APCS Students can do Media Comp (and Alice) and Succeed
In the five workshops (which feels like a larger number than it sounds) that I ran this summer, I included some of the Exploring Wonderland book that Wanda Dann, Steve Cooper, and Barb Ericson wrote about learning AP CS through Alice and Media Computation. Over half of the attendees from my workshops this summer were high school computer science teachers. Overwhelmingly, the response that I got from those teachers was, “This is nice stuff. Maybe I could use it in my earlier class (like Computing in the Modern World). But I wouldn’t use it in AP. That would take too much time away from the important stuff in AP.”
Of course, this infuriated Barb. They designed the book to motivate students to dig into the AP content! It just so happened that she got her chance to try out her design this last year. A local high school asked the College of Computing for last-minute help with their AP CS course. A teacher who didn’t know AP (or CS, or even Java) was tasked with running the course, and he was smart enough to know that he needed help. The school called the College, and the College asked Barb. Barb came in twice a week, wrote the lessons, and generally oversaw the content of the course. Since she had just finished Wonderland, that was the easiest thing for her to teach.
She just sent me her scores.
7 get a 5 (4 males and 3 females) 4 get a 4 (3 males and 1 female) 2 get a 3 (1 male and 1 female) (a 3, 4, or 5 is passing) ----------------------- 4 get a 2 (3 males and 1 female) and 13 get a 1 (9 males and 4 females)
While the gender scores were quite strong (e.g., more girls passed than failed), the under-represented minority minorities weren’t quite as strong. All of her African-American students got 1’s. However, one of her Hispanic students took one of those 5’s.
Those are really good scores. Yes, most kids who took the test didn’t pass — the AP is hard, and that is the way it goes. What it shows is that students can succeed at the AP, even if you “waste” time with all that Alice, and Media, and motivation stuff. This isn’t a study, much less publishable. It’s only the results from one course. But it’s an existence proof.