[Edu-sig] AP Computer Science

Zac Miller zmiller at gsc.edu
Sun Nov 7 02:00:40 CET 2010

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 [vceder at canterburyschool.org]
Sent: Saturday, November 06, 2010 8:01 PM
To: Helene Martin
Cc: Zac Miller; edu-sig at python.org
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.


On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 7:49 PM, Helene Martin <lognaturel at gmail.com<mailto:lognaturel at gmail.com>> 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

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

On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 4:24 PM, Zac Miller <zmiller at gsc.edu<mailto:zmiller at gsc.edu>> 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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