Gas station without pumps

2010 September 30

New design for non-major programming class

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 00:01
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A couple of weeks ago in his Computing Education Blog, Mark Guzdial posted about the pilot versions of a new AP course CS: Principles.  If I understand it correctly, this is intended to be a lower-level course than the current AP Computer Science class.   You may remember that the College Board used to offer two computer science tests: A and AB.  The more difficult AB test was discontinued after the May 2009 offering, because too few students were taking the test for the College Board to make a profit.  Now they are planning to try again, but with a new test that is at a lower level than the current AP CS test, rather than higher.

Mark lists the 5 pilot versions of the courses:

Note that three of these pilots are using Scratch (or BYOB), which would be my first choice for a first-programming language. Another uses Python, which is not a bad choice for a first text-based programming language. I’m less fond of Alice, though it is good for making a transition to Java later. I have no experience with Excel: I find spreadsheet programming “languages” to be cryptic and difficult to debug, so I stay away from them.

The CS: Principles class seems to be a good high-school level programming course, though less rigorous than the Dr. Scheme-based class that my son took in 8th grade.  I’m not sure why AP is pushing it as an advanced-placement course, though, as that implies that it is a college-level course.  Consider the outcry if they decided that AP Calculus was too tough, and eliminated AP Calculus BC in favor of AP Algebra.

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3 Comments »

  1. Visual Basic for Excel (VBA) is an easy programming language to learn, and it has many of the procedural basics: functions, subroutines, conditional statements, and loops. I think it is a reasonable starting point to learn programming. There are books with titles such as “Excel for Scientists and Engineers” that teach VBA for numerical work.

    Comment by V.R. — 2010 November 22 @ 08:02 | Reply

    • I am not fond of spreadsheets as a medium for computation, nor am I fond of Microsoft products, so am unlikely to ever push Excel or Visual Basic for Excel as a way to teach programming. I suspect that motivating students to learn programming is even more difficult in an environment as boring as spreadsheets.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2010 November 22 @ 08:35 | Reply

  2. [...] this is the level that the new AP Computer Science: Principles course is aimed at (see my previous post on that course).  Quite frankly, it is not a college-level course, and giving it AP credit strikes me as [...]

    Pingback by What should high school computer education be? « Gas station without pumps — 2010 December 31 @ 15:13 | Reply


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