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July 15, 2007

Great Resource for AP Computer Science Teachers

Debbie Carter who teaches AP Computer Science at Lancaster Country Day School in Lancaster, PA has put together an excellent resource book for AP Computer Science Teachers. You can get the book at AP Central. I've worked with Debbie as a member of the now defunct Microsoft Faculty Advisory Board and presently as a Board Member for the Computer Science Teachers Association.

The book contains information that will help both a beginner teacher and veteran teachers as well. It has five chapters and the first chapter reviews the history of AP Computer Science along with a course description and review of key concepts and skills that must be covered during the school year with our students.

One thing that I liked from the start is that Debbie went out to the AP Computer Science community of teachers and asked them for input on different topics covered in the book. I recognized familiar names that I've met in the past at workshops in the book.

Chapter 2 was advice for AP Computer Science Teachers. What is hard for many of us teaching the course is that we are the only teacher in our school teaching the course and it does get lonely when we run into a problem and may need some help. The advice given was very good and I've been pretty good at figuring out what I need to teach in the curriculum but what has been tough in the 11 years that I've taught the course are the many changes that have been made to the curriculum. I started teaching PASCAL to my students and then C++ and now JAVA. I've adapted to these changes and my students have benefited by their successes at learning the material and passing the AP exam with a good score.

Chapter 3 is about course organization. Several sample syllabi are listed for teachers to use in their course. The only problem is that the case study that we need to teach our students has changed and the syllabi don't reflect that change but any teacher can include that into the syllabus.

Chapter 4 discusses the exam and the format. A teacher really needs to know how students are graded on this exam because it may be different from how they grade their own exams. Exam preparation is the key to student successes and there are many exam review books teachers can use with their students to prepare.

The last chapter has many resources for teachers to use. There are many things teachers can do to help teach the class and one I would strongly recommend is professional development.
There are two appendices at the back of the book that reviews the new case study and have supplemental documents.

If you are a new teacher, I would suggest getting help early in your teaching so you don't get too frustrated. There are many of us to help!
Good luck!

Brian Scarbeau
CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 12:35 PM | Comments (5)

July 12, 2007

Keeping Up with Websites

One of the common problems that teachers indicate is a lack of time during the day to keep up with various different web sites and news feeds in order to deal with the constant flow of information. Wouldn't it be easier if it could all come to one place?

RSS or Real Simple Syndication is a way for you to read various different web sites all in one place. Most email clients and web browsers now support this technology. But even then you are bombarded with information if you sign up for a lot of feeds, and have to open up a separate part of your web browser or email client in order to read the news. If you already use RSS I would strongly encourage you to include the CSTA blog as one of your RSS feeds (see the link over to the right). If you are not an RSS user you can have blog posts delivered to your email through a service called RSSfwd. This service does not require you to register or sign up, simply enter the URL of the site you wish to subscribe to and your email address. You will then recieve an email any time a new blog post is updated.

Although you still need to come to the CSTA blog website in order to post comments, using an RSS feeder or a service that will send you the RSS in your email can help cut down on the number of places you need to visit in order to gather information for your classroom. Please come and comment on issues that matter to you. For this post if you have any other RSS feeds that you read often and find useful as a CS teacher please let us know and post a comment!

Leigh Ann Sudol
Communications Chair

Posted by cstephenson at 12:17 PM | Comments (1)

July 10, 2007

Job For Curriculum Developer

We don't usually post these kinds of messages but the folks at GirlStart contacted us to let us know about an interesting job they have available. Here is the job description. Please contact the folks at GirlStart for more information.

Wanted: Contract Educator to create cutting-edge curriculum. Girlstart’s Project IT Girl program (www.girlstart.org/itgirl/) needs fresh and creative lesson plans to introduce programming to high school girls. Ideal candidate must have a strong background in computer science and programming, the ability to explain programming concepts to novices in innovative and exciting ways, and the desire to expand the minds of young people. Ability to adhere to a tight timeline is a must.

Project IT Girl is an after-school program run by Girlstart in Austin, TX, for high school girls to provide hands-on training in math, science, and technology. The focus of the IT Girl program is on making a difference in the world and helping people to understand concepts through technology and information visualization. During the 2007 - 2008 school year, Project IT Girl participants will be introduced to programming through designing and creating short, educational games using Python and Pygame.

For a full job description, go to http://www.girlstart.org/jobs.asp. To apply, please submit a cover letter, references, resume, and hourly rates to Zakiyyah at Zakiyyah@girlstart.org.

Posted by cstephenson at 08:06 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2007

Our Graying Population

Yesterday I attended the Computer Science & Information Technology Symposium that was held at the Omni Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. For the past several years, I've been a speaker at this event and this was the second time that I've attended as a registrant.

I always look forward to this event because it gives me a chance to see some old friends and to meet new friends as well. In addition, it helps me learn new ways to teach computer science education. I attended sessions on robotics, the Grid World Case Study, programming with Alice, and on XNA. The Computer Science Teachers Association sponsored the event along with the support of Microsoft Corporation.

One quick observation that I made as I looked around the ballroom at the keynote sessions was that there are no young computer science teachers in the group that attended. In fact, the youngest that I saw in the crowd were Microsoft employees.

I've talked to several computer science teachers in past years who have retired and have told me that their school could not hire another teacher to replace them and that they don't teach computer science at that school anymore. How sad for all those students who have the desire to learn about computer science education.

Much has been advertised about the lack of IT workers in the workforce and I was thinking yesterday about the future if there are no qualified computer science educators to teach our students in private and public schools.

Sure, there are industry professionals who have made the leap from industry to the classroom successfully but there are many that don't too. I was talking to Linda Hayes who I've worked with on the Board of Directors at the Florida Computer Science Teachers Association and she told me that Kennesaw State University in Georgia where she now works has a program to help new computer science teachers who have worked in industry. According to Alfred Thompson who works in Academic Relations for Microsoft Corporation, Kennesaw has the only program that does this. I asked Alfred if there are any colleges/universities that are training college students on how to be a computer science teacher and he wasn't aware of any.

Teaching computer science to students is very rewarding. I've been doing it for over 20 years. I left teaching after receiving my advanced degree to work in industry and I went back to teaching after a couple of years of working as Director of Education for a trade association and as a Systems Manager for a large CPA firm. High school students are a great deal of fun to be around I guess.

As a newly elected Board Member to the Computer Science Teachers Association I will do my part in trying to promote professionals to go into teaching. As a professional, try to even mentor a high school student as a start. Contact your local high school to see what you can do to promote computer science education.

Some day, you might experience the fun that I have working with teenagers.

Brian Scarbeau
CSTA 9-12 Teacher Representative

Posted by cstephenson at 01:50 PM | Comments (2)