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AP Computer Science

Zac Miller
Today I attended a meeting of the Georgia chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association.  Most of the focus was on how to better teach the AP Computer Science exam and Java but I did learn a few things at the meeting.  Are any of the K12 educators here that are using Python also teaching AP Computer Science?

>From speaking with the people at the meeting I got the idea that the AP Computer Science test would eventually transition to Python.  Does anyone know more about this?

Also, from their descriptions of teaching the AP class it seemed like the is focus is mainly on preparing for the test...do you think that the AP course using Python would be a good thing or a bad thing for educators using Python?  I think I prefer keeping my focus on producing great Python programmers instead of on an exam.

Interested in any opinions out there.

-Zac Miller




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Re: AP Computer Science

A. Jorge Garcia
Unfortunately, many High School teachers act like a bunch of lemmings
worried about results and all do the same thing every year in lock step
- one of these time honored traditions being prepping for or teaching
to the test.  This will continue regardless of the delivery language.  
I've been teaching AP Computer Science since it started in 1984 using
Pascal.  The same thing went on with Pascal, C++ and Java.

The focus of the AP Computer Science course right now is Object
Oriented Programming (OOP).  We teach these students about classes,
methods and objects; constructors, accessors, mutators and instance
fields.  We emphasize the 4 pillars of OOP: encapsulation, abstraction,
inheritance and polymorphism.

I don't teach to the test, never have and never will.  However, I do
give them samples of MCQs and FRQs they are expected to master through
out the year.  I do this in AP Computer Science A/AB, AP Calculus AB/BC
and AP Physics C Mech/E&M.

I have heard rumors about a move from Java to Python, but I don't think
its more than a rumor at this point!

HTH,
A. Jorge Garcia
http://shadowfaxrant.blogspot.com
http://www.youtube.com/calcpage2009

Teacher & Professor
Applied Mathematics, Physics & Computer Science
Baldwin Senior High School & Nassau Community College


-----Original Message-----
From: Zac Miller <[hidden email]>
To: [hidden email] <[hidden email]>
Sent: Sat, Nov 6, 2010 7:25 pm
Subject: [Edu-sig] AP Computer Science

Today I attended a meeting of the Georgia chapter of the Computer
Science Teachers Association.  Most of the focus was on how to better
teach the AP Computer Science exam and Java but I did learn a few
things at the meeting.  Are any of the K12 educators here that are
using Python also teaching AP Computer Science?

>From speaking with the people at the meeting I got the idea that the
AP Computer Science test would eventually transition to Python.  Does
anyone know more about this?

Also, from their descriptions of teaching the AP class it seemed like
the is focus is mainly on preparing for the test...do you think that
the AP course using Python would be a good thing or a bad thing for
educators using Python?  I think I prefer keeping my focus on producing
great Python programmers instead of on an exam.

Interested in any opinions out there.

-Zac Miller




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Re: AP Computer Science

Helene Martin
In reply to this post by Zac Miller
I teach AP computer science and a course I call Creative Computing
that uses Python as the tool for exploring computing (see
http://garfieldcs.com for full course descriptions and daily
activities).

Java does have some ugly syntax but overall I love teaching the AP
course.  I aim to make my students into curious people with great
problem-solving skills and I hardly ever mention the AP test itself.
Though the test is heavily object-oriented, I teach procedural-style
Java first since I think strong mental models of computation are what
will benefit the majority of my students as they move on to whatever
it is they will be doing.  When I do introduce OO, students see it as
a useful form of abstraction and see the need for it as their programs
had been getting unwieldy.  Despite only covering object-oriented
programming in the tail end of my course and using the GridWorld case
study for a couple of projects, my students have so far done very well
on the AP test (disclaimer: I only had one section of 22 last year and
now have about 80 students so we'll see how things go this year).  I
think it's very possible to focus on producing great thinkers and to
see the test just as a validation of that process.

