Interactive Instruction of Advanced Placement Computer Science
Kent, Robert J., Jr., 1978-
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In the late 1990s, the advent of the world wide web brought about a new business paradigm. With it, the discipline of computer science began a phase of "growing pains" as skilled computer scientists were in more demand than ever before, in more sectors of the economy. With the vast number of new computing technologies emerging almost daily, computer science educators have also become increasingly burdened to ensure that the graduates of computer science programs are indeed skilled. This is the problem on which I have chosen to focus my discussion. I was privileged with the opportunity to act as an assistant instructor in a local high school computer science class. Through this interaction, I was able to deal directly with the problems that arise in trying to adequately educate the beginning student in computer science. These problems include familiarizing the students with historically important computer science concepts, and making the presentation vivid and engaging. In addition, the instructor with whom I worked had decided to implement the Advanced Placement syllabus in his class. This offered a fundamental structuring principle to the elements of the course that I helped to instruct. This work was completed at the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center, a highly selective public "magnet" high school located in downtown Kalamazoo. I also graduated from the Mathematics and Science Center, and so I am prone to a certain degree of shorthand when referring to it, including extensive use of the two affectionate abbreviations used by staff and students: "KAMSC" and "the Center." Furthermore, by attending school and then assisting a faculty member there, I have had numerous conversations which enlightened me to various aspects of KAMSC which an outsider might not be familiar with. Therefore, if any surprising fact or statistic below goes uncited, it almost certainly derived from one of these interactions. I have attempted, however, to be as rigorously academic as possible in citing research information.