Who can teach CS Principles?

June 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yesterday, I gave another short talk on CS Principles and my experiences at North Gwinnett. It was again at the Staff Development Workshop at my district. The audience was different from last week. All of the teachers were non-programming teachers. Most of the teachers in the room teach one of the following courses: Web Design, Flash Development or Computing In the Modern World.

While preparing for the presentation, I tried to think what kind of information would be useful to them. History and the thought process behind CS Principles would be useful. I could explain what the course would teach, how was it different from other CS courses that were already being taught and about the significant shift in thinking from AP Computer Science A.  I decided they would be much less interested in details of the curriculum but more interested in what kinds of projects my students did. So, I took some samples with me.

I started as always getting them off their chairs with a group activity and brought them around to thinking problem solving and logic development. Then as I pulled up my student samples I sensed an interest!  I noticed that my audience, who had possibly taught that this was an “AP” course that would be too difficult to teach, now started thinking that they already teach most of this! And a small shift in thinking, a short learning curve and they could very easily be successful teaching this course.

My emphasis throughout the presentation was that CS Principles was not about teaching how to use Photoshop or CS5 but certainly both could be used as tools to create a software product. And if that is possible, then these teachers should be able to easily teach CS Principles. As I thought more about this, I realized that this message was very important, at least in my district and couple of neighboring ones.  In many of the schools the AP Computer Science is a Math teacher and most of the students are academically high achievers and most of the time good math students.  The non-AP technology courses that are taught in these Business & Computer Science departments (CTAE) are by the Business-Ed teachers who have trained themselves to teach Web design and similar such courses.  CS Principles can and should be taught by these teachers.  If we are to achieve the CS 10K goal, then I think it is important to send the message that AP CS Principles do not have to be taught only by the AP Computer Science teachers.

And that is what I like about talking / teaching AP CS Principles.  It is an interesting course to teach and an easy course to sell to teachers and students.


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