This may be an unpopular view around these parts but I feel that the
pedagogical philosophy guiding a course is far more important to look
at than the language it's taught in.  Yes, many AP CS courses seem to
take this rote plod-through-the-material-for-the-test approach but I
don't think that has anything to do with Java.  It would be possible
to teach a Python course in just that way, too.  All in all, Java and
Python are fairly similar tools and shouldn't be treated as ends but
just a means to explore computation, I think.  Just changing the
language of the AP test probably wouldn't change the courses teaching
related classes very much is my guess.  That is, of course, unless
there were a push for great professional development and more
continuous support for classroom teachers.

Hélène Martin
http://helenemartin.com

On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 4:24 PM, Zac Miller <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Today I attended a meeting of the Georgia chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association.  Most of the focus was on how to better teach the AP Computer Science exam and Java but I did learn a few things at the meeting.  Are any of the K12 educators here that are using Python also teaching AP Computer Science?
>
> >From speaking with the people at the meeting I got the idea that the AP Computer Science test would eventually transition to Python.  Does anyone know more about this?
>
> Also, from their descriptions of teaching the AP class it seemed like the is focus is mainly on preparing for the test...do you think that the AP course using Python would be a good thing or a bad thing for educators using Python?  I think I prefer keeping my focus on producing great Python programmers instead of on an exam.
>
> Interested in any opinions out there.
>
> -Zac Miller
>
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Edu-sig mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig
>
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Re: AP Computer Science

Vern Ceder
I also teach Java/AP in addition to teaching Python (and sometimes C). I would generally agree with Jorge and Hélène, although over the years, I've come to find both the nature of the AP and the choice of Java more irritating. Our parents and administration ARE interested primarily in results, whether I like it or not, and the AP exam forces me to spend my time a little differently than I would like. And Java IMHO is just not well designed for novice programmers working on relatively small programs. 

So I guess I would find a Python based AP an improvement, but the direction we're heading at the moment is towards a dual enrollment course offered through the local university. If we can make that work, then students will get college credit without some of the drawbacks of the AP system itself.

Cheers,
Vern

On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 7:49 PM, Helene Martin <[hidden email]> wrote:
I teach AP computer science and a course I call Creative Computing
that uses Python as the tool for exploring computing (see
http://garfieldcs.com for full course descriptions and daily
activities).

Java does have some ugly syntax but overall I love teaching the AP
course.  I aim to make my students into curious people with great
problem-solving skills and I hardly ever mention the AP test itself.
Though the test is heavily object-oriented, I teach procedural-style
Java first since I think strong mental models of computation are what
will benefit the majority of my students as they move on to whatever
it is they will be doing.  When I do introduce OO, students see it as
a useful form of abstraction and see the need for it as their programs
had been getting unwieldy.  Despite only covering object-oriented
programming in the tail end of my course and using the GridWorld case
study for a couple of projects, my students have so far done very well
on the AP test (disclaimer: I only had one section of 22 last year and
now have about 80 students so we'll see how things go this year).  I
think it's very possible to focus on producing great thinkers and to
see the test just as a validation of that process.

This may be an unpopular view around these parts but I feel that the
pedagogical philosophy guiding a course is far more important to look
at than the language it's taught in.  Yes, many AP CS courses seem to
take this rote plod-through-the-material-for-the-test approach but I
don't think that has anything to do with Java.  It would be possible
to teach a Python course in just that way, too.  All in all, Java and
Python are fairly similar tools and shouldn't be treated as ends but
just a means to explore computation, I think.  Just changing the
language of the AP test probably wouldn't change the courses teaching
related classes very much is my guess.  That is, of course, unless
there were a push for great professional development and more
continuous support for classroom teachers.

