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AP Computer Science: not just a “programming” course

McKeens APCSA classroom (room 221). Roomy, carpeted and with unique toys, many students find this classroom to be their favorite class.
McKeen’s APCSA classroom (room 221). Roomy, carpeted and with unique toys, many students find this classroom to be their favorite class.

As scheduling is around the corner, many students select mainstream courses. Rarely do they consider Computer Ccience classes, with many students conversing about them as “programming” classes.

Solon High School offers three computer science courses: Introduction to Computer Programming, AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A (APCSA). Maya Nayar, a junior in Daniel Mckeen’s first period APCSA class, shares her view on the class.

Some responses have been edited for clarity and length. But the responses remain true to the actual words spoken.

Q: When did you learn about the APCSA course?

A: Well, my brother took all the Computer Science classes in Solon High School because he’s majoring in Computer Science in college now. And, so, I learned about it from him. When I was a freshman, he was a junior, and so I knew he was taking this course, so I’ve known about it for quite a while.

Q: How is the course going so far?

A: I think in the first quarter, especially, it’s easy to come in thinking, “Oh, this is a really easy class” because a lot of people who are really smart and good at Computer Science walk out of this class telling you it’s really easy. So I came into it expecting that, and the overconfidence kind of showed on my grades. So generally speaking with courses, you should go into it trying your best instead of the opposite.

Q: How would you describe the workload?

A: I don’t think we have that much of a workload. I think it seems like a lot because if you look at the board for the homework, there’s always multiple homework assignments due. But for the FRQs, [Free Response Questions] if you time yourself and you get a lot of practice, I think that’s really good practice for the AP test. And a lot of this stuff we do is preparation for the AP test– in a lot of classes, you learn the content throughout the whole year and then two weeks before the AP test, you start cramming. But for this course, Mr. McKeen makes it so that throughout the whole year you’re preparing which is nice.

Q: How is Mr. McKeen and the class environment? Is it stressful?

A: Mr. McKeen is a great teacher. He’s very easy going. And, there has been this streak where math teachers have disliked me because I don’t like math that much, but I think Mr. McKeen makes an effort to really help students. It’s just small things, you know, if I raise my hand and ask a question, he’ll tell me it’s a good question after stuff like that, so I don’t feel embarrassed. I think the class environment at first, if you don’t fully understand everything, you feel a little stupid but because you get to pick your seats and you sit with people that you like. For me, it started to become more normal. I can ask these guys something, and I’m not going to feel stupid.

Q: Do you think that any prior experience in computer science is required?

A: Well, Intro [to programming] is a prerequisite, I’m pretty sure. So you have to take the intro to understand, and it was pretty easy. Honestly, I think Intro is a really good way to introduce people to the Computer Science course because I remember my first assignment, I was looking at it and it was “print out a Hello World statement.” I was like, “What is that?” And now I look and I’m like, “Wow that was crazy it’s one line of code,” but it’s like a different language so you kind of have to ease your way into it.

Q: What would you like to tell the students who are planning to take this course in the future?

A: I would say, the most important thing that Mr. McKeen cares about is showing that you care about the class. With Mr. McKeen, you need to show that you like APCSA– that you’re working hard , you’re trying your best , asking questions and stuff like that. And obviously he likes everyone, he’s not gonna hate you if you don’t show that. Enjoy the class. I think that’s what’s really important. So you should come into the class with a propensity to want to learn instead of just coming into it, thinking that it’s going to be another one of your slack-off classes because it’s not.

Mckeen, one of the two computer science teachers at Solon High School, shares his opinions on why students should take the course, even if they don’t want to pursue computer science as a major.

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