The AP classroom is where intellectual curiosity goes to die.Is it really? I sure hope that wasn’t the case in the APCS courses I taught. In fact I think that in most APCS courses curiosity (and creativity for that matter) are encouraged. Sure there are things that have to be covered. In fact there are far more things that an APCS student has to learn than can possibly be taught in a one year course with high school students. Fortunately for me, and even more fortunately for my students, where I taught there was at least one and often two semesters of computer science before students took APCS. That gave me some extra time and flexibility to make sure that curiosity and creativity could be encouraged.
That is not a feature that is built-in to the APCS curriculum though. I’m not sure how it could be as it is not something that one can really test for. Curiosity is critically important for computer scientists. Actually I’m not sure what field it is not important for people to have a healthy curiosity. Do we risk killing it when a course is too structured with too many things to cover in too short a time? Perhaps.
One of the things I always liked about Visual Studio is the Intellisense which constantly shows potential options for command/methods/properties/etc. as students enter their code. My believe is that it encouraged curiosity by showing things that students would naturally wonder about. And hopefully that wonder would lead to trying things out to see what they do. I always encouraged students to explore. If they learned something new or even came up with new questions that was always a positive in my mind.
As I alluded to earlier I believe that curiosity and creativity go hand in hand. Schools are constantly criticized for teaching the creativity out of students. We see that too often when students want step by step instructions that result in everyone getting exactly the same result that looks exactly the same. Yuck!
Programming is inherently creative. There are many ways to solve just about any problem. One wants projects that look different and that get to the right answer in different ways. Curiosity and the learning that curiosity promotes helps provide new ways to express creativity. We not only want our students to be curious and creative we NEED them to be curious and creative.
Advanced Placement classes generally enroll the smarted and hardest working students in a school. We owe it to them and to society to make sure we don’t stifle their curiosity and creativity as they seek AP credit for other reasons.