Hélène Martin
http://helenemartin.com

On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 4:24 PM, Zac Miller <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Today I attended a meeting of the Georgia chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association.  Most of the focus was on how to better teach the AP Computer Science exam and Java but I did learn a few things at the meeting.  Are any of the K12 educators here that are using Python also teaching AP Computer Science?
>
> >From speaking with the people at the meeting I got the idea that the AP Computer Science test would eventually transition to Python.  Does anyone know more about this?
>
> Also, from their descriptions of teaching the AP class it seemed like the is focus is mainly on preparing for the test...do you think that the AP course using Python would be a good thing or a bad thing for educators using Python?  I think I prefer keeping my focus on producing great Python programmers instead of on an exam.
>
> Interested in any opinions out there.
>
> -Zac Miller
>
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Edu-sig mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig
>
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--
This time for sure! 
   -Bullwinkle J. Moose 
----------------------------- 
Vern Ceder, Director of Technology 
Canterbury School, 3210 Smith Road, Ft Wayne, IN 46804 
[hidden email]; 260-436-0746; FAX: 260-436-5137 

The Quick Python Book, 2nd Ed - http://bit.ly/bRsWDW


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Re: AP Computer Science

Litvin-2
In reply to this post by Zac Miller
Zac,

I do not teach AP CS or Python, but, as you know, my wife, Maria
Litvin, does teach both, and we have co-authored popular AP CS
textbooks and AP prep books since 1997.  When AP CS switched from C++
to Java/OOP in 2004, it took the College Board over three years from
the decision to switch to the implementation.  They used the time to
develop the exams and their case study and to train CS
teachers.  (Maria served on the College Board's Ad Hoc Committee for
Professional Development in Java.)  Switching the  exam language is a
huge deal for the AP CS Development Committee.  I wouldn't expect any
changes very soon.

At the moment, the College Board is exploring the possibility of a
new CS exam, called Computer Science Principles --
http://csprinciples.org/.  They have received an NSF grant to do
that.  It is unclear to me whether they are just spending NSF's $2m
or are serious about developing a new exam.  I think "CS principles"
is a bit of a misnomer.  The five college pilots for this course seem
to offer little CS (and few "principles").  It is unofficially known
as a "CS-0" course.  The pilots teach Scratch and Alice; a couple
teach a bit of Python.  It seems likely that if this course
materializes, it will be based on Python or at least Python will be
one of the language options.  But it seems to me unlikely that this
course will soon replace the current CS course, because the current
course is relatively successful -- 20,000 exams annually and accepted
by many colleges for placement/credit.  Will they switch the current
exam  from Java to Python?  Theoretically this is possible, but not
very soon.  For this to happen, the majority of colleges must switch
their intro CS curses to Python first.  MIT did!

At the same time, many people seem to be finally getting tired of
Java/OOP with its arcane terminology, pompous, pseudo-mathematical
documentation, and obsessively/compulsively verbose code.  I believe
the switch to Java/OOP, more than anything else, has led to declining
enrollments in AP CS and CS majors in colleges.  So, who knows, maybe
the Development Committee will manage to merge some ideas from AP CS
Principles with the current syllabus and switch to Python sooner.

Would this be a good thing?  I think so.  An AP course sets a
national standard, which is the least common denominator for students
and teachers.  Students who take a year-long CS course with a
knowledgeable teacher should have little trouble getting a 5 on the
AP exam.  Teachers are free to teach what they want, as long as they
cover the basics described in the AP syllabus.  The AP case study
(currently GridWorld) is a reasonable teaching tool.  The College
Board emphasizes that they test COMPUTER SCIENCE, not programming,
and just use a language as a vehicle for testing the knowledge of
fundamental concepts.  Typically they restrict the language to a
small subset (and will mercilessly truncate Python if it is
adopted).  In reality, quite a bit of the current exam is straight
Java programming.  More so since they dropped the AB-level course
(data structures) in 2010.  But the way the exams are structured and
graded, a student does not have to produce a working program to get credit.

