Programming Curriculum: Never Satisfied

All that Android App Course research really got the brain cells fired up.  Particularly in the way of curriculum. The CS/Programming curriculum I offer presently is built around several factors.  The biggest factor is what I am capable of teaching. I have no professional programming experience and almost no college coursework in programming.  (OK, three courses. One in 1972 with punch cards, I do not even remember the language I used. Two courses in the 80s, one FORTRAN and the other a very bad experience with Java.)  Everything I know about programming was learned on the job; a good book and staying a couple of days ahead of the kids. This somewhat limits the level of programming I am capable of offering in my curriculum.  As a result any change in my curriculum requires a lot of work on my part. Not just designing a course but learning the language if the course is programming.

All the Android App Course research has resulted in my wanting to offer a course using Android Studio.  I learned there are several excellent ways to go for the app course but when all is said and done if the kids are going to write professional level apps with a professional tool Android Studio is the way to go.  I am also somewhat fascinated by Android Studio. Not sure why, it my just be a character flaw.  Android Studio uses Java. Hence I need to offer a Java course before I offer Android Studio. I also feel Java is one of those languages kids should have some familiarity with.  I have taught Java before, just not very well. So the project for Spring semester is to build a Java course on the fly while teaching Java and learning Java at the same time. No problem. The tricky part is going to be keeping the kids from going faster than me.  Smart buggers.

I dug around the internet looking for a Java text.  I am somewhat limited by my $0 budget, I have to find free textbooks.  I found two that seem pretty decent. “Think Java: How to think like a computer scientist” by Downey and Mayfield (2016) and “Introduction to Programming with Java” by Eck (2018).  I use Downey’s “How to Think Like a Computer Scientist: Learning with Python 3” as my Python textbook.  Excellent book for the price.  I did a quick preview of both and am going to go with the Eck book.  It seems a little bit more detailed in the chapters but since they are both free I can give both to the kids so they can have a second resource.  

A real nice thing about teaching at a small private school is I can decide to offer a course two weeks before the semester starts, get the councillor to put it in the schedule and find kids to take it, all without a major hassle with committees or administration.  The bad thing with this easy approach is that sometimes the Good Idea Fairy bites me and I get over my head, usually in available time.

So next semester I will be teaching Stats (26 seniors), Honors Algebra II (2 sophomores), Game Programming with Unity and VR (5 juniors and seniors) and two sections of Java (sophomores and juniors, numbers to be determined).  With the IT work added in I should not be too bored.

I almost forgot, I need to start working with Android Studio.  I need to find something free out there, either a book or video series, that is written for beginners.  I have found a number of things labeled “Android Studio for Beginners” but where a beginner is assumed to be someone with extensive Java programming experience.  I have to find that something this spring because if I cannot find anything truly for beginners I will have to find something I can simplify or build my own material this summer.  Always fun.

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