## Thursday, June 14, 2012

### Summer Time...

Ahhhh, the joys of getting enough sleep. That's basically in the top 5 treats of summer vacation. That and the feeling that I have PLENTY of time to organize how I want to teach my 2 new preps next year. Hah! Knowing me, I'll put it off until the last minute and then scramble around wondering what happened to my carefree days.

I did pull out my old calculus bins, and I actually organized them chronologically. I recycled TONS of dated things from them. Now I'm pushing that topic to the back of my mind to gnaw on at odd moments. I'm still thinking of flipping that class daily, and am tossing around ideas to make it doable in the time frame I'll have. It makes me giddy to think I can actually assign problems for class practice (formerly known as homework) that involve "a" and "b" instead of actual numbers. You know, there's a piecewise function with, say, 3 pieces and instead of "3x + 7", one part has "3x + a", and the question is of the sort: find "a" so that the function is continuous. In the past, it's assigned, kids struggle, they come to class, then I walk through how to do it. Besides not being the best way for them, it also ate up class time. NOW I envision myself skipping through class with a goofy grin on my face and just feeding them little hints. POOF! More time in class and more challenging problems. We'll see what the reality really is like, but I'm willing to try it for one year.

This calculus class is also the class that will be through the ropes with me as a teacher for the 3rd time (geometry, precal, calc). To say we're like a dysfunctional family at this point basically sums it up.

My current project is the AP Computer Science class. I have 13 students that have signed up, and they have basically never programmed before. I've heard various theories about how I should use Alice or Scratch or something drag and droppy. I may be naive, and that will certainly come out as the school year happens, but I think that at the end of the day, the students still have to be able to write code and be careful with syntax and find their bugs and such. I think they're up to it. I'm forging ahead and introducing Java immediately. I feel that if I start with another type package then somewhere deep down I'm saying to the students: you can't handle Java. Here's a warm fuzzy puppy that bounces around the screen. Weeeeeee.

Saying that, I think I want to start immediately with the first class. In some form, I want them to write code that day (heavily scaffolded), possibly doing graphics. I have a long term first project in mind, but I have to work out the bugs.

Okay, that's me setting it down in stone. Let's see what happens as the year progresses.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I disagree with your comment "My current project is the AP Computer Science class. I have 13 students that have signed up, and they have basically never programmed before. I've heard various theories about how I should use Alice or Scratch or something drag and droppy. I may be naive, and that will certainly come out as the school year happens, but I think that at the end of the day, the students still have to be able to write code and be careful with syntax and find their bugs and such. I think they're up to it. I'm forging ahead and introducing Java immediately. I feel that if I start with another type package then somewhere deep down I'm saying to the students: you can't handle Java. Here's a warm fuzzy puppy that bounces around the screen. Weeeeeee."

Certainly by the end of April students will need to be very comfortable with Java syntax, but that doesn't mean that Java syntax should be the first thing you teach them. The reason that Scratch and Alic work so well is that they allow teaching the important concepts without bogging down in chasing semicolons and other trivial details. The idea is to reduce the cognitive load on the students, so that they can learn more by not overloading their working memory with trivia.

Shireen D said...

Thanks for your comment. There are certainly a ton of people that agree with you. I just keep thinking back to when I learned programming, and I had to immediately deal with "all the details". It worked fine, and I'm hoping that in this day and age it still does. I still hold with my opinion that we are doing a disservice to students by thinking that they are not up to the challenge.

Math Teacher said...

Please continue to post/share ideas about AP Computer Science. This August will be my first year teaching and I've been assigned a programming class that has 1st year C++, 2nd year AP Java, and 3rd year mobile device programming all in the same hour. I'm looking at 19 first year, 6 second year, and 4 third year students and definitely need some serious prep time to get ready.