While my series on APCS-A language choice is done, I wanted to write this brief addendum.
While reading comments over on Facebook under my APCS posts one caught my eye. There was a comment saying they wished the College Board would create a data science course. I responded, why not create one yourself. The response, shared I'm sure by many is that if a course doesn't have an AP designation students won't sign up for it.
I think I've hit on the big points on APCS-A language but a couple more remain. This time, let's look at alternative languages.
When APCS started in 1984, Pascal probably made sense - it was the primary learning language at the time. It wasn't really used in industry but it was the language you cut your teeth on. A few years later when I went from college to Goldman Sacks I found very few companies using Pascal.
One of the arguments for keeping APCS-A as is are the costs to change. There are of course, many kinds of costs.
The first are the monetary costs. New text book, curricular materials and possibly equipment. The College Board has their development costs but I don't care about those - they're raking in money hand over fist anyway. I don't think these costs amount to much. Companies that sell materials for classes are always trying to make sales and even when subjects don't change there are always new books and other resources.
Last time we talked about the intent of APCS-A and without deciding on that we can't really chose a language. Still, we can talk about strengths and weaknesses of languages. Let's do that by taking a walk down history.
APCS started in Pascal. Back then it was a one year course that included CS1 (programming) and CS2 (data structures). Later they offered two exams A (programming) and AB (programming plus data structures).
One of the first sessions of SIGCSE2022 was a panel on the choice of language for APCS-A. Should it continue to use Java or should it shift to Python. This topic comes up from time to time. I didn't attend this particular session but discussed it at length with a few people who did.
Truth be told, I wasn't going to start writing about SIGCSE and APCS-A until I finished a few other SIGCSE posts but my friend Alfred Thompson said he was writing one and was planning on posting it soon.
Before diving into the content I thought I'd share my thoughts about SIGCSE as a hybrid conference. Prior to Covid, SIGCSE was pushing 2,000 in person participants. This time around ther were a little under 800 in person and a number of hundreds more remote. The in person numbers mirrored what CSTA has grown to. It's a nice size. Not overwhelming but manageable. It's at the upper edge of possibly feeling intimate.
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The Nifty Assignments session at SGICSE is always a popular one.
Go to the site and you'll find links to all the assignments presented from 1999 to the present year.
On the one hand, it's a great resource. On the other, the assignments vary in nifty-ness depending on one's personal taste. To me, there seemed to be a run of nifty assignments that were really just "take a generic assignment and fancy up the graphics" mixed in with one's that I found really cool.
It's that time of the year to write a series of blog posts about SIGCSE. I thought I'd start with one on the keynotes. There were four keynote speakers. Marie desJardins, Gloria Townsend, Mark Guzdial, and Blair Taylor. I wasn't at the first timer's lunch where Townsend spoke so I won't talk at all about that keynote.
I'm also not going to summarize the talks. Andy Ko wrote up a terrific summary of his SIGCSE experience and did a much better job giving overviews to the keynotes than I ever could so I'll just refer you to Andy's blog post.