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April 2007

Next Year

I've got my counts and schedule for next year.  It will probably be tweaked quit a bit.

The good news -- 19 in AP Computer Science.

The bad news -- 36 in PreAP, that is 8 more kids that I can handle, but we'll probably do some rearranging.  Also I'll lose some of my count due to attrition and singleton courses.

It looks like 2 sections of Webmastering, 2 sections of CS I, 1 section of PreAP and 1 Section of AP.  I'm going to try to move kids from Webmastering to CS.

Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen - The (Programming) Language Explosion

In contrast to the New York Times article, Scott Hanselman talks about programming languages. 

What programming languages should a New Programmer experience early so that they might be more able to "hear the tones later" when a new languages comes along? What language should a new programmer be exposed to first?

Source: Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen - The (Programming) Language Explosion

I think language diversity is important. 

I got my B.S. in the early 80's, from a university (Southern Mississippi), that recognized early that computer science was constantly evolving.  We went from Basic, to Fortran, to Assembly Language than Cobol in two years.  After that we took "Programming Languages".  We also studied databases from a purely theoretical level since much of what was purposed wasn't doable yet on a machine.  That in additional to all the other "stuff".

As a result, I have been extremely adaptable.  I worked in an environment for 10 years where I was expected to implement the same functionality over several different types of machines while giving the user the same interface.  As a teacher, I've had to move from QBasic, various forms of Visual Basic, and from Pascal, to C++ to Java.

I believe my early background has made me extremely adaptable, and I urge my students to do the same.  I have many students who take Visual Basic their first year and Java their second, though more just learn Java in the two years.  That maybe changing though. My current principal apparently does not like PreAP or AP courses. 

Professor’s Violent Death Came Where He Sought Peace - New York Times

I personally feel that this is a cool way to go, if you have to go.  Let's face it, he was 76, and had a very full, long life.  He's accomplished a lot.  I hope his life and his death inspire his students.  It certainly touches me. 

Professor Librescu never moved from the door of Room 204 in Norris Hall at Virginia Tech, witnesses said, even as the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, was shooting. Directing his students to escape through windows, Professor Librescu was fatally shot.

Source: Professor’s Violent Death Came Where He Sought Peace - New York Times

More on the New York Times article

Alfred asked me to clarify what I meant in my comments.  I'm happy to teach what ever anyone wants me to teach in Computer Science, be it regular, PreAP, or AP. 

Tell me, provide me with materials, and I'm happy with it. 

That being said, I do think programming in a modern, GUI oriented programming is right up there with what we should be teaching.  What is it that students interact with most when they interact with computers -- yep, programs.

One of the reasons I mention programming in a GUI oriented programming, is that I believe that the human computer interface should be a focal point in a beginning CS class.  The earlier you learn to design interfaces the better.

I also do believe that computer networks is also right up there with things that kids should know -- why, because of the internet.  Students also interact with computer networks.

I also believe students need to understand enough about hardware that they can actually go out and buy a computer system, set it up and install it.

The hard part though, and the part that AP development committee faces each year, is how to do test any of the above?  It's easy to test obscure programming stuff, harder to test concepts.

School Shootings

I honestly don't think they can be prevented without making major changes in how we live.  I'm watching a PrimeTime Special and they showed how students let other students in the dorms.  I know our building isn't at all secure.  We joke that we're secure from 7:30 - 8:40 but that isn't even true.  Since we have portables, we have to have full access into and out of the building.  Anyone can get in with no problem and the metal detectors are only out from -- you guessed it from 7:30 - 8:40.

You'd have to completely reconstruct our building if you wanted it to be secure -- and that kind of money just doesn't exist.  As it just isn't OUR building that needs to be fixed but almost every building in the country. 

One thing that can be fixed though -- I'm sick to death of the faculty members who won't wear a badge -- it's time to grow up and act like an adult.

Funny -- I didn't realize that it bothered me that much until I started typing.

Computer Science Takes Steps to Bring Women to the Fold - New York Times

Interesting comment -- I keep wondering what people who make this type of comment think we SHOULD teach in high school computer science and how we should teach it. 

The Advanced Placement high school course in computer science may be part of the problem, according to Dr. Cuny. “The AP computer course is a disaster,” she said. “It teaches Java programming, which is very appealing to a lot of people, but not to others. It doesn’t teach what you can do with computers.”

Source: Computer Science Takes Steps to Bring Women to the Fold - New York Times

Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson : Do We Really Need Computer Applications Classes?

We do need to teach our students -- or at least the students in my school -- computer applications.  The first month in my Webmastering, CS I and PreAP CS classes are mostly computer applications.

Kids today do figure out a lot of "computer stuff" on their own. They certainly could figure out a lot of the things we generally teach in computer applications courses. The problem is that they don't. I gave placement exams for a computer applications course for years and very few, perhaps 10%, of those who thought they "knew it all" actually knew enough to test out of the course.

Source: Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson : Do We Really Need Computer Applications Classes?

My students got quite a bit of computer applications in grades K-6.  At least one of the feeder schools does a fabulous job.

However, the kiddos get one semester of computer literacy in middle school, usually in 7th grade. 

The low income kiddos no computer access from that time until they hit me.  If they haven't forgotten what they have learned, the applications have progressed and they don't know how to use them. 

We spend a week on common web applications -- email and searching.  A week on word processing, a few days on spreadsheets, and on power point.  I finish the unit with a project.  The kiddos are to shop for their "Dream Computer", and create a word document, presentation, and a spreadsheet supporting what they want to buy.  The even more fun part -- many parents DO go out and buy the system the kids want, or one similar.

I believe a student can't use an IDE well, if they can't use a word processor.  I also think that all CS students should be able to do a simple spreadsheet -- that's why I have them comparison shop -- they have to at least come up with totals.

I go a bit further with the web kiddos -- they have to publish their products on the internet.  Real life things that web creators have to do.

We also have a lot of kids that were NOT educated in our system.  Most of them are non-English speakers and many haven't touched a computer until they get to us.  These kiddos go to a local credit keyboarding class and then BCIS.  After that, I'm happy to have them. 

So yes, we do need to teach computer applications in high school and will probably have to have a few sections for the non-English speakers of keyboarding then applications.  Otherwise they will be victims of the digital divide.

AP Audits passed!

Got an email as I was on the way out the door this evening.  My AP Computer Science A syllabus was approved by the College Board.  Since my AP AB was already approved, I'm done with that process.

It was actually pretty easy.  I teach out of the same book as one of the samples, so I copied it, added the stuff I do different, deleted the stuff I don't do, and submitted it.

I did almost the same for the AB syllabus.  I use the A plus materials for that class, so I used Stacy's information, formatted the same as the first syllabus.  That one took a bit more effort, but I still didn't spend a whole lot time.

Whew -- and what a pain in the rear.