Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

January, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Teaching Binary to Small Children

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    One of my readers (thanks Blake) sent me a link to an interesting web page that uses the Socratic method (asking questions) to teach binary numbers to very small children. It is amazing how simple it all seems in the context of that example. I remember learning different number systems when I was fairly young. I remember it just being cool to me. I didn't see any use to it at the time. But even though I didn't like math much at that age I spent a lot of time for a while playing with converting from one number system to another.

    Certainly when I came across it again in college it was old hat to me and that was helpful to me. Number systems do not seem as though they are taught as often as they used to be. I think that is too bad. Number systems, not just binary, are pretty interesting. In computers we use different number systems regularly. Binary of course. Also hexadecimal and octal though mostly as a way to organize binary numbers.

    Recently I've heard discussions about devices that have three states rather than just two. Perhaps they are -1, 0 and 1 though unless you are into the hardware it probably doesn't matter much. What will matter is that this allows for a computer that uses a ternary number system. Think of the possibilities - more data in less space, more powerful instruction sets, and of course yet another number system to learn. If we teach binary correctly this should not be a problem. Though of course if we taught decimal in more general terms allowing for students to understand binary (and octal, ternary and hexadecimal) we probably would not have so much trouble with lots of concepts either.

    And that, really, is the heart of the value of teaching binary to young students - it helps them understand decimal better and at the same time opens their horizons to new ways of looking at numbers. That seems like a good goal to me. If we use the carrot of "computers use this" to get them interested that is not such a bad thing either.

    BTW I think that "how would a ternary computer change the way computers work?" might be an interesting discussion question in computer science classrooms.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Job Statistics

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    One of my co-workers, Sam Stokes, put together a list of statistics about job projections in the US IT industry. I've copied a bunch of them here. Links to the origional data is supplied so you can see the details for yourself.

    Computer software engineers, applications

    • Number of jobs in 2004 was                                                               460,000
    • Number of jobs predicted in 2014 will be                                          682,000
    • Increase                                                                                               222,000
    • Percent Increase by 2014  (Increase of jobs/jobs in 2004*100)          48.4%

    Computer software engineers, systems software

    • Number of jobs in 2004 was                                                               340,000
    • Number of jobs predicted in 2014 will be                                          486,000
    • Increase                                                                                               146,000
    • Percent Increase by 2014 (Increase of jobs/jobs in 2004*100)           43%

    Computer systems analysts

    • Number of jobs in 2004 was                                                               487,000
    • Number of jobs predicted in 2014 will be                                          640,000
    • Increase                                                                                               153,000
    • Percent Increase by 2014 (Increase of jobs/jobs in 2004*100)           31.4%

    Computer Scientists and Database Administrators

    • Number of jobs in 2004 was                                                               104,000
    • Number of jobs predicted in 2014 will be                                          144,000
    • Increase                                                                                               40,000
    • Percent Increase by 2014 (Increase of jobs/jobs in 2004*100)           38.2%

    Network and computer systems administrator

    • Number of jobs 2004 is                                                                       278,000
    • Number of jobs predicted in 2014 will be                                          385,000          
    • Increase                                                                                               107,000
    • Percent Increase by 2014 (Increase of jobs/jobs in 2004*100)           38.4%
  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have

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    Laura Turner writes about 20 technology skills every educator should have at T*H*E Journal.

    Here are 20 basic technology skills that all educators should now have:

    1. Word Processing Skills
    2. Spreadsheets Skills
    3. Database Skills
    4. Electronic Presentation Skills
    5. Web Navigation Skills
    6. Web Site Design Skills
    7. E-Mail Management Skills
    8. Digital Cameras
    9. Computer Network Knowledge Applicable to your School System
    10. File Management & Windows Explorer Skills
    11. Downloading Software From the Web (Knowledge including eBooks)
    12. Installing Computer Software onto a Computer System
    13. WebCT or Blackboard Teaching Skills
    14. Videoconferencing skills
    15. Computer-Related Storage Devices (Knowledge: disks, CDs, USB drives, zip disks, DVDs, etc.)
    16. Scanner Knowledge
    17. Knowledge of PDAs
    18. Deep Web Knowledge
    19. Educational Copyright Knowledge
    20. Computer Security Knowledge

    I could pick a nit or two but basically its a good list. I think it paralells what we are expecting students to know after high school. College faculty tell me that a lot of the items on the list are things they expect (though admittidly don't always find) in high school graduates attending college. When I was running a high school computer science department we required that every student either pass a placement test or take a course that covered the first four items on the list. If the student did not pass they did not graduate. I wonder if we do anyone any favors if we don't expect teachers, at every level, to have at least a high school level of computer literacy. Can you image a principal hiring a teacher who could not do math or read and write at a high school graduate level? I don't think so. Computer skills are getting to that same level of importance.

    The article includes a large number of links to help people educate themselves. Teachers should set the example of being life long learners and keep up with technology.

    I found this article via Brian Scarbeau. Brian is doing a survey of the teachers at his school about this list. If I know Brian he'll also be ready to help the teachers who ask for his help get up to speed.

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