Producing "great Python programmers" is not the goal of AP CS (which
doesn't mean "great programmers" can't  get a 5 on an AP exam).  I
don't feel qualified to debate whether this is a worthwhile goal for
K12.  I personally prefer that K12 students acquired a good
foundation, preferably starting, as early as possible, with discrete
math, and learned a bit of programming, preferably in Python. :)

Gary Litvin
www.skylit.com

At 07:24 PM 11/6/2010, you wrote:

>Today I attended a meeting of the Georgia chapter of the Computer
>Science Teachers Association.  Most of the focus was on how to
>better teach the AP Computer Science exam and Java but I did learn a
>few things at the meeting.  Are any of the K12 educators here that
>are using Python also teaching AP Computer Science?
>
> >From speaking with the people at the meeting I got the idea that
> the AP Computer Science test would eventually transition to
> Python.  Does anyone know more about this?
>
>Also, from their descriptions of teaching the AP class it seemed
>like the is focus is mainly on preparing for the test...do you think
>that the AP course using Python would be a good thing or a bad thing
>for educators using Python?  I think I prefer keeping my focus on
>producing great Python programmers instead of on an exam.
>
>Interested in any opinions out there.
>
>-Zac Miller
>_______________________________________________

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Re: AP Computer Science

Zac Miller
In reply to this post by Vern Ceder
That is another angle I was looking at it from: college GPA.

The AP credit doesn't add to the student's GPA, so it may be better in the long run for the students to skip the AP credit and take the computer science course in college.  Even if they already know the material taking the course in the first semester will give them an easier time adjusting and also put some buffer on their GPA if they make the A they should be able to.  Maybe looking at it that way doesn't make any sense to anyone but me.

I think the dual credit method is a great way to go, we're trying to set that up for GIS classes here.  Maybe I should look at that as another option for my county as well instead of pushing AP, since currently we are not teaching the AP Computer Science course anywhere.

-J. Zachary Miller


________________________________
From: Vern Ceder [[hidden email]]
Sent: Saturday, November 06, 2010 8:01 PM
To: Helene Martin
Cc: Zac Miller; [hidden email]
Subject: Re: [Edu-sig] AP Computer Science

I also teach Java/AP in addition to teaching Python (and sometimes C). I would generally agree with Jorge and Hélène, although over the years, I've come to find both the nature of the AP and the choice of Java more irritating. Our parents and administration ARE interested primarily in results, whether I like it or not, and the AP exam forces me to spend my time a little differently than I would like. And Java IMHO is just not well designed for novice programmers working on relatively small programs.

So I guess I would find a Python based AP an improvement, but the direction we're heading at the moment is towards a dual enrollment course offered through the local university. If we can make that work, then students will get college credit without some of the drawbacks of the AP system itself.

Cheers,
Vern

On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 7:49 PM, Helene Martin <[hidden email]<mailto:[hidden email]>> wrote:
I teach AP computer science and a course I call Creative Computing
that uses Python as the tool for exploring computing (see
http://garfieldcs.com for full course descriptions and daily
activities).

Java does have some ugly syntax but overall I love teaching the AP
course.  I aim to make my students into curious people with great
problem-solving skills and I hardly ever mention the AP test itself.
Though the test is heavily object-oriented, I teach procedural-style
Java first since I think strong mental models of computation are what
will benefit the majority of my students as they move on to whatever
it is they will be doing.  When I do introduce OO, students see it as
a useful form of abstraction and see the need for it as their programs
had been getting unwieldy.  Despite only covering object-oriented
programming in the tail end of my course and using the GridWorld case
study for a couple of projects, my students have so far done very well
on the AP test (disclaimer: I only had one section of 22 last year and
now have about 80 students so we'll see how things go this year).  I
think it's very possible to focus on producing great thinkers and to
see the test just as a validation of that process.

This may be an unpopular view around these parts but I feel that the
pedagogical philosophy guiding a course is far more important to look
at than the language it's taught in.  Yes, many AP CS courses seem to
take this rote plod-through-the-material-for-the-test approach but I
don't think that has anything to do with Java.  It would be possible
to teach a Python course in just that way, too.  All in all, Java and
Python are fairly similar tools and shouldn't be treated as ends but
just a means to explore computation, I think.  Just changing the
language of the AP test probably wouldn't change the courses teaching
related classes very much is my guess.  That is, of course, unless
there were a push for great professional development and more
continuous support for classroom teachers.

