Explore PT-Choosing an Innovation


I have done everything I can do to prepare my students for the AP Test, following the code.org curriculum. However, they are asking me questions about the Explore PT that I don’t know how to answer. Most of the questions are regarding acceptable innovations (we’ve reviewed the rubric and the sample tasks with commentary.) For example, is it okay to use anti-virus software for my innovation? I read where it’s okay to do the explore task on software but should he be specific (a particular kind of anti-virus software?)

They also ask questions like who is the publisher of this article? There is no author., etc. I basically have been saying, choose an innovation that you can find a lot of information on because if there is no author, you might not want to use that source. Am I on the right track?

Any list or advice on what are suggested or acceptable innovation topics. Not that I would suggest a topic but if they ask me a question at least I can say with confidence whether or not it is a good one.

Any input is appreciated!



As a teacher, I think this is the most difficult part of this process. The line between supporting students and giving unauthorized feedback is not as clear as I or my students would like. My approach is to answer their questions with more questions. Can you discuss how data is used? Can you discuss both the positive and negative impacts on society, economy or culture? Can you find and properly cite resources for your responses? So for the anti-virus software, as a general innovation it would be difficult to answer all those questions. However, it may be possible to hone in on a particular strategy or process. I am reluctant to give students a yes or no.

I know my students downplay the research part of this task. Most of them can create an acceptable artifact in less than an hour and respond to the prompts in another hour or 2. With spelling, grammar and punctuation less of a concern for the written part, I try to get student to realize that the time spent selecting a topic and finding resources is critical to their success. I am also encouraging them to take time to review evaluate their work using the rubric instead of relying on me.

I think the survival guide is an excellent resource. Keep redirecting them to it. Our job is to get them to make a confident decision.

Check out the AP CSP Teacher’s Forum at AP Central. During this webinar, the Chief Reader addressed the innovation question: http://forum.code.org/t/webinar-with-ap-csp-chief-reader-thursday-1-18/13745

Happy computing,


Thank you, Andrea. This is very helpful.

I have 2 students who are always overly confident in their results and get done with their assignments very quickly but their end result isn’t as good quality as it could be. I have to continually remind them to think through their answers and not take short cuts but this is one time when it could impact their success on this task. I will remind the class that they are being given this time for a reason and that they should carefully research their innovations. It helps to have someone to discuss this with. Thanks again.


@margaret.birch I am going to echo Andrea’s comments here. It is tough to walk this line. I tell students I am not their “teacher” during the 8 hours of the task, I am a “proctor” which means there are certain things I can and cannot do. I also use Andrea’s technique when students ask me questions. I take out my rubric and I literally read the rubric to them in the form of a question.

I have heard of some teachers putting a sign on their door saying “testing in process” to really drive home to students that they are taking the test during this time period. That might be something to think about for the create task.

Also, I would keep track of what things you are seeing this year so you can consider how to prep students next year too. I know I always think that I will remember what students struggled with, but I always forget. I started keeping a blog this year with just notes from each day so I can look through them next year a bit.

It is so tough to put on the “proctor hat” when as a teacher you are used to providing students with pathways to be successful, but unfortunately that is a bit of the AP game. Also, students might surprise you - once they realize you cannot answer their questions, you might be surprised by how resourceful they can be. It sounds like your students are really motivated - nice work!



Hi Margaret,

Definitely agree with Andrea’s and Kaitie’s responses.

As for citing sources without complete information, I get that question a lot from students. I have a couple recommendations (what I tell my students):

  • When you got info from a questionable source (ex: Wikipedia) and/or you can’t find information about that source, try to find that same information on another (more reliable) website - then cite that website.
  • Just put as much info as you can about the source. No promises for this year, but last year they set a pretty low bar for the required info in the references (but they were a stickler for having an inline component to the citation).