AP Computer Science Principles is designed to introduce students to the central ideas of computer science, to instill ideas and practices of computational thinking, and to have students engage in activities that show how computing changes the world. The course is rigorous and rich in computational content, includes computational and critical thinking skills, and engages students in the creative aspects of the field.
The key concepts and related content that define the course are organized around seven big ideas, which encompass fundamental ideas foundational to computing:
(1) Computing is a creative activity,
(2) Abstraction reduces information and detail to facilitate focus on relevant concepts,
(3) Data and information facilitate the creation of knowledge,
(4) Algorithms are used to develop and express solutions to computational problems,
(5) Programming enables problem solving, human expression, and creation of knowledge,
(6) The Internet pervades modern computing, and
(7) Computing has global impacts.
Students in the course will learn the fundamentals of computer programming from a practical perspective. The course uses App Inventor and Python as a basis for learning general programming skills (program design, documentation, and debugging and testing) focusing on design thinking practices and computational thinking practices. Projects and assignments include both text and graphics/animation programs. The structure of projects in class will mirror the professional norms of the software industry. Therefore, some significant projects will be done in pairs and teams. In addition to the programming and design work, some reading (including mainstream media articles and technical information) and writing (both expository and reflective) will be required. Students will also examine career opportunities in software development.
The computational thinking practices capture important aspects of the work that computer scientists engage in. A practice is a way to coordinate knowledge and skills in order to accomplish a goal or task. The computational thinking practices enable students to engage with the APCSP course content by developing computational artifacts and analyzing data, information, or knowledge represented for computational use. In addition, learning to collaborate to build computational artifacts and to communicate their purpose is a requirement for students to be successful in this course. Because content knowledge and practice are equally important in AP Computer Science Principles, each learning objective includes a correlated computational thinking practice.
P1: Connected computing
P2: Developing computational artifacts
P4: Analyzing problems and artifacts
Students will experience the joy and beauty that permeates computing: They will not only experience the sense of community from connecting with friends on social networks, but they will understand many aspects of the software and algorithms that make these social networks possible. They will not only use algorithms, but also create them and experience the “ah ha!” moment when an algorithm finally makes sense. They will not simply run programs; they will experience the thrill of constructing a program and seeing it work, as well as the pride of creating something for oneself, one’s family or friends, or for the world.
There will be two creative programming projects in which students will use lab time to work both individually and collaboratively (in pairs) to create a socially useful mobile app that they propose (pitch), design, and implement. One of these will be a practice for the College Board’s Create Performance Task.
The second will be the official College Board Create Performance Task. Twelve hours of class time will be provided for completion of the official Create Performance Task.
There will also be two written research projects that students will work on individually. These research projects will focus on examining a computing innovation that has impacted society. One will be a practice for the Explore Performance Task. The second will be the College Board’s Explore Performance Task. Eight hours of class time will be provided for completion of the official College Board Explore Performance Task.
Students who complete this course will be prepared to take the AP CS Principles Exam on Friday, May 5, 2017.