Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Media Academy CS Course Sequence

I would like to share some reflections related to a conference day we had recently at my high school to discuss implementation of a new Media Academy starting next year. 

Here's an email I wrote to the committee members:

Media Academy CS Course Sequence
YEAR 1 aka 09th Grade: Exploring CS (.5cr)
YEAR 2 aka 10th Grade:
YEAR 3 aka 11th Grade: AP CSP (1cr)
YEAR 4 aka 12th Grade: AP CSA (1cr)

I am very happy that Computer Science is considered such an integral part of our new Media Academy. I also think it is very exciting that the Exploring CS course is based on MakerBot, Raspberry Pi, CAD and 3D printing/scanning projects.

I'm hoping that each new cohort entering the Media Academy in the 9th Grade will eventually take AP CSA thus revitalizing a program I've been trying to keep alive since 1988!

In recent years, however, students have been allowed to enroll in AP CSA without taking the prerequisite: CS Honors. Some students taking CS Honors did not continue with AP CSA. Many students enrolled in AP CSA had not taken CS Honors. As a result, we stopped offering CS Honors.

CS Honors was an introductory CS course based on Python. We used native Python in the Linux Command Line as well as SAGE, IDLE and VIDLE. Students came away from this intro class having gained a lot of experience with problem solving skills and algorithmic thinking skills as well as coding. 

CS Honors was based on these 2 texts and my screencasts:
Semester 1: Discrete Math and Python
Semester 2: Interactive Python
ScreenCasts: CS Honors

I propose to bring back CS Honors as a strict prerequisite course for AP CSA. As such, students will not be allowed to take AP CSA without first taking CS Honors. Further, students taking CS Honors should know that they are committed to a 2 year sequence. I would love to bring back CS Honors under these conditions so as to improve our AP CSA results and to enhance the Media Academy curriculum.

Further, AP CSP is not as rigorous a course as AP CSA in that there is no prerequisite. Most of the content is about Computer History, Computer Ethics and Computer Literacy. There's also a Module on coding and problem solving as well as a Module that produces a Final Media Project and Portfolio.

In my opinion, AP CSP could easily be taught to Sophomores rather than Juniors. I would also recommend that the AP CSP course follow any one of these three curricula:
1) CSP on Code.org
2) Harvard CS50 on EdX
3) Android App Development on EdX
or a combination thereof.

In fact, why not make Exploring CS a full year credit. A semester surely is not enough time for a projects based course.

I also offer a Computing Independent Study (CIS) to Seniors who have taken AP CSA exploring Linux Cluster Programming. We can now have a 5 year sequence!

Media Academy CS Course Sequence
09th Grade: Exploring CS (1cr)
10th Grade: AP CSP (1cr)
11th Grade: CS Honors (1cr)
12th Grade: AP CSA (1cr)
12th Grade: CIS (optional 1cr) 

Please note that my AP CSA course currently uses this text: Big Java by Cay Horstmann
and follows my screencasts: APCS Java Shorts

The Interactive Python site also has review material for AP CSP and AP CSA!

Finally, here's an example of what we do in Computing Independent Study:

A. Jorge Garcia
Applied Math, Physics and CS

2015 NYS Secondary Math Nominee

Well, that's all folks,
A. Jorge Garcia
Applied Math, Physics and CS
2015 NYS Secondary Math PAEMST Nominee

Generally Speaking, 
PasteBin SlideShare 
Sage Ebay

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