battis.net and I'm all out of bubble gum…

One of my responsibilities at Jewish Day School is to post a monthly column on the goings-on in our media studies department (and in education technology in general) to our online parent bulletin. This is one such column.

In today’s world, where “there is an app for that” — no matter what that may be — it is easy to lose sight of the fact that, in fact, when we are dealing with real problems that involve real people and real situations and real information, there often isn’t an app for that. Nor is there a systematic, rational approach for tackling the unknown. It’s easy to find an app that tracks the balance of your checking account… but very, very hard to find an app that can tell you why your portfolio is going up (or down).

The Media Studies department is offering a new course in computer application design and computer science in the coming academic year, to complement our existing offerings in video, photography, web and game design and new media. Seth Battis, who joined the department this year, will be teaching the course, which is designed to complement the robotics learning led by [colleague] and [Jewish Day School Academy of Science and Technology].

Computer science is the study of computation, using computers to process vast mountains of data into that nugget of usable, useful, valuable information. And, in the past decade, it has become the domain not just of computer geeks, but of professionals, scientists and researchers seeking to better understand the information they have and the challenges they are trying to tackle. Computational biology, statistical modeling of markets, physical simulations of wind energy are all being done by people with a foot in two worlds: the world of their chosen, beloved studies and the world of computation facilitates their studies.

Computer science has gone in and out of vogue many times over the last several decades — and with good reason. It can provide a unique perspective on creative problem-solving and ways for humans (us!) to understand vast and complicated data. But it can also be the drudgery of “pixel-stained technopeasants” sweating over line after line of arcane code.

The purpose of the Computer Application Design and Programming course is to, at the high school level, make these same skills and this same practice available to [Jewish Day School] students. Students will have the opportunity to practice their analytic and reasoning skills, while developing new practices in problem solving, using modern tools further their learning. The course will be taught using object-oriented programming practices, applicable in a broad array of modern computational environments — from the iPhone to the web to stand-alone computers to computing clusters.

Students and families interested in the Computer Application Design and Programming course are encouraged to contact their advisor or Mr. Battis or [my department chair] for more information.

May 3rd, 2010

Posted In: Computer Science, Parent Communication

Tags: , , ,

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
— Reinhold Niebuhr

I gather that Alcoholics Anonymous has appropriated this prayer. I think I’ll follow their lead. Preparing for exams is always a whirlwind, and it turns out that helping ninth graders prepare for their first cumulative exams of their lives is particularly tornado-esque.

Along the way, our faculty — before the end of the first semester — finds itself already looking ahead to the coming academic year. And I find myself trying to figure out how to write a course description of a computer science course that will appeal to girls without scaring away boys and vice versa. Or, really, appeal to a high school student while simultaneously communicating gravitas to that student’s parents, adviser and college counselor. Oh, and me. Perhaps especially me: I have to teach the courses in the end.

And I find it oddly difficult to be fully serious while writing these course descriptions. Oddly and dangerously unserious. It could be exciting.

January 10th, 2008

Posted In: Educational Technology

Tags: , ,

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