As a teacher, my greatest academic challenge is my AP-CS (Advanced Placement Computer Science) class. I inherited this course a number of years ago, and have been fairly successful with about half of my students passing. Some years have been better than others, naturally, and I don’t mind saying that this year’s class looks like it will be my best yet. But the AP Exam comes next Tuesday, and the Seniors’ (13 out of the 15 students) last day before finals is right around Memorial Day (5/28). So, the eternal question among AP teachers is "What do we do after the exam?"
For the past couple of years I’ve had the students use Visual Studio to develop PocketPC applications, some of which were rather neat (a restaurant tip calculator, Checkers, Risk, Tetris, and even a Missile Command game). But this year I decided to go a different route: Starting next week, we’re going to play with XNA!
For the uninitiated, XNA is Microsoft’s Game Development, primarily for the XBOX-360 platform. The REALLY neat thing is that the development happens inside the Microsoft Visual C# Express Edition (when the XNA Game Studio Express is loaded on top of it). Both the C# and XNA Express Editions are free to download, so other than an XBOX-360 USB controller or two the whole environment costs nothing.
I hope that this will be an outstanding experience for the students. I don’t expect any blockbusters to come out of this (although the next Halo would be GREAT!), but I know that all of them will have a blast. They’ll get to see a major league program (bigger even than the dreaded Marine Biology Simulation) (ask an APCS student or alumni), and they’ll have to figure out all the bits and pieces before they can make any headway into creating a new game.
This should be a lot of fun. Watch this space for more information.