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.


  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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