Academic Insights: TCS Computer Studies Department

ECOO Computer Programming Contest

Trinity College School’s computer studies classes have been buzzing with activity over the last few weeks. Thanks to the changing weather, students have been getting out of the classroom in our Grade 11 Communication Technology course, adding to their photography portfolios. They have been taking advantage of our historic buildings and beautiful campus, and using them as breathtaking backdrops for their pictures. Also, our budding computer scientists in the ICS2O course have been programming their Lego robots to spin and turn, construct tunes and use their many sensors to navigate through obstacle courses. The classrooms and adjacent hallways have been alive with the sound of beeps and motors, and the excited chatter of our young computer scientists as they solve the intricate problems laid out before them.

This ICS2O course, Introduction to Computer Science, has been at the centre of a major shift in focus within the department. In past years, the Introduction to Communications Technology (TGJ2O) course has been the entry point into the computer studies department for all new Grade 9 students, with ICS2O as the elective predominantly for Grade 10 students. This year, the School decided to flip the two courses. Now, all new Grade 9 students will take the ICS2O course upon their arrival. This change was precipitated by the growing awareness that having a foundational understanding of computer science concepts is pivotal for all our students. After taking this course, all Grade 9 students should have a deeper appreciation of how the Internet works, how data is stored and used, how Big Data is being used in industry, data privacy and encryption, and the fundamentals of computer programming. As the landscape continues to evolve and technology becomes more deeply embedded in our lives, it is essential that our young people understand the inner workings of that technology, and are able to manipulate it.

By most accounts, the shifting of these courses has been a huge success. While many of the concepts can be challenging, the students will tell you they have a much better appreciation of the technology they use. In addition, almost half of our Grade 9 students undertook the Advanced Placement (AP) version of the course, which allows them an opportunity to expand their knowledge even further. A total of 48 students wrote the AP exam this May, a remarkable achievement!

The 2018-2019 school year brought about another major change to the computer studies department, with the arrival of a new faculty member, Sarah Dalliday. Actually, Ms. Dalliday is returning to TCS after working with the public school board for several years. In her first iteration with TCS, she worked in the IT services department and then as a teacher. Our department is ecstatic to have her back, as she brings a great deal of energy, enthusiasm and expertise to the team. She has already made her mark on the department and the School in her short time since returning. Ms. Dalliday has taken over the TGJ4M (Grade 12 Live Communications) course, which focuses on both filming live events and on moviemaking, podcasting and other media. Earlier in the year, she led an excited group of students on a short field trip to downtown Port Hope to watch the filming of the sequel to It, a chance to see theory meet practice. The group even had the opportunity to meet one of the film’s young stars! Also, Ms. Dalliday has initiated a robotics club, which became an instant hit with our students. A few of the more advanced roboticists even got the chance to enter into a competition held at St. Andrew’s College this spring. Needless to say, Ms. Dalliday has injected much initiative and ingenuity into the department!

It has been a year of changes for the computer studies department, but we feel they are changes for the better. Student engagement in the program and the quality of the students’ products, both in the communications technology and computer science streams, is as high as ever!

- By Mr. Sasha Vojnov, head of computer studies