"Advancing" Advanced Placement Computer Science Statewide

Georgia Tech and Department of Education Kick Off Program to Make Computing Classes More Accessible and Interesting to All Students

Taking advantage of Georgia Tech's world-class computer expertise and instructional capabilities and the educational leadership of the Georgia Department of Education (DOE), the State is partnering with the Georgia Tech College of Computing in an aggressive approach to strengthen the technology skills of current and future Advanced Placement (AP) computer science teachers, across the state.

The goal is to better prepare Georgia's students for an increasingly computer-dependent workplace. In return, the state gets a highly skilled information technology workforce, which makes Georgia more competitive on a global scale. State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox and Rich DeMillo, dean of the Georgia Tech College of Computing, will outline details of the new partnership on June 3 at 10 a.m. at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center.

"I would like to see at least two Advanced Placement classes offered in every Georgia high school," Superintendent Cox said. "This partnership will gradually open the window of opportunity for students across our state who currently don't have access to these high-level courses."

"The ultimate goal is for computer literacy to become a basic skill and therefore, to increase Georgia high school students' competitiveness in the marketplace," says DeMillo. "We hope this new training program will become a national model for improving computer science education."

Superintendent Cox has made it a priority to get more Georgia students to challenge themselves by taking higher-level AP courses. This new partnership with the Georgia Tech College of Computing will help current and future AP computer science teachers better prepare more of Georgia's students with necessary computer skills.

Beginning in June, Georgia Tech's College of Computing will teach two separate workshops designed to update high school computer science teachers' curriculums and knowledge of computer technology and programming. One workshop is designed for current teachers of AP computer science courses, and the other is geared toward future AP instructors currently teaching non-AP Introduction to Programming and Systems Management classes, which recently became part of the DOE's Technology and Career Education program this year.

The classes are funded through the Georgia Vocational Staff Development Consortium (GVSDC), with additional costs being covered by Georgia Tech. Teachers completing these workshops will also receive a high-end, fully equipped laptop computer, made possible by an equipment grant from the DOE, pending State Board approval on June 10, 2004.

The AP Computer Science workshop runs June 1-4 and includes lectures, hands-on exercises, tours of Tech's computer research labs, discussions on computing careers and more. The content of the AP Computer Science workshop is driven by the national AP tests and focuses on teaching object-oriented programming in the Java programming language. (Teachers in this workshop will be available for comments at the June 3 reception.)

An interactive Programming and Systems Management workshop will be offered over a two-week period in mid-June for all current and future AP computer science teachers. This workshop uses a media-centered approach - such as manipulating photos, video and audio samples - to explain the computer science concepts needed to solve programming tasks. This practical approach to computing has been very successful in Georgia Tech's new introductory computer science course for non-computer science and non-engineering majors. At Georgia Tech, the success rate for students in introductory computing classes improved from a campus average of 72 percent to 90 percent in the new introductory computer science course using a media-centered approach.

"This new approach to teaching computer science teaches students the exciting part of computing first - such as manipulating photos or editing video and audio clips," says DeMillo. "There will always be a role for a traditional computer scientist, but there is currently a need for skilled computing professionals who are skilled at applying computers. We want to give students the tools to do what's fun and engaging in computer science. Building the course around media is also more attractive to women who tend to be turned off by a drier nuts-and-bolts approach. This is important both for fulfilling our nation's IT needs and providing opportunities for all Georgians."

Since computing technology changes so rapidly, year-round follow up is considered an essential element of this initiative and will be provided by the Institute for Computing Education in the College of Computing at Tech (ICE@GT). Teachers will have the option of having class visits, online support and regional workshops to support their work.

The new ICE@GT Workshops are sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Tech's College of Computing, the Georgia Vocational Staff Development Consortium, and Georgia Tech's Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC).