[Edu-sig] AP Computer Science

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Sun Nov 7 05:46:53 CET 2010

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.


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:
(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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