Archive for February, 2021

Montana CS Standards sort of.

February 8, 2021

We are getting ready to review our Practical Arts curriculum which includes Computer Science so I figured I should take a look at the Montana State CS Standards.  Montana is just getting around to adopting some standards for CS.  I was on the original committee about four years ago to get an outline started. Something happened between then and now.  The Standards now read like a wordsmith and the MIT computer science department got together to whip up everything that would be perfect in a college curriculum.  Some of the goals are just plain stupid.  I love this one – “evaluate the ways computing technologies impact American Indian communities in Montana”.  This is something high school students are supposed to do?  Looks more like something a committee appointed by the Governor would attempt to research.  There are a lot like this.  I have looked at several other State’s standards.  Some are actually practical and useful for a CS teacher to build a curriculum around, others are like this Montana gobbledygook bs document.  Pure eye wash.  The Standards should be a simple tool for a CS department or teacher to build a program around, not an idealistic, impossible to understand set of tasks that sound really cool if you want to impress someone who does not know what you are talking about.  The Standards should make sense to people without advanced CS degrees.  Like most CS teachers.  Here is another sweet one – “use data analysis tools and techniques to identify patterns in data representing complex systems”.  I think I know what this means but am not positive.  Is this something done in a high school?  I am not talking about a technology magnet school, but a high school in Montana where the number of CS teachers with a CS degree can be counted on one hand.  I really wish I had something that I did not have to look closely at every line and try to figure out what it meant.

Always Something New to Teach

February 6, 2021

I was chatting with a friend of mine who teaches the game programming courses at the local university.  I asked him what I could do to help my students succeed in his program if they wanted to go that direction.  He said they should be familiar with programming and the rest he can teach them.  Familiarity with Unity is a big plus also.  I was curious what his idea of “familiar with programming” meant.  I teach a Python course so I wanted to be sure I was going the right direction.  For his courses he said any language that is object oriented (OOP).  His suggestions were Java or C#.  What was interesting was he said the student should have an idea where they want to go academically.  For his direction an OOP language is best, for most of the other sciences, Python.  Yes, I know, Python can be OOP but apparently that is not its strong point.  I do not know OOP so I cannot talk too much about Python and OOP.  So I need to look at learning how to program using OOP.  Since Unity uses C# I guess it is predetermined.  Now I just have to find a book or set of lessons that can teach an old man new tricks.  I have tried to learn OOP before but many years of hacking with procedural programming has made it very difficult to pick up.  I usually think that OOP is a mess and my old technique works and I end up bailing on the attempt.  I am not going to teach this (if I do) until next fall so I have a while to warmed up.

On Being Tired

February 4, 2021

As Lili von Shtupp said in Blazing Saddles “I’m tired”.  I was chatting with several of the other teachers and we all agree, this year is wearing on us more than any other.  We are not sure if it is something as simple as teaching behind a mask or something as complex as the added stress Covid has brought to an already stressful job.  As a result I have tried to reduce the number of preps I am doing.  At the moment I have four, Python, Intro to Programming and Game Programming with Unity 1 and 2.  I have decided to sort of roll my Unity 1 and 2 into one class.  I normally have two or three lesson threads going in Unity which means I am working on two or three Unity projects so I can show the kids how to build the scene they are to work on.  I am getting just too tired mentally to keep it all going.  It does not help that I am teaching the Python and Unity 2 classes at the same time.  The biggest help is the classes are small and the kids are into it.  Point them in a direction and get out of the way.  I still have to troubleshoot assignments before they get to them.  Those of you that teach smart kids know how busy that can keep you.  Take a day off and they pass you up and you have no idea how they did what they did..  With Unity there are so many things to do that it is not hard to have the Unity 2 kids do something the Unity 1 kids are doing and still learn something new.  It just bothers me that I am not doing as much in the classes as I normally do.  I like the kids to explore the features of Unity, that is part of the course, how to learn, but I simply cannot keep up this year.  When I get home I just want to veg out, not look at a computer screen.  (Like I am doing now typing this.  You may notice I have reduced the number of postings.)  Here is hoping next year is closer to “normal”.