Thursday, August 02, 2012

APSI day 2 notes

Day 2 was just as intense as day 1. Here are things I took away from our session:

* There are lots of opinions floating around. You want a good teaching approach, but don't let ANYONE tell you that there is only one way to do things ... that THEIR way is perfect because they've had success. Unless they've been at your school with your kids, they don't know your situation. A great teacher can have good and bad years in various ways that "success" is determined. Listen to things and absorb and intelligently decide your best approach for your situation.

* Repetition is useful. There are certain skills you just have to practice over and over again, not in the sake of doing "hard math/computer science", but for the sake of getting a fluency with mechanics and basic skills.

* Kids most likely won't completely understand things the first time (all humans for that matter). Frequent revisiting and exposure is the key.

* He does these "80 point Free Response" tests to practice getting ready for the FR section of the AP exam. He picks a specific reasonable amount of time (3 minutes for an easier problem or 8-10 for a more involved one) and the kids go. The second they're done they can walk the test up to him for grading. When times done, you need to be done. You have 2 possible grades on the test: 80 or 100. He wants the kids to start practicing and getting it down and being comfortable with timed portions and with FR format and skills. Also, he checks handwriting in terms of neatness and legibility and such and comments on it. Only people with perfect answers done in time get 100. Everyone else gets 80. ... I like this and will modify it to suit my situation.

* Your overconfidence on the exam could be your worst enemy. He's had valedictorians and smart kids get a 1 on the AP CS exam because they made judgments about the ease of a question and quickly skimmed and answered and missed the subtle points of what was being asked. I found myself doing that (as a smart kid, ar ar ar) on some of the practice problems. I was "being a human" and part of my brain was doing the problem, and part of my brain was analyzing their intent, and then I would get the problem wrong. I think you have to train yourself to THINK LIKE THE COMPUTER and just make diagrams and fill memory and change values based on the instructions given. I had most success when I remembered that.

* Sprinkle GridWorld skills throughout your whole year. Keep coming back to it. This goes with the repetition thing. If you cover the last skill right at the end of your teaching phase, the kids haven't had enough contact with it and won't do well with it. This goes with something someone else said in Lincoln. She pretty much finishes all the content the first semester, and then spends the next semester on projects and practicing the skills (is this possible? check.).

* LOVE that geometry comes back into play on the Boolean portion of the class. Yay De Morgan's Law!