Hélène Martin
http://helenemartin.com

On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 4:24 PM, Zac Miller <[hidden email]<mailto:[hidden email]>> wrote:

> Today I attended a meeting of the Georgia chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association.  Most of the focus was on how to better teach the AP Computer Science exam and Java but I did learn a few things at the meeting.  Are any of the K12 educators here that are using Python also teaching AP Computer Science?
>
> >From speaking with the people at the meeting I got the idea that the AP Computer Science test would eventually transition to Python.  Does anyone know more about this?
>
> Also, from their descriptions of teaching the AP class it seemed like the is focus is mainly on preparing for the test...do you think that the AP course using Python would be a good thing or a bad thing for educators using Python?  I think I prefer keeping my focus on producing great Python programmers instead of on an exam.
>
> Interested in any opinions out there.
>
> -Zac Miller
>
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Edu-sig mailing list
> [hidden email]<mailto:[hidden email]>
> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig
>
_______________________________________________
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--
This time for sure!
   -Bullwinkle J. Moose
-----------------------------
Vern Ceder, Director of Technology
Canterbury School, 3210 Smith Road, Ft Wayne, IN 46804
[hidden email]<mailto:[hidden email]>; 260-436-0746; FAX: 260-436-5137

The Quick Python Book, 2nd Ed - http://bit.ly/bRsWDW

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Re: AP Computer Science

Charles Cossé
In reply to this post by Zac Miller
Speaking of Java and Python ... I was thinking earlier this week about
the difference in a Java-trained programmer programming in Python
versus Python-trained programer programming in Java.  (The latter is
neater and cleaner, I think)  For a Python programmer having to use
Java there is Jython.  (jython.org -- the best thing to ever happen to
java).  Adios -
-Charles

On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 11:24 PM, Zac Miller <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Today I attended a meeting of the Georgia chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association.  Most of the focus was on how to better teach the AP Computer Science exam and Java but I did learn a few things at the meeting.  Are any of the K12 educators here that are using Python also teaching AP Computer Science?
>
> >From speaking with the people at the meeting I got the idea that the AP Computer Science test would eventually transition to Python.  Does anyone know more about this?
>
> Also, from their descriptions of teaching the AP class it seemed like the is focus is mainly on preparing for the test...do you think that the AP course using Python would be a good thing or a bad thing for educators using Python?  I think I prefer keeping my focus on producing great Python programmers instead of on an exam.
>
> Interested in any opinions out there.
>
> -Zac Miller
>
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Edu-sig mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig
>



--
AsymptopiaSoftware|Software@theLimit
          http://www.asymptopia.org
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Re: AP Computer Science

kirby urner-4
In reply to this post by Litvin-2

Here in my district, both AP and IB tracks are offered.  The latter
definitely has more prestige, as in snob appeal, and is frankly
a more robust curriculum.  They're reading Howard Zinn for history
already, the Euros require it.

Then we have other step ladders into promising trajectories,
such as apprenticeships through Saturday Academy (where I'm
sometimes discovered), OHSU (teaching medical facility),
and variously tagged programs with the Urban League, AFSC,
lots of stuff I don't know about.  Some of these involve community
service, which is important to many academic institutions
(some more than others).

Python fits in through Saturday Academy, where I've led
numerous classes, including for the Hillsboro Police Dept
(where Intel is), also at Oregon Graduate Institute,
Portland State, and Reed College this summer.  These
students have ranged from roughly 12 to 18 years of age,
otherwise quite a mixed demographic, not always English
as a first language.

However, I don't bill my Python classes as Computer Science
so much, given political pressure to make this be Math,
and therefore not an elective.  You may stick to the traditional
math track, or you may switch to something more computer
science like, but your required three years for a high school
diploma will by fulfilled either way -- which isn't to say you
can't take more math than the minimum.

