CS For Social Good in MS: Activity 1 – Public Service Announcement

Computer Science Education Week is coming up and I am thrilled to see this year’s theme “CS for Social Justice.”  If you haven’t checked out the website and resources yet, definitely take a minute to explore.  I can’t wait to print and hang out the posters once we’re back in the building!

Earlier this year, I shared how I introduce my students to the idea that their computer science skills can be used to create positive change in the world.  In honor of #CSEdWeek, I wanted to share our first project – coding a public service announcement!

To introduce this project, we first discuss what a public service announcement is and what it’s purpose is through these two PSA-style commercials:

I want them to understand that informing someone about a problem and potential ways they can help is a great first step towards creating a change.

Then, using the communities they told me they were interested in helping during that first day of class, I pair up students with similar interests and assign them one of their chosen topics.  Topics in the past few years have included a wide range: 

  • encouraging people to be more active
  • informing the viewer about the importance of recycling or other green initiatives
  • educating the viewer about how teens are affected by mental health
  • the value of adopting a pet
  • raising awareness about homelessnees
  • educating the viewer about the unjust ways in which people of color are treated by the police.

I use “social good” rather than “social justice” to allow the students to choose topics that they are interested in as well as appropriate to their maturity level.  However, if a group of students has indicated their interest in social justice, I encourage them to use their platform.  I do give them a target audience of their fourth grade sister class which helps them to focus their message.

Over a series of three to four 80-minute class periods (depending on their progress), students use the pair programming technique they learned in my class last year to code their PSA using the student handout.  In the first class, they do research, collect facts, and create a storyboard.  You may want to provide pre-screened sites for students to complete their research on.  My apologies, I can’t remember where I got the storyboard template from, but I usually have extra copies ready to go for students as well.  On day 2, the students set a goal for what they want to accomplish and reflect on their progress at the end.  Day 3, we use Creative Computing’s critique group format to provide feedback to another group based on their progress so far before finishing up the project.  I like to remind students about appropriate ways to offer constructive feedback and that ultimately it is their project so they don’t have to change it.  The rubric is provided in the handout so they know what I’m looking for as they’re making those decisions.

The projects usually turn out amazing!  I love the creative ways they tell stories and the way they use the visuals on Scratch to make their characters come to life.