced by the economic, social, and cultural contexts in which they are designed and used.
7.4.1 - Explain the connections between computing and economic, social, and cultural contexts. [P1]
  • 7.4.1A - The innovation and impact of social media and online access is different in different countries and in different socioeconomic groups.
  • 7.4.1B - Mobile, wireless, and networked computing have an impact on innovation throughout the world.
  • 7.4.1C - The global distribution of computing resources raises issues of equity, access, and power.
  • 7.4.1D - Groups and individuals are affected by the “digital divide” — differing access to computing and the Internet based on socioeconomic or geographic characteristics.

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2017)

IC - Impacts of Computing
  • 3B-IC-27 - Predict how computational innovations that have revolutionized aspects of our culture might evolve.