Course Review for Computer Science Principles

Dollar Zhu, Editor-in-Chief

AP Computer Science Principles is a new course the MacDuffie School offers this year. According to the College Board, this course is designed to cover “the fundamentals of computing, including problem solving, working with data, understanding the Internet, cybersecurity, and programming.” In our school, the course is taught by Mr. Shelburne and requires little math and coding background. This course involves using an Android device and the language “Appinventor” to code, as well as learning important themes about the digital age in the book Blown to Bits. As someone who enjoys math and familiar with technologies, I enjoy the class and find it one of the less demanding AP classes in the school.

Content: 8/10

The course follows a curriculum provided by the College Board; all the content the course covers can be found here. In fact, for most of the classes, we watch tutorials on this mobile csp site and then discuss the topics as a class or as groups. The class designed an activity called the POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning), in which students split into groups of four and take the role of facilitator, spokesperson, process analyst, or quality control. Here is a sample of a POGIL activity. Personally, I don’t find the POGIL activity different from regular group discussions, as my groups have always ignored the roles and all work towards the solution. While it may be an innovative learning experience, watching tutorial videos in class sometimes makes me feel isolated from my classmates and the teacher. I hope the class can involve the teacher and student-led discussions more because I could watch those videos at home and still learn the material.

Assessments: 9/10

The assessments in this course are not intense. The course has two to three tests every quarter and no quizzes. The tests are usually manageable both in length and difficulty. The tests always prompt me to review the material in a timely manner, and they ensure that I know the terms and important themes of the courses. They are not overwhelming either. I cannot remember the last time I stressed over a Computer Science test.

Workload: 9/10

Yes, we do have homework almost everyday. At the beginning of the course, we all had to make a online portfolio to submit our homeworks. I could usually finish them within forty minutes. We sometimes have to make our own apps. “Appinventor” is a programming language that doesn’t require writing codes. Using it feels like dragging puzzle pieces around and putting them together. Coding in this class thus seems easy and intuitive to me even though I had little coding experience. We often add a touch of creativity to our apps. I made a game about cleaning up the student center, and I had lots of fun making it. The only part I did not enjoy about making apps is that we have to record a one-minute video. I often spend a lot of my time deleting and re-recording the video. It is nonetheless a good preparation for the AP exam in May since the exam requires making a video accompanying the app.

Overall, I think it is an intro-level Computer Science class that is worth taking if you are interested in learning about coding and computers. Even if you are not seeking a career in Computer Science, the things you learn in this course can still come in handy in this age of digital explosion.