My expectation is that even more step ladders, with over-the-
Internet testing (at certified testing centers in many cases)
will assess candidate students for many interesting work / study
programs.  These programs will give USAers more opportunities
to venture overseas, which is always a plus when it comes to
developing geographic awareness.  Seeing more of the world
is well nigh a mandatory prerequisite for many responsible
positions.  Probably that's why IB has such currency (even
over AP):  it's a ticket to some better placements.

However, let me show my ignorance and say I don't really
know what IB has by way of computer programming.  I didn't
do IB in high school, dove into CS as a minor at Princeton,
with philosophy more front and center.  I just uploaded some
pictures of my bookshelves to give the flavor, if anyone cares
to take a peak.  On the other hand, I did score well on my AP
exams and placed directly into honors calculus, coulda done
college in 3 years if I'd floored the gas pedal, but why race
through a good time in the 'hood?  Where else was I gonna
learn more, before diving into high school math teaching in
the inner city (a few train stops from World Trade Center?

I later worked in publishing (McGraw-Hill) and learned a lot
about what makes the education industry tick.  The Internet
is a disruptive technology, which is both the good news and
the bad news.

From my standpoint, Python is better positioned than Java
because it has more street cred in OSS circles (also OERs)
whereas the Java community stayed more proprietary for
longer.  The developing world is fascinated by Cyberia (as
in cyberspace) and its promise of free educational materials.

Having legally free operating systems makes a big difference
when hard currency is scarce.  Both Python and Java work
well in that ecosystem, whereas Visual Studio does not.
Part of what Hillsboro Police wanted us to teach was how
to use power tools while keeping it legal.  No worries about
facing accusations of piracy when you've got IBM on the
same wavelength.

Yes, that's an oversimplification about Visual Studio not
being as academically viable (given Mono etc. -- pronounced
Moe Know, not Mah No), but having something as powerful
as Python running legally for free is nothing to sneeze at. 
Java too.  I work the chat line with students in Indonesia as
well as Portland, finding eager learners across the board. 
Not waiting for school teachers to "make you" is one of
the secrets to success, I think we'd all agree.

Kirby

PS:  I also work with adults, such as doing that recent
gig at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore with the space telescope
people.  Here in Portland, I'm networked with a bevy of
"rad math" teachers.  Here's another one:
http://punkmathematics.com/
(you may be aware of the edupunk movement, which
seeks to bypass a lot of the established channels by
means of OERs etc. -- lots of bloggers focus on it, so
I'll avoid being overly redundant here).


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Re: AP Computer Science

A. Jorge Garcia
In reply to this post by Helene Martin
I teach two courses that are new to my school this year using SAGE and
by extension python.  I also teach AP CompSci (used to be AB now A).

The first is a rewrite of my "Computer Math" course using Maria and
Gary Litvin's new text "Mathematics for the Digital Age."  This course
used to be an intro to computer science and is a pre-requisite to AP
Computer Science the following year.  Now its more of a Discrete Math
class but we use SAGe and do plenty of python.  Mainly Regents track
Juniors and Honors track Sophomores take this.

The second is a lab course, "Calculus Research Lab" (I wanted to call
"Scientific Computing Lab," but my boss changed it), that meets every
other day like a science class for my AP Calculus BC students.  We use
several free pdf texts from http://www.sagenath.org to do Calculus in a
computer lab setting and we use some python.  These students are very
over scheduled, so this new lab is not required.  To get enough kids to
sign up for this new course, I had to open it up to the AP Calculus AB
students too so there's a lot of review for my BC kids which ain't all
bad.

HTH,
A. Jorge Garcia
http://shadowfaxrant.blogspot.com
http://www.youtube.com/calcpage2009

Teacher & Professor
Applied Mathematics, Physics & Computer Science
Baldwin Senior High School & Nassau Community College

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