Monday, August 2, 2010

New AP CS Principles Exam and Supporting Courses - Huge Opportunity!

Just out, hot off the press, in case you have not yet seen it, is an Open Letter to the Computer Science Community discussing the development of a new AP CS "Principles" course. The course is being developed in response to the development of a new AP Exam by  The College Board with support from the National Science Foundation

As described in the documentation, this new course and test are not designed to supplant the existing Computer Science AP exam (unfortunately stuck in between Math and Statistics on the web page and accessed via a "math" URL) and preparation course. That course, and the test it prepares the high school student for, will remain for the time being primarily Java programming.

This new AP exam is targeted at a broader audience. Pulling from the long list of benefits cited for this exam  (and by extension the course) are:
  • ... can potentially remove the stereotype that "CS-types" are anti-social maladjusted white males.
  • ...High school students ... will be exposed to a fascinating body of knowledge that they know by personal experience is "relevant and important" to their lives...
Music to my soul. But the story gets better. Not only are there plans for a high school course, but for a college version of the course that will, to use the magic words so important to students and their parents "be awarded credit". Let's be real here - it helps a LOT to get students into a course (which you have to do before you can enchant them with it) by letting them know that - from the student's pov - the course is not "a waste of time". 

The very nature of this course is an opportunity and a call for interdisciplinary computing and for positive examples of applications of the field! Pardon me if I hop up and down just a bit. 

While the Computer Science Principles class is being piloted this coming year there is a lot that needs to be done to publicize the effort and support it. The main page describing the AP CS Principles effort (previously linked above as well) contains a short, readable, do-able list of things that any computer scientist or friend of computer science can help with. 

Let's take this rare opportunity  (just how often do you think that a brand new College Board AP exam is created?) to influence the creation and adoption of a great course to show computing at its most diverse and societal best.

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