AP Computer Science Course Makes CS Accessible

This course could help address the skills gap, teacher says

computer science
Uche (third from left) with three of her CS students: Keidon London, Princess Harmon, and Fallon Holloway

In the wake of Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 5–11, last week I wrote about the work of Emmanuel Onyeador, a computer science teacher in Oakland, California, who founded the computer science and technology academy at Oakland Technical High School. Onyeador is one of several teachers who’ve piloted a new Advanced Placement course, Computer Science Principles, which is seeing broad success as a gateway computer science course.

I also spoke with Chinma Uche, a celebrated math and computer science teacher at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering and the Greater Hartford Academy of Math and Science, who also teaches the AP CS Principles course. A graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Uche holds a Ph.D from the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London.

BLACK ENTERPRISE: Describe the strengths and weaknesses, if any, of the College Board’s new course, AP Computer Science Principles.

 Uche: While CS has, in the past, been seen as purely programming, AP CSP exposes students to the seven big ideas of computer science: creativity, abstraction, data, algorithms, programming, the internet, and the global impact of computing.

While rigorous, AP CSP has attracted more students and teachers to CS, and has even expanded enrollment in the solely programming course, AP CS A. I have seen AP CSP transform students’ lives. I cannot think of any weakness, except that some schools are still not offering the course to their students.

BE: Can CS be taught to someone with little to no CS background? 

 Uche: Yes. AP CSP is different from any other CS course I have taught. Similar results have been reported by other College Board endorsed providers. A colleague of mine said that the only thing one needs is curiosity and a willingness to learn.

BE: How are your students responding to this course?

Uche: My students love CS and, in particular, AP CSP. This year, my principal decided to offer AP CSP to all  ninth grade students. He said something along the lines of,  “If it’s going to teach them problem solving skills and how to persevere when faced with problems, the earlier they get it, the better.”

It was also to address the inequity of access, because students of certain backgrounds were not selecting CS, when it was left as an elective. The number of girls and students of color in my classes continues to grow, and the creativity CS teaches has even led to one of my former students forming her own company.

 

To hear Uche speak about her work, watch a video here.