Archive for February 27, 2010

Pilot testing the new AP CS definition

Here at the AP CS Advisory Group meeting this weekend, the first five curriculum developers, teachers, and pilot testers of the “Computer Science: Principles” course definition were named.

  • Beth Simon of University of California at San Diego will be teaching 900 students (!) in Fall 2010 using the new AP CS  definition.  She’ll use Alice with the book by Wanda Dann, Steve Cooper, and Randy Pausch. She’s also planning to use Excel. She’s planning to use a peer instruction model.
  • Jody Paul will be teaching this class at Metropolitan State College of Denver. His is an open-enrollment school, so he has no control on pre-requisites of students.  He’s planning to focus on connecting students’ life experiences with the learning objectives about computing.  He is going to use Scratch and visualization tools.
  • Larry Snyder of University of Washington, Seattle, is going to create a new course to parallel his successful fluency with information technology course. His new course will be in Python and will have a heavy emphasis on the Web, to relate computing concepts to a computational phenomenon that students care about.
  • Dan Garcia is going to continue develop his course on “Beauty, Joy, and Awe of Computer Science.” His course uses a new version of Scratch called “BYOB” for “Build Your Own Blocks.”  BYOB-Scratch uses a Lisp-like computational metaphor, e.g., where lists can contain blocks, and a “Run” block can execute a piece of block/data in a list.  Dan’s course already hits most of the items in the new AP CS requirements.
  • The fifth pilot tester is Tiffany Barnes of University of North Carolina at Charlotte who wasn’t able to attend the meeting, so I can’t report on her plans.  (She’s on leave this semester.)

It’s exciting that the five pilot-testers are going in such different directions, which in itself emphasizes the flexibility in the new requirements.  The overall curricular definition is up around 70 pages now — there’s a lot of definition to live up to.  What happens next with the AP CS depends a lot on these five.  God and the devil are both in the details.

February 27, 2010 at 9:41 pm 11 comments

Undergraduates as America’s only Leisure Class

I commented a few weeks ago about Dick Lipton’s interesting blog post about the extinction of universities. The thread has continued there, and the most recent comment is absolutely fascinating — especially the bottom line.  This isn’t a new problem. I’m presenting a shortened version here:

excerpts from Everett Dean Martin’s “The Meaning of Liberal Education”:

“The motives which lead people to seek college education divide the students into three types. First there are the few who love learning. …

A second type of student attends college and university in large numbers. The motive is preparation for a professional career. Many of the best students belong to this type. …

“The third type, the majority of undergraduate students, are for the most part pleasant young men and women of the upper middle class. Their parents are “putting them through college” because it is the expected thing to do. Students of this type enjoy four happy years, largely at public expense, with other young people of their own age in an environment designed to keep them out of mischief. I have no doubt this grown-up kindergarten life is good for them; most of them seem to appreciate it. In later years they remain enthusiastically loyal to Alma Mater, coming back to football games and class reunions and contributing to the support of the college. As alumni their influence is not always on the side of progress in education, but perhaps they make up for this failure in other ways.”

Now about the only leisure class we have in America is the undergraduate student body. It is bad for the morale of any institution to sail under false colors, and colleges are popularly supposed to be educational institutions. The college faculties themselves must to some extent share this popular delusion, or else they would not permit the public to go on believing it. ….”

Martin’s book was published in 1926.

via An Educational Extinction Event? « Gödel’s Lost Letter and P=NP.

February 27, 2010 at 10:44 am 3 comments

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