Category Archives: Advanced Placement

Introducing And Increasing Computer Science Education In Schools

There are innumerable benefits to offering computer science instruction in K-12 schools. This policy statement from the Association for Computing Machinery makes a compelling case in favor of increasing CS opportunities for students. The question now concerns how to go about expanding those opportunities. Below are a few resources to aid in bringing CS education into schools.

General Resources: LeadCS.org offers tools to answer questions facing district and school leaders who are working to expand CS in their schools and districts. Code.org contains a wealth of information regarding CS advocacy, methods of teaching CS, and opportunities for students to employ both in and out of school.

Preparing Teachers: The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) provides community and professional development opportunities. Advanced Placement training for a CS course through an AP Summer Institute (like our Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute) is another way for teachers to gain skills and confidence in teaching computer science.

Offering Courses: There are a wide variety of options for CS instruction that can be implemented by teachers with varying levels of CS content knowledge. One such option is our Iowa Online AP Academy. We offer a high-school level Introduction to CS course for middle school students, and both AP Computer Science courses for high school students through our partnership with Edhesive. Additionally, Code.org offers courses through their Code Studio, and they compiled a list of 3rd party resources offering courses and/or programs at elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Check out the IOAPA website for more on our courses, and the APTTI website to find out how to join us this summer.

Best Practices for IOAPA Mentors

Mentors are a key component of the Iowa Online AP Academy model. These individuals may or may not have expertise in the content areas their students are studying, and in most of our courses, mentors are not expected to provide instruction on the course content. (The mentor’s role for AP Computer Science Principles is slightly different; future posts will address this, or you can contact IOAPA staff with questions.) Instead, IOAPA mentors provide support and encouragement for students, assist them in determining where and how to seek help, and monitor progress in course materials and intervene when necessary.

What should I do to be an effective mentor?

  • Build positive relationships with students. According to the University of Minnesota’s mentoring model, checking in with students frequently can promote strong relationships.
    • One study cited in a research synthesis found that “facilitators that are directly working with students day by day are key to the success of the program” and that the physical presence of mentors can motivate students to engage (cited in Borup & Drysdale, 2014).
  • Connect students with resources. Mentors are not expected to have all the answers for students’ questions, but helping them determine where to find support, or how to ask for help, can be beneficial. Check out our blog post on supporting struggling students for more info.
    • This may include serving as a “communication link” between students and their course instructors (Borup & Drysdale, 2014).
  • Communicate with other mentors. Whether for emotional support or professional guidance, your fellow IOAPA mentors are a great resource for new and veteran mentors alike. Check out the IOAPA mentor support network information in the IOAPA Handbook.
  • Encourage healthy work habits. We all need occasional reminders to take breaks and prioritize, and IOAPA students are no exception. Mentors can help students set priorities, schedule time for relaxation, and promote stress management. The University Counseling Service at the University of Iowa developed a list of stress management strategies that may be useful.

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Do you have suggestions for other IOAPA mentors? Share them with us in the comments or on Twitter using #IOAPA. Also, look out for our mentor survey at the end of the semester to share your thoughts!

AP Exam Reviews Available


IOAPAAttention:
All Iowa high school students taking AP classes.

Now Available: Online AP Exam Reviews for AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, AP Psychology, AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP Statistics, AP U.S. Government and Politics, and AP U.S. History.

How Do I Get It? IOAPA students enrolled in the courses listed above for the spring semester are automatically set up. Students in on-site AP classes can be signed up by their schools. (Students cannot register themselves for the exam reviews.) Information about registering can be found by visiting our website.

How Should I Study?

Everyone knows that studying is an important part of academic success. Not all study methods yield equal benefits, though. So, what study techniques should IOAPA students employ to get the most bang for their academic buck? This article from Scientific American Mind reviewed the literature, and we’ll sum it up here.

The Top Two

  1. Self-testing: Practice tests helped improve learning across subjects, and retention lasts longer than other study methods. It works even if the format of the practice test differs from the real one.
  2. Distributed practice: In other words, don’t cram! Research suggests that spreading your study sessions out over time is more beneficial. Tell your IOAPA students — don’t put off your studying for finals or the AP Exam until days or weeks before. Avoid the tendency to procrastinate!

