Computer: Our Curriculum

In this rapidly evolving field our teachers and students work together as explorers and artists. Teachers demonstrate ideas and tools and turn the students loose to create. “Try it, see what happens! Can you figure out how to make it do more?” We love seeing excellence, creativity, and rigor. We place students into courses based upon their experience and abilities, direct them in an individualized manner, and encourage them to move as rapidly, intensely, and broadly as they can. Our students are active learners. We provide them with the opportunity to learn by doing work that is sophisticated and challenging. We want our students to be engaged, inspired, and responsible while exploring, experimenting, expanding and pushing boundaries in classes that involve problem solving, information processing, project-based learning and communication skills. We want students to explore the imaginative and creative uses of technology, and to have a broad understanding about what is possible in order to empower them.

Computer Center

The world around us includes dramatic technologies which are rapidly evolving because fast computers are being used to design even faster computers in turn. New machines and networks bring us more artificial intelligence, nano-technology, mobile devices (phones and tablets), social networks, wireless service, portable cameras everywhere, GPS tracking, digital maps, and touch screens. Vastly improved software toolkits almost make “child’s play” of what once was difficult, such as building computer games or online databases. Because the machines around us are daily growing more powerful, convenient, useful, interesting, and commonplace, our students can create and organize information (including ideas, art, biographies, poems, and algorithms) and even make their projects accessible to people with limited vision or hearing. With computers our students can share and find ideas more readily than ever before, and can write programs to direct other machines (not just printers but also music synthesizers, robots, remote sensors, cameras, and 3D printers). The teachers of this department are also students of this new world of technology, and we strive to be informed guides for our students across their range of ages and skills.

Computer2

The computer department serves students from grades 3 to 12, offering full-year classes in a wide range of topics including animation, circuitry, programming, web design with databases, programming for smart phones, and introductory courses that include creation and manipulation of graphics, spreadsheets, program code, and databases. Based upon art studios (imagine the students as artists at their easels), our classes consist mostly of hands-on computer time, with the teacher (or teachers) circulating, ready to help.

In the Lower School, the computer is a tool for writing and drawing. Third grade students come to the computer center once a week for classes with computer teachers. They spend time learning to type, and composing stories with pictures and animation using multi-media toolkits that combine sound, art, animation, and some basic programming. The class sessions usually include a brief review, a demonstration of new material, and a work period where students practice and try out the new skills introduced. While planning, building, and rearranging their projects, students learn how to navigate in the computer environment— creating, saving, revising, and building assets for their projects.

141208.SA_0858

In the Middle School, the computing courses (Computing 1, 2, and 3) use the computer as a tool for multiple disciplines. Programs for graphics, music, writing, video, and web-page design ask the students to work with a broad variety of tools and languages. We give an introduction to object-oriented programming in all of the classes, and for students with a deeper interest in logic, computer control, and symbol manipulation, we also offer Programming 1, 2, and 3 , iPhone programming and physical computing. For students interested in visual narratives, we provide separate courses in both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional animation.

The High School Computing, Animation, and Digital Graphics courses show students how to use computers to support their academic and artistic work, which may include laboratory analysis, graphing and statistics, music composition, databases, computer graphics, and web page design. Writing is an essential part of academic life, and students learn more advanced procedures for using the computer as a research, analysis, presentation, and communication tool. We also offer a web programming course, as well as Animation and Digital Graphics courses that focus entirely on graphic design, drawing, and layout.

For high school students interested in computer science, we offer a sequence of courses in programming (Programming 1 through 5). We have also taught year-long classes in Compiler Design, Graphics Programming, Artificial Intelligence, Game Programming, Algorithms for Genetic Sequencing, and Physical Computing. These courses consider computer science as an intellectual discipline: students see the theoretical foundations of computer languages (grammar, syntax, semantics), practice with fundamental algorithms (sorting, searching), and design data structures (objects, classes, linked lists), while learning some of the powerful computer languages: Java, Python, Objective C, Processing, C, and JavaScript. Transcript, in particular, serves as a convenient introduction to object oriented programming, while the Physical Computing course asks students to use circuits, sensors, lights, internet connections, and micro-controllers to explore interaction design.

Our goal is to make sure that all students at Saint Ann’s are skillful with the computers: nimble, confident, resourceful. They should be able to use the computer as a tool for all kinds of work and art: writing, performing mathematical analyses, testing hypotheses and analyzing scientific data, laying out publications and databases and websites, producing animation, composing music, designing lighting and sound and scripts for plays. Computers are becoming more powerful and students are growing in skill every year, which gives us a moving educational target and leaves room for students to constantly amaze us.