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

March, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    J# Marine Biology Simulation for Advanced Placement Computer Science


    If you are teaching Advanced Placement Computer Science (AP CS) than you may be interested to know that there is now a new version of the Marine Biology Simulation (MBS) for Visual Studio 2005. You can download it here. pat Phillips talks about it all at her blog. If you and/or your students want to work on the MBS with Visual Studio Express or the full version of Visual Stuido 2005 than this is the one you want. There is also a video that you can watch that shows how to use this case study with Visual Studio 2005 at

    If you are using an earlier version of Visual J# and/or Visual Studio the origional J# port is still available here. This simulation includes all of the classes and methods supplied by the College Board. It also includes the source files for all the classes and methods involved in the display and running of the simulation.

    BTW I have an FAQ about J# for high school computer science teachers that answers a lot of common questions and supplies a number of helpful links. Visit it here.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Hints and Tips for Using Visual Studio in the Classroom - Second in a Series


     This is the second of a series of hints, tips and suggestions for using Visual Studio 2005 in the classroom. Mostly I will describe features that are new to Visual Studio 2005 but I will also include some features that were introduced in earlier versions but that may not be as well known or understood as they might be. The full series is being kept in an article for later reference.

    Visual Studio has had a number of features that make doing demonstrations easier for several versions. But almost every time I see a demo I am reminded that not everyone knows about them. These features include code snippets (about which I will talk in a future blog entry) and features that make it easier for others to read the code being demonstrated.

    Often the most useful thing you can do for a code demo is the make the letters larger. Modern LSD projectors have come a long way and do a great job of projecting your monitor on to a screen. But some people are going to have trouble reading smaller print. There are an amazing number of students who don’t know that they need glasses and who set too far in the back of the room. Fortunately there is an easy situation to take care of.

    From the Tools menu select options. The first option, Environment, has a line for Fonts and Colors. The dropdown box allows you to select various parts of the IDE and set their font size, style, color and just about anything else you want. I generally like to change the font size of the Text Editor to a 12 to 16 point font depending on the size of the room. This generally takes care of most “the font is too small” issues that come up.

    Larger fonts do take up more room of course. So if I am focusing on the code I often take the Text Editor into full screen mode. This means that the other parts of the IDE are hidden but that I have a lot more room to show the code. I use keyboard shortcuts to make this change. The “magic” sequence is Shift-Alt-Enter. By pressing those three keys I can send the Text Editor into or back out of Full Screen mode.

    One other thing I like to do when doing a demo is to move the various boxes (Toolbox, Properties Box, Solution Explorer) to the center of the window. This is easily done by double-clicking on the title bar of the box. This undocks the box and lets me move it around. I can increase the size of the box to show more options as well. When I am done I just double-click on the title bar again and the box snaps back to his previous docked location.

    Don’t forget that the Tools menu has an Import and Export Settings option. You can save several sets of settings and import the one you want for various uses. Since I generally just change the font I don’t find that I need to use this that often but I do have a file with my favorite settings saved in case I get carried away sometime.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    iTeacher - Technology Help for the Everyday Classroom Teacher


    I found this new blog called iTeacher today. It's just starting off but it looks like it has a lot of potential. Here's a quote from one of the first posts:

    Twenty years from now there will be no technology courses because everything we currently teach in technology courses will be completely integrated into regular ed. The idea of taking a course to learn PowerPoint will be absurd (it kind of is already). Web publishing will be as normal as handing in a typed essay is today. Scary? Not really. Not so long as we teachers stay ahead of the curve and teach ourselves how to use the technology.

    That pretty much fits my belief right on. We should be looking to move from teaching technology for the sake of teaching technology to enbedding the learning of technology in the way we teach other subjects. We don't typically have reading as its own course in high school for ecample. But we do teach new vocabulary in most classes that build on the reading skills students already have. There will come a day when we don't teach spreadsheets for their own sake but rather have students use spreadsheets to help learn the types of graphs and when/how they should be used. (Maybe you're doing that already at your school?)

    There are a lot of ways that computers can help teach lots of subjects if we start to regard them as a tool like a book, a piece of paper or a pen is a tool for learning. All of this requires that teachers know how to use this tool and how to use it in context. Perhaps blogs like iTeacher can and will be a part of this process. I've subscribed and will be reading it for interesting suggestions.

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