SBScodes: All about a new course at SBS: AP Computer Science Principles

September 10, 2018 by Andrea Tehan Carnes

Computer science is a subject that many faculty members and students have been longing to teach and learn at Stoneleigh-Burnham School for many years. Early in now-retired Math Teacher Roger Turton's tenure, he taught computer science. If you've seen the movie Hidden Figures, then you can probably guess that he learned to code a computer using cards with holes punched in them. I am no SBS expert, but I think that may be the last kind of coding we taught here.

Since the first computer was built back in 1946, computing in the workforce has exploded! And since the inventions of smartphones, cars with touch screens, and tablets we carry everywhere with us, the need for software engineers has increased exponentially. Half of all STEM jobs available by 2020 will be computing jobs. We need to be preparing our students for the world beyond SBS. Computing is becoming a part of everything that we do. Every job in the workforce uses or can use computing in some way. Why not set our graduates apart by sending them to college and then the workforce with an essential skill like understanding how coding works in their pocket?

Diversity in the computing world is also very much an issue. Like many STEM fields, computing is dominated by men, who are mostly white. My classroom this year is filled with six young women who are pioneers in this community. They are two racially diverse Americans, one Korean, and three Chinese students. I couldn't be more proud of them for stepping outside their comfort zones to learn this new essential skill.

So, what are they learning this year? They are all working on a curriculum called Mobile CSP, which will prepare all six of them to get college credit through the college board's portfolio and examination for AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP). In four weeks over this past summer, I took the course myself with other local teachers in Massachusetts and Connecticut so that we could work our way through the curriculum in order to be able to teach it effectively.

Essentially, AP CSP is a course that focuses on mobile computing. Students are learning about a range of items that includes preparing them with the computing/IT skills necessary for the job market with focuses on creating, problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. They will be learning all about how computers work, how the internet works and sends information, how to think like a coder or programmer, and all the while they will be coding apps with increased complexity to get them ready to submit their own app to the College Board. The other thing I like about this course is that it has students focus on how technology affects society in positive and negative ways. And the apps they create need to be socially useful. So this course can tie into other things we already do at SBS like with our IB CAS course for IB Diploma Candidates.

The program we are using to develop apps is open-source (free) to all. It's called App Inventor 2, and was created by MIT. If you've used MIT's Scratch program, then the coding blocks may look familiar to you! Both programs were created by the same team. 

So, please feel free to follow along with us each week to see what we have been learning! I will also post about the apps the students are creating themselves along the way. Below are some photos of the very first app the students created. They had to get familiar with the User Interface (UI) side of App Inventor, and then they created their very first line of code. When you click on the photo of MLK, a player with his voice giving the "I Have a Dream Speech" starts!

Happy coding!

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Written by Andrea Tehan Carnes

Filed Under: SBScodes, AP Computer Science Principles, AP CSP, coding