One of my favourite activities is to get together with colleagues to discuss our successes, and improvement opportunities, from the courses we were teaching. I had the opportunity to spend 2 hours with Michael Vandepoele (South Huron DHS) as part of our board's PD day. I'm excited about the "lineup" for ICS2O and ICS3C/3U for the 2012-2013 school year.
The 2012-2013 school year will be my last year teaching at DCVI (you read it here first!). When I was considering the experiences the students will have in CS this upcoming school year, I couldn't help but think back to my first year of teaching CS at DCVI in September 1979. There were more CS classes in 1979 than there are now; in 1979 they were called "Data Processing" and the school population was 800 compared to the current 500. Students used pencils to optically mark Hollerith Code on cards to write BASIC programs. The cards were sent to a school in Stratford to be scanned and have the programs "run" with a printout of the source code and the results (assuming the cards all scanned properly - one error on one card and it stopped scanning). Getting the cards sent and returned - one week turnaround. Thankfully, it's not 1979 anymore!
I made significant changes to ICS2O last year, and this year's lineup remains basically the same. I use Edmodo (edmodo.com) and you will find the public page for the course at: http://dcvi.edmodo.com/public/ics2o-intro-to-cs/group_id/430633
New to the line-up is Google Blockly. It's a cross between Scratch and App Inventor. Not sure if that step is necessary, but I'm going to give it a try and I'm not adverse to making a lineup change!
DCVI now has 40 iPads (10 iPad1s and 30 iPad2s). Michael has experimented with CargoBot (an iPad app) and it will likely make an appearance in the lineup at some point in time.
Another possible addition to the lineup is GameSalad - http://gamesalad.com It is an OSX App, and the computer lab is PCs. There are some MacBooks in the school and if I can get enough rounded-up and/or the students have their own, GameSalad might make an appearance.
To encourage students to consider taking ICS2O and then taking ICS3C/3U, I want to make the courses different. Even though both of the courses are introductory CS courses and therefore focus on the basics of CS - sequence, selection, repetition - I like to keep the lineups significantly different.
The lineup for this year is significantly different than previous years. I've been an advocate of the use of Alice but I've grown disenchanted with the lack of development on Alice3 and have subsequently dropped Alice from the lineup.
I found that the students work very well with the online, self-paced nature of Code Academy (and GameStar Mechanic). With GameStar Mechanic (ICS2O) I don't assess the students' progress / work. I'm going to take the same approach with Code Academy - no formal assessment.
If you are teaching an object oriented language, like Java, I'm a supporter of teaching objects first. I've discussed this approach with students who have completed the CS courses at DCVI and they have all indicated that learning other forms of programming (procedural, functional) haven't been difficult given their object oriented background. Good enough for me to continue with the objects first approach!
Speaking of CS grads from DCVI, one graduate is working on creating a very simple UML web-based app that will allow students to design programs using the basic concepts of UML and have their work exported as Java code (to upload into BlueJ in our case). As of this blog post, this project is pre-alpha 0.0.1
BlueJ's supporting text is the guide for what I do when teaching Java. The Edmodo page for the ICS3U course (2011-1012) can be found at: http://dcvi.edmodo.com/public/ics3u-computer-science/group_id/430637 The Edmodo page for the ICS3C course (2011-2012) can be found at: http://dcvi.edmodo.com/public/ics3u-computer-science/group_id/430637
To satisfy the students' desire for graphics, I've added Processing to the end of the lineup. It is certainly graphical, however it is also very mathematical. I considered using Processing earlier in the lineup, but the math scared me away!
One thing you might notice in this lineup is that everything is FREE. Most of the lineup is also cloud-based.
It's certainly not 1979!
PS - if this blog post makes it to @dougpete's "This Week in Ontario EduBlogs", I can scratch that of my academic bucket list!