CS50xAP: Binary, ASCII and Algorithms, Oh My!

It is amazing to me that I am only two weeks into the CS50x curriculum, as I feel like these students and I have already accomplished so much.  As we continued to forge ahead with Unit 0: How Computers Work, our thoughts turned to figuring out how binary and ASCII really work.  We studied the code I wrote for the “divide by 2” algorithm for converting from decimal to binary.  Next year, I might make students write it with some help.  I don’t like that I did all the big thinking on that one.  Students found the Cisco Binary Game very fun and a great way to reinforce binary numbers.  They were all laughing at one point telling me how “stressful” it was!  I told them that they needed to tell their parents, “My computer science teacher stressed me out by making me play a game for homework!” and see how much sympathy they got.

For our next lesson, students wrote secret codes to each other using ASCII.  It was clear that even for 16 and 17-year-olds, passing secret messages is still fun.  Students were amused by the turtle-like speed of the human processor when dealing with binary.  One student joked that she could process about one character per minute.  It led to a great conversation about the fact that the slowest component of a computer’s processing speed is actually the human operator.

We ended the week hearing about the technologies that each student had read about.  Students were required to read three articles from within the last three months about technological advances.  Students were asked to describe the technology and then discuss its possible impact on and value for society.  The discussion was fascinating as we considered things like Amazon’s 30-minute delivery drones and Goldman Sach’s predicton that virtual reality will be bigger than TV in ten years.  I was surprised to find that my students were not inherently more comfortable with the marching forward of technology than I was.  In fact, they might have found Spotify’s new messaging functionality more disturbing than I did!  Overall though, we were all inspired and truly blown away by what people are building and the ways in which their innovations might change the ways we live.  Next week, we get to finish up Module 0 and start coding.  It almost feels too long into the term to start coding, and I can’t wait!


2 thoughts on “CS50xAP: Binary, ASCII and Algorithms, Oh My!

  1. Pingback: Microsoft CS50 Hackathon: NYC!!! | Coding Is Exploding!

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