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Brian Scarbeau Insights from a seasoned Computer Science Trainer

Debbie Carter who teaches AP Computer Science at Lancaster Day School in Lancaster, PA has put together an excellent resource book for AP Computer Science Teachers. You can get the book at apcentral.collegeboard.com. I've worked with Debbie as a member of the now defunct Microsoft Faculty Advisory Board and presently as a Board Member for the Computer Science Teachers Association.

The book contains information that will help both a beginner teacher and veteran teachers as well. It has five chapters and the first chapter reviews the history of AP Computer Science along with a course description and review of key concepts and skills that must be covered during the school year with our students.

One thing that I liked from the start is that Debbie went out to the AP Computer Science community of teachers and asked them for input on different topics covered in the book. I recognized familiar names that I've met in the past at workshops in the book.

Chapter 2 was advice for AP Computer Science Teachers. What is hard for many of us teaching the course is that we are the only teacher in our school teaching the course and it does get lonely when we run into a problem and may need some help. The advice given was very good and I've been pretty good at figuring out what I need to teach in the curriculum but what has been tough in the 11 years that I've taught the course are the many changes that have been made to the curriculum. I started teaching PASCAL to my students and then C++ and now JAVA. I've adapted to these changes and my students have benefited by their successes at learning the material and passing the AP exam with a good score.

Chapter 3 is about course organization. Several sample syllabi are listed for teachers to use in their course. The only problem is that the case study that we need to teach our students has changed and the syllabi don't reflect that change but any teacher can include that into the syllabus.

Chapter 4 discusses the exam and the format. A teacher really needs to know how students are graded on this exam because it may be different from how they grade their own exams. Exam preparation is the key to student successes and there are many exam review books teachers can use with their students to prepare.

The last chapter has many resources for teachers to use. There are many things teachers can do to help teach the class and one I would strongly recommend is professional development.

Last month I attended the CS/IT Symposium in Atlanta and Fran Trees who has been around the AP Computer Science world for a long time gave an excellent presentation on GridWorld which is the new case study.

Go to the CS/IT site and get her slides to help you prepare for the case study.

There are two appendix at the back of the book that reviews the new case study and has supplemental documents.

If you are a new teacher, I would suggest getting help early in your teaching so you don't get too frustrated. There are many of us to help!

Good luck!

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Posted on Saturday, July 14, 2007 10:35 AM Teaching AP CS | Back to top

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