What else works?

Three other techniques were found to be useful, but less robust: elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, and interleaved practice. These methods may be less varied in their applications and/or less practical to employ, but still yield benefits for students.

What doesn’t work?

Five techniques under analysis were found to be of low overall utility: summarization, highlighting, keyword mnemonics, imagery use, and rereading. Research demonstrated that these methods were only effective for individuals with certain prerequisite skills, for certain content areas or task demands, or that they were generally ineffective.  For example, summarizing can be useful for older students (undergraduates, mostly) or students who have been trained how to effectively summarize, but does not yield positive results for students who lack those skills. Highlighting/underlining, on the other hand, yielded few benefits beyond those of simply reading.

The findings presented in this summary and in the article linked above come from the following study: Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., and Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4-58.

Another discussion of this article was shared by one of the authors here.

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APTTI Registration Opening January 30

While the snowflakes are flying in Iowa City, think warm thoughts and start making plans to attend this year’s AP Teacher Training Institute (APTTI)! Registration opens Monday, January 30. The institute runs from June 27th to 30th on the University of Iowa campus. This year, we are offering workshops in AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry, AP Computer Science A, AP English Language & Composition, AP English Literature & Composition, AP Physics 1, and AP US History. (If there’s a course you’d like to see us offer in the future, send the course name to Katie Schabilion at katherine-schabilion@uiowa.edu and we’ll consider adding it in future years.)

Who says teachers can’t have fun, too? Last year’s APTTI included social media giveaways, Twitter competition between science workshops, and a whole lot of learning. Who knows what might happen in 2017!

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Financial assistance is available through IOAPA and through the College Board. College Board scholarship application materials must be submitted by February 15, so don’t wait too long! For more on funding opportunities, visit our website.

To learn more about our workshops, instructors, and schedule, and to register for APTTI 2017, visit www.belinblank.org/aptti. We’d love to see you there!

IOAPA Spring Dates and Deadlines

Welcome back to another semester of IOAPA! As we all get settled back in for the semester, we wanted to share some important dates and deadlines relevant to IOAPA students and teachers.

  • January 27, 2017: Last day to drop IOAPA courses without a fee.
  • January 31, 2017: Last day to add online/distance learning courses (including IOAPA courses) to your school’s Course Audit.
  • February 17, 2017: Last day to submit disability documentation for students with disabilities seeking accommodations for AP Exams. See this recent post for more on that process.
  • Mid-Spring: Registration for AP Exam Review through IOAPA opens. See our website for more information on available courses and registration.
  • April 14, 2017: Last day to order AP Exams.
  • May 1-15, 2017: AP Exams occur. See the AP Exam Dates page for specific information about your courses.
  • May 6, 2017: IOAPA spring courses end.

Stay tuned for more information about AP Exams, including study strategies and our AP Exam Reviews (available to all Iowa students taking AP courses). o-calendar-facebook

End of the Semester Celebrations

We have made it to the end of another great IOAPA semester! Now is the time to rest, recover, and celebrate accomplishments. Whether your student is new to IOAPA this year, or has participated before, accepting the challenge of above-level coursework and putting forth the effort required to complete it is a huge achievement, and deserves to be recognized.

These celebrations do not have to be large-scale. Something as simple as a note to the student or a message to parents about how hard their child has worked this semester can encourage students to continue seeking the challenge that IOAPA provides and working to achieve success. Note that while getting a high grade is valuable and important, many students benefit more from hearing specific praise about things within their control, like their behavior and effort, than from vague compliments about their grade or their “smarts.”

Often, students taking IOAPA courses are experiencing work that is more challenging than anything else they have encountered. It’s important to talk with students about how they handled any challenges they faced, and how we can support them moving forward. Recognizing their accomplishments is one way to support students on their educational journey.

Don’t forget to celebrate your own hard work, too! Our students couldn’t succeed without the support of the important adults in their lives. Thank you for providing that support!