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April 11, 2008

Cool New Podcasts for Teachers and Students

Over 1000 computer science educators gathered recently in Portland Oregon for the 2008 ACM Sigcse conference, giving us a chance to interview more people thinking and doing interesting things for our CSTA Snipits podcast collection

The 39th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education provided a wide selection of technical sessions and opportunities for teachers to network and to learn. The topics ranged from innovative strategies for increasing classroom diversity to hands-on techniques with applications and curriculum. I love the excitement of SIGCSE, the opportunities to catch up with friends, and the discovery of new and innovative teaching strategies. I managed to catch up with a few presenters and participants who I thought you would value hearing from.

Check out our growing CSTA Snips podcast collection and listen in on these new conversations about teaching and computer science at:


Using Mario Brothers to Teach Inheritance Concepts with Terrence Mason and Bruce Johnston
Medium: MP3
Listening Time: 8 min.
Interview Location: ACM Sigcse 2008 Portland, Oregon
Interview Date: March 2008
Terrence Mason and Bruce Johnston, University of Wisconsin-Stout

Bruce and Terry have a goal in their CS1 course to reduce the “excitement deficit” found in many beginning computer science courses. In our visit they describe how they use a familiar computer game to teach inheritance concepts and to reduce that deficit. The project worked so well that students were heard cheering at their own programming successes. Now that’s something to look into!
While inheritance is generally a difficult concept for beginning students to master, it remains an important CS concept to teach for the utility and power it brings to CS. The familiarity of the game functionality enables students to more easily comprehend the topic, identify objects, and construct the inheritance hierarchy. More information is available at http://www.cfkeep.org/html/snapshot.php?id=27944194178976

Teaching Students about Electronic Privacy with Flo Appel
Medium: MP3
Listening Time: 9 min.
Interview Location: ACM Sigcse 2008 Portland, Oregon
Interview Date: March 2008
Florence Appel, Saint Xavier University

Why is it most important for educators to teach about privacy issues? How do educators teach these concepts? How do we get our students to value their privacy? And how do we teach them to balance their privacy and security with convenience? As I listened to Flo, I found myself thinking that her words were valuable not only for me professionally, but also personally, as I deal with these modern-world issues. She describes how public spaces including the internet impact students, invade privacy, and ultimately, impact personal security. Recommended resources for parents, teachers, and students are available at the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/kidzprivacy/).

Pat Philips
CSTA Podmeister

Posted by cstephenson at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2008

The End of the AP CS AB Exam

By now, many of you have heard of the College Board's decision to discontinue the AP Computer Science AB exam after next year (the A exam will not be affected). We are just as surprised as you are by the announcement and know that the news will come as a disappointment to many computer science teachers. We do hope, however, that this decision will provide us with an opportunity to strengthen high school computer science education.

The College Board has said that it will be "focus[ing] their efforts on improving and supporting the AP Computer Science A program, which will be enhanced during the next five years to better represent a full-year, entry-level college computer science sequence."

To that end, they have formed a "AP Computer Science Course and Exam Review Commission responsible for developing and enacting comprehensive research among colleges, universities, and secondary schools to identify how best to keep the AP course and exam current and reflective of the ever-changing discipline of computer science."

CSTA is well-represented on this commission and will do its best to meet these goals.

While we don't know what the future will hold for the AP curriculum, we now have a seat at the table and we'll keep you posted as we move forward.

In the meantime, given that we are soon only going to have a single AP CS exam, what do you think that exam should cover? In other words, what are the essential concepts that the course must include?

Let us know what you think!

Robb Cutler
CSTA President

Posted by cstephenson at 01:55 PM | Comments (19)

April 01, 2008

Staff Development: 25 Tools for Education

While Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day is not purely about computer science education, I feel very strongly that good educational practices span disciplines and so it is one of the RSS feeds that Google reader automatically retrieves for me daily.

Jane recently blogged about a professional development program that she created, centered around her top 25 e-learning tools. I highly recommend going to the site and working through the activities for any of the tools you are unfamiliar with. Some of them, like Firefox, are things you probably already use, but Jane highlights some of the extra functionality of the browser as well as some useful extensions.

The tools are divided into categories including: Keep Yourself Up to Date, Manage Your Own Productivity, Set Up a Blog, Website and/or Wiki, Share Content with Others, Build Content and Share it with Others, Bring People Together, and Develop and Manage Courses.

To start a little discussion here please tell us what your favorite e-learning tool is (whether or not Jane agrees)? I use many of the things on her list and I think Google Reader has drastically improved my ability to find new and useful things as well as be aware of what is going on today in education. I used to have to go to 20-25 web pages first thing in the morning to see what the latest headlines were, who posted something new on blogs I read, and forget about trying to find new research as its published. Now with Google Reader, I go to one place and get EVERYTHING. It is separated by the feed (where it came from) so I can pick and choose what I want to read when I have time. It truly has changed the way I interact with the Internet on a daily basis.

No matter how small or how large leave a comment and share your favorite e-learning tool here.

Leigh Ann Sudol
CSTA Communications Chair

Posted by cstephenson at 02:40 PM | Comments (8)