New semester, new course.

Thursday was the end of the semester.  Nobody failed.  Close but they made it.

So far I have three students signed up for the new CSCI 100 course spring semester.  Thank goodness.  I have been spending a lot of time building and testing the course.  I would have been majorly bummed if I had done all that work for nothing.  The course is tailored for students interested in going into education.  I figure if the university will not promote CS for education majors I might as well do it.  This is a dual-credit course so the kids will get college credit for it.  Courses for future teachers need to be broad, both in languages and concepts.  In Montana a new teacher rarely has a well-defined CS program to step into if they are hired to teach a CS course, so they have to know how to find course material and be able to learn a language/IDE quickly.  Depth is not critical for a beginning teacher, especially when the time involved to acquire depth is not justified by the hiring opportunities, that will come with time.  Being able to build something, possibly from scratch, is what I consider the primary skill for a new CS teacher.  The CSCI 100 course is intended to be a show-and-tell, here are a number of ideas that can be used to build courses.  The students that have signed up for the course have little to no CS or programming experience so the material is very basic.  These are not students who are interested in teaching upper level CS (at least not at the moment) but hopefully they will get enough out of this course to be able to do an introductory course and have enough background to get a CS program started in a school.  It will also hopefully give them enough to help in a school with a developed CS program.  There is the little detail of getting certified for CS in Montana.  The only way is with business degree or a CS degree.  (Business degree?  I am still stumped by that one.)  This is at least a step for these kids.  They can put “Computer programming course” on their resume.

It has been so long since I have taught non-computer geek students that this might be a bit of a challenge.  I know the rate at which geeks learn programming but total rookies, especially non-techie rookies, will be interesting.  I have planned due dates for assignments but to tell the truth I am just not sure how realistic those are.  The three students, all girls, are bright but I am not sure about their enthusiasm.  I will have to decide how strict I am going to be on those due dates.  Since these girls will be working without a lecture period (this is sort of an independent study since the period they are signed up for is the same period I teach Algebra 2 to three math underachievers) I will have to keep a sharp eye on how they are or are not struggling.  There is also the factor of teaching girls CS.  Women learn differently than men.  (This is a statement made with thirty years of teaching behind it.  There is undoubtedly research out there proving and dis-proving this statement.)  I have not taught mainstream girls in many years.  I have had a female student for the last three years (she is a junior now) but she is an uber-geek with an IQ that is just scary and is probably going to major in a computer field.  I just stay out of her way.  I am not worried about teaching these girls, it is just something I need to pay attention to in regards to my teaching style.  I am teaching two sophomore computer geek boys CS at the moment.  I do not think how I deal with those boys will work with three senior girls.  Chuckle.

This course is taking me well out of my comfort zone.  Non-techie girls in a course I have not tested on students.  It is going to be fun.

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