Tag Archives: College Intro Courses

Jumping from Engineering to English

Prospective engineering students switching majors

This is an interesting article and it does point out some of the reasons students bail out on Computer Science and Engineering.  It seems that CS and Engineering courses are not taught to the degree of other courses.  There are teachers in the classes, but the approach to teaching CS and Engineering courses is often less about teaching and explaining topics / concepts and more akin to throwing kids to the wolves to see which ones make it.  One can hope this trend will not continue.

CMU kicks OOP to the curb in intro CS

CMU says adios to OOP in intro CS

OOP was all the rage a few years ago, but appears to be losing some of its luster.  CMU has gone and done what lots of folks have been discussing on blogs and lists for some time.  “Objects never or hardly never” was a topic on Mark Guzdial’s blog not too long ago.
It is extremely important that intro students can develop logical solutions / algorithms to given problems no matter the paradigm.  This is way important to me than knowing where to put lots of keywords and punctuation marks.  I want my students to be prepared to effectively develop solutions to problems in any environment.  The more tools you have in your tool belt the better a Batman you will be – or something like that – you need to be flexible and adaptable and a fancy tool belt should help – at least in my mind it makes sense.  I think Batman is cool and he has a cool tool belt.  Who doesn’t like Batman?  🙂

TCEA Panel Summary – What is the Future of AP Computer Science?

Today in Austin, Texas at the TCEA state convention, Bill Dunklau organized a panel to discuss the proposed AP CS Principles course.  Bill served as the panel moderator.  Teresa Dahlberg, representing NSF, and I served as live panel participants.  Several others participated via Skype.

Bill provided an intro and began the AP CS Principles Pilot awards.  Awards were given to the colleges currently piloting courses based on the AP CS Principles framework.  Various awards were presented to recognize the different approaches used to deliver these pilot courses.

Teresa provided an overview of the AP CS Principles course, an explanation of the combined efforts of NSF and the College Board, and the rationale behind the development of the course.  Related information can be found at http://csprinciples.org/

Dan Garcia from UC Berkeley spoke about his CS10 : The Beauty and Joy of Computing course.  He provided some examples and supporting feedback from some of his students.  Scratch BYOB is the main environment used to create projects in this class.  Information can be found at  http://inst.eecs.berkeley.edu/~cs10/sp11/

Teresa provided a bit more information on the NSF role in the project and some slides from Owen Astrachan.  Related information can be found at http://csprinciples.org/

I presented some slides from Larry Snyder and gave an overview of the CSE120 University of Washington course.  LightBot and Processing are the main environments used to create projects in this course.  Information can be found at http://www.cs.washington.edu/education/courses/cse120/11wi/

We finally were able to get Jody Paul up on the big screen via Skype.  Jody spoke about the Living in A Computing World course he teachers at Metropolitan State College of Denver.  Scratch and LightBot are the main environments used to create projects in this course.  Information can be found at http://livinginacomputingworld.org/

Chris Stephenson wrapped up the panel via Skype.  She provided information about the role of CSTA.

Hopefully, the panel discussion provided useful information to all that attended.

Other related Links

LightBot –  http://armorgames.com/play/2205/light-bot

Scratch BYOB – http://byob.berkeley.edu/

Processing – http://processing.org/

CS News – Lack of CS Grads and Quality CS Programs

CS Education Act Press Release

The link above is to the press release detailing the Computer Science Education Act.

New Bill Focuses on Lack of CS Grads

The CS Ed Act should provide a much needed focus on CS education.  This article discusses the act and its possibilities.  This is an interesting development and one that quite a few different groups support.  Anything that can get some attention focused on Computer Science Education is a good thing and it is even better when the plan makes sense.

The article also poses the question concerning the affects standardization could have on those programs that take a more non-standard creative approach to teaching the subject.  I like the reference to making the program “sexier” in the description of the Porter-Gaud  CS program.  I have said quite few times that Computer Science programs need to be “sexier”  if you want students to sign up.  Computer Science has lots to offer but learning needs to be engaging and entertaining or students are just not going to get involved.

Most High Schools Lack Quality CS Programs

This is another interesting article that kind of piggy backs on the one listed above.  I spoke with Erik when he was working on the article and he makes some really nice points about the issues facing Computer Science education.  He spoke to quite a few people and has some really nice data included.

CS News – CMU Using Robots to Create CS Majors

CMU Using Robots to Create CS Majors

CMU is going to use the tremendous interest in robotics to get more students interested in Computer Science.  Many of us at the high school level have been doing this for years.  Students love working with robots due to the fact they can see the results of their ideas in action.  Robots move and act out the solutions to the problems that students create.  This is very engaging and exciting.  Elementary, middle, and high school students find robotics very engaging.  Using robotics also shows students another side of Computer Science that is very kinesthetic and social.  Two things that are often lacking in typical Computer Science classes.
Way to go CMU!

Pac-Man 30th Anniversary

Google Pac-Man

People Playing Google Pac-Man Wastes 4.8 Million Hours

The 30th anniversary of Pac-Man has come and gone.  What a cool game!
I remember playing Pac-Man on 25 cent arcade machines when I was a kid.
We had a local arcade / pizza house that all sorts of video games.
We had Space Invaders, Frogger, Galaga, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Phoenix, and Asteroids just to name a few.

Due to my fond feelings about arcade games and my perception that my students like them as well, I have my students complete several of these games in my classes.
I have a GridWorld Snake Project that can easily become PacMan.

I also have Space Invaders and Pong projects using Frames and Java Graphics.
I ported over my Pong project over to Scratch and use that in our intro CS class.
We also created Pac-Man in XNA / C# as an end of year project.  The students had to research grid-based gaming and the A* algorithm.  The project was fun.
My students love building interactive projects and really enjoying playing what they create as well as playing what others in class create.
It is very educational for the students to design and build a game and then explain that creative process to other students.

AP CS Principles Website

AP CS Principles Website The AP CS Principles course website is now up and running.  Information regarding the work of the commission has been posted as well as some general information on the AP Computer Science Principles course.

As as member of the commission, I think the course is coming along nicely and that it will be a course that will convey to everyone the coolness, power, and relevance of Computer Science.
The course will include programming as programming is a very fundamental component of Computer Science, but not focus only on programming.

Alfred Thompson has some cool reflections on his blog about the AP CS Principles course.  His blog is a very good one to check out for all sorts of Computer Science information.

CS News – Creative College Intro Courses



Both of these courses use Scratch and cover some really cool CS topics.
The focus is not 100% on just programming, but more focused on how CS affects the world around us.

I think more high school intro CS courses would better serve students if they would follow suit.