The Grass is Always Greener

It is spring break.  The weather is poor and I am financially inconvenienced so I figure I might as well evaluate and modifying my CS curriculum.   (What else do broke teachers do on spring break?)

Presently we offer Programming I (1 semester, Scratch, Small Basic), Programming II (1 semester, a mix of about 5 different languages or whatever interests us the teachers), Python (1 semester, college CS credit), Java (1 semester, college CS credit), Game Programming with Unity (1 or 2 semester) and Intro to Programming (1 semester, similar to Prog 2, college general credit).  After some head scratching and conversations with college instructors and people in the tech industry I want to make some modifications. I am going to bag the Game Programming for next year and bring in a Web Design and Development course and an App Development using Android Studio course. The Web Design would be based around HTML/CSS/JavaScript and would have no prerequisite.  Since I know zip about HTML, CSS or JavaScript it will have to be fairly basic this first time through. I know enough people in the industry that I can find some good help with the course. I want to attract some of the non-techie kids with this course. I hope I can get some of the kids that think computer stuff is not for them. Girls in particular. The school is at least 50% female and I only have one in my CS classes right now.  I need to find a solution to get them and the non-programmers involved in the tech classes. I have to show them that this stuff is not rocket science. (OK, it is, but if I want to attract non-techie students I have to convince them it isn’t.) I have found a couple of courses about Web Development, one of them through CodeHS. I would not use the CodeHS because it is not free. I still need to do some digging. Whatever I find has to teach both me and the kids.  I am old and the brain is getting fossilized so it has to be simple and good.

The App Dev with AS is to keep my programming geeks interested in new things and maybe attract some new blood.  Again I do not know AS but the amount of resources available is massive. I am not too worried about learning AS, after all it is just another IDE.  Since AS requires some programming skills I am thinking of having a programming prerequisite. The only CS teacher in the local public school is using AS in one of his classes so I will have a resource on the pedagogical aspect.  I have been hesitant in the past about introducing an AS course because AS looks pretty high level.

This year I sort of prepped some kids for the AS course by offering Java.  I started thinking about the AS course earlier this year but was not positive I was going to offer it.  Since I found another local teacher using it I will dive it. I hope those Java kids will hang with me. I think it is necessary to have my tech students work with phone apps.  Phone apps are the programs of now and the future. There will always be Windows, Mac, and Linux towers but I think the big money will be phone apps and software that interacts with phone apps.  I have no doubt that in 2 or 3 years the primary computer interface will be VR/AR glasses connected to a phone connected to a server on the internet. Connect that to some type of input device (mini joystick, Leap Motion hand tracker or like interface) and now you have something.  I want my kids to be able to come up with ideas for an environment like this, not just be users.

I am ignoring iPhone simply because I do not have Macs or money.  Android apps I can install directly from the computer to the phone.  Apple requires the Apple store as an in-between. Not convenient. Besides, I use an Android.  (App Inventor for iPhone is in beta at the moment.)

Now I just have to find some students, some teaching resources, learn HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Android Studio, build some lessons and try to guess what surprises are going to come along that I have not thought of.  I will save that for next weekend.


2 Responses to “The Grass is Always Greener”

  1. Alfred Thompson Says:

    We got more girls in CS classes by requiring 2 semesters of CS for graduation. Cheating? Maybe but it is working. To be honest we have some classes that we let count as CS that I would not necessarily count as CS but I’m sure you know how that happens.

    Still we’ve seen an increase in girls in Programming honors and AP CS Principles as well. Getting them to take that first course and making it interesting can get them to take more.

  2. gflint Says:

    We require 2 semesters of “practical arts” which includes CS. PA includes a library research class and a computer apps course (Office, Photoshop, etc.) It is possible to get out of here without a real CS class. Of course the true CS classes are considered “hard” by the kids so most avoid them. I have to find things that will temp the kids even if rumored to be hard. For some reasons high school kids want to avoid hard courses. I do not understand. I never avoided the hard ones when I was in high school.

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